Apartment towers totaling 550 units next to Legend get Planning Commission nod

avery hall rendering2

The two-building development would rise just north of Legend Brewing Co. in Manchester. (City documents)

One of the largest apartment projects proposed in Richmond in recent memory took a step toward city approval on Monday. 

The Richmond Planning Commission voted yesterday to recommend a special-use permit for plans by Avery Hall Investments plans to build two towers reaching 16 and 17 stories and housing 553 total apartments overlooking the James River. 

Avery Hall’s site is at 301 W. Sixth St., just north of Legend Brewing Co., the longtime local brewery whose views of the downtown Richmond skyline would be obscured by the new buildings. 

That obstruction, along with traffic and parking concerns, have been a point of contention between the developers and parts of the neighborhood since the project was unveiled last summer. After meeting with the neighborhood last year, Avery Hall tweaked the plans to better preserve some of Legend’s views. 

At Monday’s planning meeting, Legend’s vice president of operations, Dave Gott, said he’s more concerned about the project’s impact on traffic and congestion than losing his brewery’s view. 

Linking the two towers would be a four-story parking garage that would include at least one spot for each apartment unit. Of the 553 apartments, 438 are planned to be one-bedroom units and 115 would have two bedrooms. Plans also call for 185 bicycle parking spaces. 

Avery Hall aerial

The nearly 3-acre site sold last year in a record-setting deal. (BizSense file)

The Manchester Alliance, the local neighborhood association to whom Avery Hall initially unveiled the plans last summer, wound up voting to support the project. However, a group of 18 of its members, including Gott, wrote a letter to the planning commission opposing the development. 

In the end, the commission voted unanimously to approve Avery Hall’s special-use permit.

An Avery Hall spokesman said the firm is grateful to have received the commission’s support.

The Brooklyn, New York-based developer bought the nearly 3-acre project site last fall for $17.25 million in a deal that set a record high for land sales on a per-acre basis in Richmond. The development would be the first in the region for Avery Hall, which previously said the project’s cost is expected to break nine figures. 

A small piece of that cost is a $1 million donation to a to-be-determined local affordable housing organization, a stipulation that’s not outlined in the terms of the special-use permit but something Avery Hall committed to doing throughout the community outreach process.

If the project clears the next procedural step and is approved by City Council, Avery Hall plans to construct the buildings in phases, according to Williams Mullen attorney Preston Lloyd, who is representing the developer in the SUP process. The first phase would consist of the 366-unit, L-shaped building on the plot’s eastern side and the parking deck.

Other business that earned the commission’s recommendation on Monday included special-use permit applications for a two-story, two-unit building at 708 China St. in Oregon Hill from Canvas Development, a frequent infill developer in the neighborhood, as well as for changing the use of 3207 Hermitage Road, where longtime local general contracting firm Daniel & Co. is planning to relocate its headquarters.

Those two applications, along with Avery Hall’s, are now scheduled to be heard by City Council later this month. 

avery hall rendering2

The two-building development would rise just north of Legend Brewing Co. in Manchester. (City documents)

One of the largest apartment projects proposed in Richmond in recent memory took a step toward city approval on Monday. 

The Richmond Planning Commission voted yesterday to recommend a special-use permit for plans by Avery Hall Investments plans to build two towers reaching 16 and 17 stories and housing 553 total apartments overlooking the James River. 

Avery Hall’s site is at 301 W. Sixth St., just north of Legend Brewing Co., the longtime local brewery whose views of the downtown Richmond skyline would be obscured by the new buildings. 

That obstruction, along with traffic and parking concerns, have been a point of contention between the developers and parts of the neighborhood since the project was unveiled last summer. After meeting with the neighborhood last year, Avery Hall tweaked the plans to better preserve some of Legend’s views. 

At Monday’s planning meeting, Legend’s vice president of operations, Dave Gott, said he’s more concerned about the project’s impact on traffic and congestion than losing his brewery’s view. 

Linking the two towers would be a four-story parking garage that would include at least one spot for each apartment unit. Of the 553 apartments, 438 are planned to be one-bedroom units and 115 would have two bedrooms. Plans also call for 185 bicycle parking spaces. 

Avery Hall aerial

The nearly 3-acre site sold last year in a record-setting deal. (BizSense file)

The Manchester Alliance, the local neighborhood association to whom Avery Hall initially unveiled the plans last summer, wound up voting to support the project. However, a group of 18 of its members, including Gott, wrote a letter to the planning commission opposing the development. 

