Developer Spy Rock drops nearly $8M for site near Sauer Center

spy rock allen rendering

A rendering of the apartment building that’s planned to rise near the intersection of West Leigh and North Allen. (Courtesy Spy Rock)

One of the city’s busier developers has made a big play near the Sauer Center. 

Spy Rock Real Estate Group last month paid $7.9 million for the 3.75-acre site at 900 N. Allen Ave., where it’s planning a five-story, 300-unit apartment building. 

The property is currently a parking lot that the seller, James River Transportation, had used for decades. With the land now secured, Spy Rock Vice President of Development Jake Bloom said the firm is now looking to break ground in short order. 

“It’s definitely a difficult lending market right now, so we’re really pleased to be able to close in the current market conditions,” Bloom said. “We should be starting construction this month. …It was always our intent to close and immediately start construction.”

In addition to the 300 apartments, the building would include a 420-space parking deck. The project’s general contractor, architect and engineer are KBS, Poole & Poole Architecture and Timmons Group, respectively. Bloom said First Horizon Bank is the project lender. 

spy rock allen scaled 1

James River Transportation had used the 3.75-acre site for decades.

Spy Rock closed on the land on June 28. The deal translates to about $2.1 million per acre. James River Transportation had owned the land since 2000, when it bought it for $367,000. The city most recently assessed the real estate at $2.5 million. 

Spy Rock has a slew of other projects in the works, many of which are in and around Scott’s Addition. 

Its historic tax credit rehab of the former Maaco Bodyshop building at 3318 W. Broad St. is underway. Spy Rock bought the building in 2019 for $1.6 million and Bloom said they’re now converting it into office space that’s been leased to an unnamed tenant. 

spy rock maaco

The Maaco Bodyshop closed on West Broad Street in February and its building is now being converted into office space.

The office conversion is a slight change of plans for the Maaco building, as last year Spy Rock had been in talks with a restaurant user to take the building. However,  Bloom said that deal never reached the finish line.

“We thought it would be a really great restaurant space, but it’s difficult to get restaurants right now with the cost of construction as well as some of the labor and inflationary challenges on the restaurant side,” Bloom said.

“Then it was really attractive to this commercial office user given its location right on Broad Street. It’s got dedicated parking and it has the ability to be a real showcase space for them.”

Deeper into Scott’s Addition, Spy Rock is dipping into the for-sale housing market with Mason Yards, a condo development it’s taking on with StyleCraft Homes at 3406 Carlton St.

City records show that 16 of the first 20 condos built at Mason Yards have been sold for an average of over $527,000, and Bloom said they’re getting ready to kick off construction on the next phase there. 

“We saw really strong sales velocity on the first stack of units,” Bloom said. “I think it’s a great example of the pent-up demand in the neighborhood for for-sale housing.”

spy rock mason yards

The first condos at Mason Yards in Scott’s Addition have been selling for over half a million dollars on average.

A bit farther west in the Westwood area of Henrico County, Spy Rock is working on a 245-unit apartment building at 2001 Dabney Road. That project’s parking deck has been constructed and Bloom said they’re now pouring the building’s slab and looking to have it completed by early fall 2024.

The firm also is making a long-term play in the Westwood area, as in late 2021 Spy Rock bought an industrial building at 2031 Westwood Ave. for $7.5 million. Bloom said that the building’s tenants – Greendale Railing, Richmond Steel and Richmond Recreational Storage –have a few years left on their leases. 

“That’s going to be in its existing use for the foreseeable future. But there does exist some redevelopment potential if the building were to become vacant,” he said. 

Spy Rock has been juggling all these projects amid rising interest rates and construction costs – challenges that have hamstrung some development in the region. Bloom said they’re still seeing strong demand for housing but that each development deal now requires a lot more diligence. 

“Finding land at attractive pricing and managing design and construction costs has just been very involved. We’re spending a lot more time looking at costs and rents to make sure our projects work,” he said. “We’re still seeing approximately 40 percent of residents moving in from out of the MSA to Richmond…so we’re definitely seeing positive trends in the market.”

spy rock allen rendering

A rendering of the apartment building that’s planned to rise near the intersection of West Leigh and North Allen. (Courtesy Spy Rock)

One of the city’s busier developers has made a big play near the Sauer Center. 

Spy Rock Real Estate Group last month paid $7.9 million for the 3.75-acre site at 900 N. Allen Ave., where it’s planning a five-story, 300-unit apartment building. 

The property is currently a parking lot that the seller, James River Transportation, had used for decades. With the land now secured, Spy Rock Vice President of Development Jake Bloom said the firm is now looking to break ground in short order. 

“It’s definitely a difficult lending market right now, so we’re really pleased to be able to close in the current market conditions,” Bloom said. “We should be starting construction this month. …It was always our intent to close and immediately start construction.”

