Lone holdout homeowners stand firm in middle of prime Manchester site

Lacey Cooke and Erik Colley bought 1006 McDonough last spring, not knowing that everything around it would soon go up for sale. (BizSense file photo)

When TForce Freight’s local headquarters hits the market as expected this month, it’ll offer up four contiguous city blocks in Manchester, one of Richmond’s hottest neighborhoods for new development.

The campus at 1000 Semmes Ave., 1100 McDonough St., 1100 Semmes Ave. and 1001 Perry St. covers 7 acres in a part of town where land has been selling lately for more than $2 million per acre.

But there’s a catch: whoever wins the right to transform the site will have to work around Erik Colley and Lacey Cooke.

That’s because, smack in the middle of that valuable assemblage, there’s one sliver of a property that’s not for sale.

It’s the 1,200-square-foot house at 1006 McDonough St., which Colley and Cooke purchased in April. And they’re in no rush to sell it.

“At first glance we were like, ‘This little house is on an entire city block by itself, and this freight company owns every single parcel on this city block, except this,’” Colley said. “And there we were with this opportunity to buy this house smack-dab in the middle of these four city blocks.”

The home, outlined in blue, sits smack in the middle of the TForce assemblage in red. (Image via Google Maps)

What today is home to the TForce HQ was pieced together by Harwood Cochrane, the late founder of Overnite Transportation. Cochrane’s freight hauling empire called the site home, before he sold the company and the property to UPS in 2005. UPS continued to operate there, using the site’s two office buildings and parking lots, until it spun the business off to TForce’s parent company in 2021. That deal also included the real estate.

But none of those three firms ever acquired the 83-year-old cottage on McDonough St.

Sitting across from TForce’s 226,000-square-foot office that it’s preparing to vacate, the McDonough house went on the market last spring and caught the eye of Colley and Cooke, who are a couple and work as real estate agents at ERA Woody Hogg & Associates.

They have a portfolio of around a dozen rental homes and saw the Manchester cottage as potential renovation project in a growing area.

“There’s nothing like it in Manchester as far as a single-family home surrounded by nothing other than an empty city block around it,” Cooke said.

Lacey Cooke and Erik Colley. (River City Media photo)

They made an all-cash offer and closed on the house in April for $258,000 and invested around $100,000 in renovations.

Leading up to their closing date, Cooke and Colley said they were worried TForce would swoop in and make a more competitive offer, but it never happened.

“It was like, ‘What’s happening? Who made a mistake?’” Cooke said, laughing.

“We were like, ‘Let’s hurry up and close on this thing.’ That’s why we paid cash for it,” Colley said. “We wanted to scoop it up as quickly as possible.”

They’re now listing it on Airbnb, and when there’s not a short-term tenant there, they use the house as a way to enjoy the Southside with their friends.

“I’ve planted my feet in Church Hill, but we love the area and obviously there’s so much development in play in Manchester,” Colley said. “We absolutely love going there, taking friends down there and enjoying that part of the city.”

Colley and Cooke finished renovating the house in the fall and headed to Florida for vacation when they got word that TForce was planning to vacate its headquarters and put the entirety of its property up for sale.

“We’re on the beach, I’ve got a margarita in my hand, and my phone rings and it’s a commercial realtor that’s representing TForce,” Cooke said.

Colley said he knew it was likely to happen eventually, but the timing was surprising.

“We didn’t know if it would (be listed for sale) tomorrow or happen in 20 years,” Colley said. “When it does sell, we really do hope it’s a responsible buyer that’ll come in there and make Manchester what it can be. Those four lots together have so much potential, it’s ridiculous.”

Colley said they gutted about 80 percent of the house, including the kitchen. (River City Media photo)

A Thalhimer marketing flier for the property obtained by BizSense describes the TForce listings as “nearly” four city blocks and the largest contiguous block office space available in the Richmond market. It states that in the spring TForce is planning to rezone the land to allow for greater density and a mix of uses on the property.

Thalhimer’s Brian Berkey, Karla Knight, Eric Robison and Drew Wiltshire are the listed agents, per the flier. TFI International, TForce’s parent company, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The flier says the listing will go live this month.

Colley and Cooke, meanwhile, are content with their little cottage, particularly because they just renovated it. But they’re not naive.

