Year after merging, Richmond tech firm and engineering giant Jacobs combine offices in Scott’s Addition

The Clay Suites at 3117 W. Clay St. (BizSense file)

A year after joining forces, StreetLight Data and engineering giant Jacobs have officially shacked up.

The two firms, which became aligned in February 2022 when Jacobs acquired StreetLight from founder and Richmond native Laura Schewel, are moving into a new joint office in Scott’s Addition.

Jacobs recently leased around 3,500 square feet on the first floor of the Clay Suites office building at 3117 W. Clay St.

The new space will replace StreetLight’s previous Scott’s Addition digs in the nearby Summit Suites building at 3122 W. Marshall St. and Jacobs’ current Richmond office at 2108 W. Laburnum Ave.

Schewel, a Collegiate School grad, founded StreetLight in 2011 while in grad school at UC Berkeley in California. The company specializes in using location data from smartphones and other connected devices to analyze traffic patterns for transportation and urban planning.

She sold StreetLight to Jacobs in early 2022, as Jacobs was keen on expanding its offerings.

“Jacobs is one of the world’s largest engineering firms and had been a StreetLight customer for years like a lot of engineering firms are,” Schewel said. “They had started making a pivot toward a more digitally enabled solutions company.”

Jacobs paid more than $190 million to acquire StreetLight, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Laura Schewel

While StreetLight had initially been based on the West Coast, Schewel opened an office in Richmond as an East Coast hub for the company in 2018. Schewel said she moved back to Richmond permanently during the pandemic.

The firm’s 130 or so employees are spread around the U.S. with about 12 in Richmond and a few in Northern Virginia.

The StreetLight brand still exists as a business unit with Jacobs, which is based in Texas and has 55,000 employees.

Schewel remains as CEO of the StreetLight unit and general manager of Jacobs’ transportation software operations.

After running her own company since grad school, Schewel said she’s now enjoying being one of Jacobs’ 55,000 employees.

“I have to say I love it,” she said. “I haven’t had bosses for 11 years. The pressure (as a small business owner) is existential – that it’s all going to disappear. It’s great to be on the other side.”

Among the local respective projects that Jacobs and StreetLight have in the works are a measurement of visitor track to the James River Park System and sewer maintenance and repair for the City of Richmond.

A deal among friends

The move into the Clay Suites building connects Schewel once again to her childhood friend and Collegiate classmate Yogi Singh.

Singh and his firm 1850 Investments owns both Clay Suites and Summit Suites.

Singh said he’s pleased to have Jacobs sign on for space in Clay after StreetLight had vacated Summit during the pandemic.

The Jacobs deal and a backfilling of StreetLight’s previous space bring occupancy to 100 percent in Singh’s two Scott’s Addition office buildings, despite a softening for demand for office space in other areas.

Singh said his group continues to be bullish on Scott’s Addition office space, particularly those buildings with smaller footprints.

“We continue to see a demand in the 10,000-square-foot-and-under office market in Scott’s Addition,” Singh said. “It continues to be one of the few office markets we think has any depth.

“On a moving forward basis, thinking about why a company as large as Jacobs would need 3,500 square feet is to do the things that aren’t going to go away: in-person collaboration and in-person learning,” he added.

Other tenants in Clay Suites include Village MD and Byrne Law. Thalhimer’s Amy Broderick and Kate Hosko handle leasing in the building.

Elsewhere in Singh’s portfolio, his group recently sold Bald Mountain Camping Resort, an RV campground in Georgia, for $11 million. The buyer was a joint venture between outdoor hospitality giants Equity Lifestyles REIT and KOA.

Singh’s group paid just under $5 million for the site and its 300 leasable RV lots about two years ago.

The leadership group at 1850 Investments includes (from right) Yogi Singh, Stewart Garland and Pushkal Basavaraj.

1850 Investments, through its National Land Lease Capital subsidiary, still owns about a dozen RV campground and marina properties, including four in Virginia. The closest to Richmond is River’s Rest Marina and Resort in Charles City.

Another more recent new business line for Singh’s group is cold storage, for which the company continues to have an appetite.

While its three cold storage warehouses in Suffolk have historically housed mainly nut-related products, Singh said they recently expanded to include storage for dried fruits and sunflower seeds.

The demand is such that the firm has plans in the works to build an additional $30 million cold storage facility in Suffolk adjacent to its existing buildings. Singh said they’re in the financing phase for that project, a process made trickier as interest rates rise and lenders become more conservative. He said they have enlisted investment bankers from Truist to help with the process.

“We’re looking at all options. That includes working with our local lender and the SBA but we’re not ignoring opportunities that exist nationally with insurance companies and other institutional investors and other regional and national banks,” Singh said.

They hope to break ground before the end of the second quarter and have the facility open in early 2024.

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