In addition to the 300 apartments, the building would include a 420-space parking deck. The project’s general contractor, architect and engineer are KBS, Poole & Poole Architecture and Timmons Group, respectively. Bloom said First Horizon Bank is the project lender. 

spy rock allen scaled 1

James River Transportation had used the 3.75-acre site for decades.

Spy Rock closed on the land on June 28. The deal translates to about $2.1 million per acre. James River Transportation had owned the land since 2000, when it bought it for $367,000. The city most recently assessed the real estate at $2.5 million. 

Spy Rock has a slew of other projects in the works, many of which are in and around Scott’s Addition. 

Its historic tax credit rehab of the former Maaco Bodyshop building at 3318 W. Broad St. is underway. Spy Rock bought the building in 2019 for $1.6 million and Bloom said they’re now converting it into office space that’s been leased to an unnamed tenant. 

spy rock maaco

The Maaco Bodyshop closed on West Broad Street in February and its building is now being converted into office space.

The office conversion is a slight change of plans for the Maaco building, as last year Spy Rock had been in talks with a restaurant user to take the building. However,  Bloom said that deal never reached the finish line.

“We thought it would be a really great restaurant space, but it’s difficult to get restaurants right now with the cost of construction as well as some of the labor and inflationary challenges on the restaurant side,” Bloom said.

“Then it was really attractive to this commercial office user given its location right on Broad Street. It’s got dedicated parking and it has the ability to be a real showcase space for them.”

Deeper into Scott’s Addition, Spy Rock is dipping into the for-sale housing market with Mason Yards, a condo development it’s taking on with StyleCraft Homes at 3406 Carlton St.

City records show that 16 of the first 20 condos built at Mason Yards have been sold for an average of over $527,000, and Bloom said they’re getting ready to kick off construction on the next phase there. 

“We saw really strong sales velocity on the first stack of units,” Bloom said. “I think it’s a great example of the pent-up demand in the neighborhood for for-sale housing.”

spy rock mason yards

The first condos at Mason Yards in Scott’s Addition have been selling for over half a million dollars on average.

A bit farther west in the Westwood area of Henrico County, Spy Rock is working on a 245-unit apartment building at 2001 Dabney Road. That project’s parking deck has been constructed and Bloom said they’re now pouring the building’s slab and looking to have it completed by early fall 2024.

The firm also is making a long-term play in the Westwood area, as in late 2021 Spy Rock bought an industrial building at 2031 Westwood Ave. for $7.5 million. Bloom said that the building’s tenants – Greendale Railing, Richmond Steel and Richmond Recreational Storage –have a few years left on their leases. 

“That’s going to be in its existing use for the foreseeable future. But there does exist some redevelopment potential if the building were to become vacant,” he said. 

Spy Rock has been juggling all these projects amid rising interest rates and construction costs – challenges that have hamstrung some development in the region. Bloom said they’re still seeing strong demand for housing but that each development deal now requires a lot more diligence. 

“Finding land at attractive pricing and managing design and construction costs has just been very involved. We’re spending a lot more time looking at costs and rents to make sure our projects work,” he said. “We’re still seeing approximately 40 percent of residents moving in from out of the MSA to Richmond…so we’re definitely seeing positive trends in the market.”

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
10 months ago

Spyrock has clearly become one of the regions top ten apartment builders and probably top five. It would be interesting to create a list. Perhaps Bizsense could take a crack at it.

Peter James
Peter James
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Bruce – can you provide any insight to Stephen’s comment (below) about the forthcoming change to the state building code that would allow wood-framing for structures as tall as 18-stories (270 feet) based on new technologies/specially treated/stronger lumber?

It seems to me that if this, in fact comes to pass, it could be a game-changer in the size vs cost of construction in Richmond allowing, as Stephen pointed out, for significantly taller buildings at a much lower cost.

Last edited 10 months ago by Peter James
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

18 stories wow!

roger turner
roger turner
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

I am not sure I would want to live in a 18 story wooden framed building?

Ted Herm
Ted Herm
10 months ago

Glad for the density but I wish it was even taller!

Stephen Weisensale
Stephen Weisensale
10 months ago
Reply to  Ted Herm

There is a change coming to the new edition of the Virginia building code in early 2024, which will permit mass wood framing up to as many as 18 stories or 270 feet for the R-2 use group (apartments). I believe the current model of a 5 story maximum for type-5 wood construction will in some cases be replaced by this new class of type-4 mass wood frame construction, which will still permit the framing to be wood, but with significantly taller structures. For those familiar with the IBC, look at the 504.3 and .4 tables in the 2021 version.

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
10 months ago

Oh hey, another 5 over 1 for RVA 🙄

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
10 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Well at least it appears it won’t include vinyl siding like Mason Yards.

Betsy Gardner
Betsy Gardner
10 months ago

Has the city banned vinyl siding for these type constructions? That one on Belvedere near VCU is painful to look at.

Julian Utley
Julian Utley
10 months ago

Did I read that correctly, over half a million dollars for a unit with vinyl siding?