“We obviously realize what we’re sitting on, it’s no secret,” Colley said. “But (selling it) is not in our foresight. We’re sitting back and enjoying it for what it is.”

Asked what they’d do if the right offer came along, Cooke said: “I mean everything’s for sale, right?”

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kay christensen
kay christensen
30 days ago

Love this!

Dr. Abe Gomez
Dr. Abe Gomez
30 days ago

A similar situation happened in the city a year or two ago when a developer wanted to build a high rise apt. The owner of the property next door, which if sold would have added 1/4 block of area to the development, held out for as high of an offer as possible. The developer moved forward and the property owner lost out (the structure on the property is not in good shape, etc…). I’m sure the property owner will now have to pay higher taxes based on newly assessed value making it a double or triple gut punch. Moral of… Read more »

Last edited 30 days ago by Dr. Abe Gomez
Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
30 days ago

I’ve seen situations like this go both ways. I watched a property holdout in Tysons Corner in 1982 get built around after holding out too long for that “special price”and then after the garages for the Marriott and office complex we’re completed, his house became worth less than he paid for it. More often though, I’ve seen the owner make a fortune by being good bargainers. The owners here are professionals and I’m betting they’ll find their price and move on, once Thalhimer finds the right buyer.

David Franke
David Franke
30 days ago

Brilliant! The house can be moved. Make the developer sign a 100 year land lease. Never ever sell.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
29 days ago

Likely the last chance for a grocery store…

Alejandro Andrade
Alejandro Andrade
26 days ago
Reply to  Brett Themore

There is a plot of land that is in front of/next to the Belle Heights neighborhood which I think would be a great place for a grocery store and other commercial areas. Others can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the developer of that neighborhood was toying with that idea. It would be nice for them/someone to build a grocery store as a ground-floor commercial space with some residential or mixed uses above it.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
29 days ago

There is a similar situation that is winding down in Fredericksburg VA, someone held out with a small home that ended up having a Hardees built next to it and a parking lot all around it in front of 4 Mile Fork Shopping Center.

The Silver’s rubbed the home owner the wrong way back in the 70s, and the home is still there, but now it’s an office.

So these folks seem likely to cash out, but you can never count on that being the case.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
29 days ago

Reminds me of the “Thirsty Beaver” bar in Charlotte (do an image search) – its glorious! Long time dive bar owner refused to sell to a developer who then built a horseshoe apartment building around the bar. The owners are now heroes and the bar has become a pilgrimage (Mick Jagger had beers there when the Stones Played Charlotte).

Steve Burch
Steve Burch
24 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

Just did an image search, that is hilarious!

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
29 days ago

Yeah, the are in the cat bird’s seat. These stories are always interesting — I remember when I lived in Falls Church in the early aughts there was a story about a guy who owned a small plot of land — didn’t even have a bldg on it, in downtown DC when that area was building out and up — as far up as they could, with their rather unique zoning. If I recall, it did seem like, for all those people who were cheering the guy on b/c, you know, fight the Man, he did seem to be kind… Read more »

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
29 days ago

Many years ago, I saw a holdout in Queens, New York. The developers-built a mall around a small house. Beware what you wish for!

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
29 days ago
Reply to  James O'Brian

Check your math Economic Justice Warrior, they made 8.5% from sales hardly robber barons.

Are you saying that this couple should not make 8.5% profit on their transactions?

Lee Crenshaw
Lee Crenshaw
29 days ago
Reply to  James O'Brian

So, you think the freight company is greedy because they make a profit? Should they offer the service for free? Suck up the fuel surcharge because it’s a nice thing to do? Care to elaborate?

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
27 days ago

If a house like this newly renovated it might make sense to move the house consdering it’s not to big. If I ever get a peice of land I would be open to the idea of finding a existing home and look into moving it to the land.

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
26 days ago

Good on you guys for swooping in and nabbing it at the right time!

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
26 days ago

Congrats to them for making a good investment choice. I’d probably hold on to it for awhile though since the market is definitely going to take a huge plunge once some big world truths come out. Hoping to snatch a cheap one down here in Colonial Heights once that happens lol.

Eric Brakman
Eric Brakman
19 days ago

Way to go guys!! Live the dream!