In the end, the commission voted unanimously to approve Avery Hall’s special-use permit.

An Avery Hall spokesman said the firm is grateful to have received the commission’s support.

The Brooklyn, New York-based developer bought the nearly 3-acre project site last fall for $17.25 million in a deal that set a record high for land sales on a per-acre basis in Richmond. The development would be the first in the region for Avery Hall, which previously said the project’s cost is expected to break nine figures. 

A small piece of that cost is a $1 million donation to a to-be-determined local affordable housing organization, a stipulation that’s not outlined in the terms of the special-use permit but something Avery Hall committed to doing throughout the community outreach process.

If the project clears the next procedural step and is approved by City Council, Avery Hall plans to construct the buildings in phases, according to Williams Mullen attorney Preston Lloyd, who is representing the developer in the SUP process. The first phase would consist of the 366-unit, L-shaped building on the plot’s eastern side and the parking deck.

Other business that earned the commission’s recommendation on Monday included special-use permit applications for a two-story, two-unit building at 708 China St. in Oregon Hill from Canvas Development, a frequent infill developer in the neighborhood, as well as for changing the use of 3207 Hermitage Road, where longtime local general contracting firm Daniel & Co. is planning to relocate its headquarters.

Those two applications, along with Avery Hall’s, are now scheduled to be heard by City Council later this month. 

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
11 months ago

There’s not a business in the area that has a better opportunity to make hay on this development than Legends. There are more than 2000 new apartments underway within three blocks of that restaurant and brewery. Of course there will be additional congestion and traffic coming their way but there will also be lines outside of their front door if they compete for the business. I was told this weekend that Legends is the oldest brewery in the city in continuous operation. I hope that legacy survives.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
11 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Still think Legends should have worked with them to get a tasting room at the top of one of these buildings.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
11 months ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

Is there retail/commercial space planned in the building? Street renderings show parking and a large lobby space. Not a word of it in the plan notes, staff report, or SUP (other than state non-residential used per RF-2 district) about commercial spaces. The plan and details talk about dog parks, sidewalks, units, community facilities, and even access to area behind the development but I saw nothing about commercial spaces. The ordinance only calls it a “multi-family dwelling” structure. And yes if you look at past SUPs they do use the term “mixed use building” when a space has commercial and residential… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
11 months ago

My big question is does it always MAKE SENSE to do a mixed use bldg — I have certainly seen MANY times where it was so much harder to lease out the first floor areas that they were often empty, or an expensive buildout would be abandoned by a commercial tenant that shuttered —- and often the space would eventually be converted to more apartments. My feeling is that perhaps too many developers feel pressure of some kind from urbanist ideologues to include retail components to get their projects approved, but if anyone has any info disproving that I would… Read more »

Richard Rumrill
Richard Rumrill
11 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

‘Strong towns’ has commented frequently on the dangers of inflexible mixed use requirements, here is an example: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/6/5/whats-up-with-all-those-empty-commercial-storefronts-in-new-mixed-use-developments?format=amp
Perhaps cities would do better to incentivize rather than require mixed use on the edges of cities. The old Chimborazzo elementary building in Church Hill had a mixed use basement and the results were mixed at best. They reverted to apartment use and here weren’t any complaints. When Urban Farmhouse was renting the place the employees never learned to make a sandwich quickly. When they closed some lamented that their orders had never arrived!!

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
11 months ago

What does this have to do with parking?? We could convert the ground floor retail space into bespoke parking for VIP tenants! Thanks for the link Richard! Urban Farmhouse!!! Are they still at Shockoe Slip? I used to like that place but I never seem to be in that neighborhood any more. Yes, an intelligent policy would be to just let the developers follow the market — if there is enough residential in an area and no retail, developers would respond by all on their own putting some retail on the first floor ESPECIALLY if it was to house some… Read more »

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
11 months ago

There were such discussions for a age or a small market but I haven’t seen the final plan.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
11 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Hopefully a small market will come in – with 500-750 people who may live there – that is a nice captive audience. Isn’t that area a food desert anyway?

Peter James
Peter James
11 months ago

Agreed. Food desert: Yes- aside from the new food court and a few restaurants here and there on Hull, there’s literally nothing there. Would love to see a grocer set up shop somewhere in Manchester. As recently as 2021 there was discussion of a large apartment building planned for Commerce Road between Porter and Perry streets. At the time there was serious talk that a grocer would occupy the entire first floor of the building. No idea what the status of that project is – and I think on of the unresolved questions was the square footage that would be… Read more »

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

I’m betting you’ll see one when 1000 Semmes is developed. Maybe its time for Amazon to put a grocery in Richmond!

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
11 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

that meant to be “cafe”

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
11 months ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

I’m just glad they are building AMPLE PARKING!!

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
11 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Now who won’t let it die?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
11 months ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

Touche’!

You noticed — for some reason, I have decided it is FUN, and I like fun.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
11 months ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

Hey now Shawn & David – let me be PART of the joke, not just THE joke. Ha! — and yes – I like to drive my car and PARK less than a mile from my destination.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
11 months ago

Oh, you were never THE joke — the joke is bigger than us all!! The very fact that some people want to turn Richmond into, IDK, Osaka, and some want it to be IDK, Willow Lawn I guess, is the joke. That is me wearing my “objective hat”. The real me sees these people as deluded, so deluded that they not only don’t see the Fire Marshall, but they actually think they are making progress toward their efforts to make every part of a metro into a legacy 19th century city when you can’t even build them like that any… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
11 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Yes, when I moved to VA in 2003 there were THREE breweries, that’s it. Legends deserves praise as a survivor —it annoyed me about 10 years ago when I went to Galaxy Diner, which I still go to, when on their list of “Local” beers they didn’t include the Legends that they nevertheless sold; it was listed under their non-local beers. I mentioned this to a Richmond craft beverage/venue owner not long afterward and he rolled his eyes and told me that the hipsters were irrationally biased toward SMALL and NEW — to the degree that a local beer would… Read more »

Randy Sharrer
Randy Sharrer
11 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

I came in 2002 – when I was on my job tour here, I had dinner at the Main Street Brewery and stopped at Legend that afternoon for a beer on their patio/deck. Richbrau in the slip was cool. There was a few brews that were around that I really liked to – Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale, Mobjack Pale Ale and their old coot stout was good too. Had a Legend Brown Ale on the same tour at Bottoms Up Pizza sitting under the tracks…

Macon Powers
Macon Powers
11 months ago

Maybe give Legend first right of refusal to a massive inside/outside rooftop restaurant added to this development. Not necessary, but the consideration would be a warm way for the development to enter the community.

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
11 months ago
Reply to  Macon Powers

Dude, a rooftop restaurant along the James would be sick as hell.

Jeff Ensley
Jeff Ensley
11 months ago
Reply to  Macon Powers

It confounds me that most buildings on the river never have any commercial patio space on the river side in their plans.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
11 months ago

I see Legend is trying to right their halo by no longer seeming unreasonable but being against “traffic” — which is downright silly avenue for a public facing business to take.

My theory (which is JUST A GUESS): certain people want to be bought out at a higher price for land adjacent to the proposed site.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
11 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

I agree – Legend just lost their river view – which was one of their huge benefits. Their new view will be the backside….they need to move to the rooftop as Zach mentioned.

Peter James
Peter James
11 months ago

I’m honestly surprised that the powers that be at Legends didn’t jump on this kind of thing from the outset instead of digging in both heels to oppose the development. Maybe a move would be cost prohibitiive? No idea if there are potential ABC licensure issues with having a taproom/restaurant separate from the brewery itself. But if logistics and cost could have been worked out, imagine the boon it could be for Legends and the kind of marketing campaign they could have put into play had they secured a rooftop spot. “We’re taking Legend’s legendary view of the Richmond skyline… Read more »

Ramone Antonio
Ramone Antonio
11 months ago

Legends food or service isn’t good enough to be complaining lol. They do not own anything around them to have a say so about buildings. I’d replace legends in a heart beat for something else

Last edited 11 months ago by Ramone Antonio
Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
11 months ago
Reply to  Ramone Antonio

I completely agree. I have always wanted to like and support legend’s, but I’ve had so many poor experiences there to the point it’s impossible now. I have refused to go there for the past decade and their gripes about the area around them finally growing is the last straw. I hope they sell and relocate.

Jeff Ensley
Jeff Ensley
11 months ago

Disappointed to the extent that I thought the builder had decided to shift the towers to the east. The gap doesn’t offer anything regarding the view and seems completely unnecessary IMO.

S Geoffrey Monts
S Geoffrey Monts
11 months ago

I would love a river-view apartment! That would be majestic. (Well maybe not majestic, but very nice.) I know a lot of people do not like these behemoths but it is the cost of doing business and a way for the city to secure tax $$$ for city needs. (says the guy who lives in the county).