6-story Broad St. apartment project east of Willow Lawn advances

CommonwealthBldg1

A newer rendering shows the six-story building at Broad and Blacker streets, scaled down from a seven-story proposal last year. (City documents)

A slightly shorter proposal to replace a line of office buildings along a stretch of West Broad Street with a mixed-use development received the support of the Richmond Planning Commission on Monday.

Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a plan to replace the 60-year-old, three-story Commonwealth Building, at 4605, 4623 and 4625 W. Broad St., with a six-story building with 155 apartments and eight so-called “live-work” units, which would double as both an office and residence for tenants.

Leading the project is Andrew Rubin with Annapolis, Maryland-based Breakwater Companies, which is making its entry into the Richmond market. Rubin said the project would also include a coworking space for residents of the apartments, and potentially the public.

Rubin said the project aims to bridge a gap between workforce housing and remote-work options in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Rubin

Andrew Rubin (Image courtesy Breakwater Cos.)

“I lived in a live-work unit in D.C. earlier in my career, and it gave me a freedom I otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Rubin said in an interview after Monday’s meeting.

Proposed last year as a seven-story building, the project was scaled down in part to address concerns from residents in Monument Avenue Park, a neighborhood of single-family homes adjacent to the site. Rubin said the height reduction also made for a better project and was possible once he had control of the adjacent Pro Printing building, a single-story structure that also will be razed.

Pro Printing, a commercial printer that’s been in business there since the 1980s, would continue operating in a new location, owner Charles Pearman said Tuesday.

In a hearing at Monday’s meeting, Hirschler attorney Jeff Geiger, who’s representing Rubin in his request for a needed special-use permit, said the live-work units are aimed at allowing entrepreneurs and small business owners to pay a single rent for their home and their storefront. The units would front Broad Street and could include two-story floorplans.

“We really feel that allowing these live-work units…could set the stage for more of these (units) throughout the city, particularly along your primary commercial corridors,” Geiger told the commission Monday.

Through an entity called CWB Broad LLC, Rubin is applying for a special-use permit to allow the building’s height, which exceeds what’s allowable for that site based on the city’s current “inclined plane” methodology.

The roughly 1-acre site is directly across Broad Street from the Richmond Ford Lincoln dealership. Rubin said he has the site under control through a ground lease with property owner Combriva LLC, and is set to purchase the adjacent Pro Printing building at 4627 W. Broad St. from Kingsly LLC, an entity owned by Richmond resident Byron Chafin.

wbroad1

The 60-year-old Commonwealth Building is in the 4600 block of West Broad Street, across from the Richmond Ford Lincoln dealership. (BizSense file photo)

Built in 1963, the Commonwealth Building had been listed for sale with an asking price of $5.5 million, according to a marketing flier from CBRE. Matt Hamilton and Jason Hetherington had the listing for the brokerage. The three parcels that make up the Commonwealth Building are assessed by the city collectively at upwards of $3 million.

The project site includes a rear surface parking lot that CWB Broad LLC also is leasing. The lot would remain as part of the new development, which would range from six stories to three stories based on proximity to nearby houses. The project also would add a sidewalk along Blacker Street from Broad to Radford Avenue.

The property was among several that the city rezoned in recent years to its TOD-1 Transit-Oriented Development District, in an effort to encourage higher-density development along Broad and the GRTC Pulse rapid bus line that runs along it.

City planning staff noted that changes are also in the works for inclined plane calculations for TOD districts.

The rezonings along Broad Street west of Interstate 195 were spearheaded by City Councilmember Andreas Addison, who represents council on the commission.

Of the proposal, Addison said at Monday’s meeting, “This is why I pushed to rezone Broad Street in this district to TOD-1, projects such as this.”

Rubin said he was attracted to the site due to its proximity to Willow Lawn, Scott’s Addition and Libbie Mill-Midtown, where new and infill development has surged in recent years.

“We really like the project as an opportunity to bridge between Willow Lawn, Scott’s Addition and Libbie Mill and benefit from all the great development done in those markets, while also being a value comparison option and contribute to the city’s goal for that section,” he said.

Rubin said the apartments will be market-rate. A project cost estimate was not available.

In addition to the live-work units and coworking space, Rubin said the new building would include 5,000 square feet of traditional commercial space. He said that space would be available to the property’s existing business tenants, and that their current leases would be honored through the rest of their terms.

Pending approval from City Council, Rubin said he hopes to break ground on the project next fall. He’s hired Asturian Group, out of Virginia Beach, as a general contractor. RBA Architects, out of Chesapeake, is designing the project, and locally based Timmons Group is the civil engineer.

City Council is slated take up the permit request at its meeting next Monday.

Note: This story has been updated with info received after deadline from Andrew Rubin and from Pro Printing owner Charles Pearman, who said the business will continue operating in a new location. 

CommonwealthBldg1

A newer rendering shows the six-story building at Broad and Blacker streets, scaled down from a seven-story proposal last year. (City documents)

A slightly shorter proposal to replace a line of office buildings along a stretch of West Broad Street with a mixed-use development received the support of the Richmond Planning Commission on Monday.

Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a plan to replace the 60-year-old, three-story Commonwealth Building, at 4605, 4623 and 4625 W. Broad St., with a six-story building with 155 apartments and eight so-called “live-work” units, which would double as both an office and residence for tenants.

Leading the project is Andrew Rubin with Annapolis, Maryland-based Breakwater Companies, which is making its entry into the Richmond market. Rubin said the project would also include a coworking space for residents of the apartments, and potentially the public.

Rubin said the project aims to bridge a gap between workforce housing and remote-work options in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Rubin

Andrew Rubin (Image courtesy Breakwater Cos.)

“I lived in a live-work unit in D.C. earlier in my career, and it gave me a freedom I otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Rubin said in an interview after Monday’s meeting.

Proposed last year as a seven-story building, the project was scaled down in part to address concerns from residents in Monument Avenue Park, a neighborhood of single-family homes adjacent to the site. Rubin said the height reduction also made for a better project and was possible once he had control of the adjacent Pro Printing building, a single-story structure that also will be razed.

Pro Printing, a commercial printer that’s been in business there since the 1980s, would continue operating in a new location, owner Charles Pearman said Tuesday.

In a hearing at Monday’s meeting, Hirschler attorney Jeff Geiger, who’s representing Rubin in his request for a needed special-use permit, said the live-work units are aimed at allowing entrepreneurs and small business owners to pay a single rent for their home and their storefront. The units would front Broad Street and could include two-story floorplans.

“We really feel that allowing these live-work units…could set the stage for more of these (units) throughout the city, particularly along your primary commercial corridors,” Geiger told the commission Monday.

Through an entity called CWB Broad LLC, Rubin is applying for a special-use permit to allow the building’s height, which exceeds what’s allowable for that site based on the city’s current “inclined plane” methodology.

The roughly 1-acre site is directly across Broad Street from the Richmond Ford Lincoln dealership. Rubin said he has the site under control through a ground lease with property owner Combriva LLC, and is set to purchase the adjacent Pro Printing building at 4627 W. Broad St. from Kingsly LLC, an entity owned by Richmond resident Byron Chafin.

wbroad1

The 60-year-old Commonwealth Building is in the 4600 block of West Broad Street, across from the Richmond Ford Lincoln dealership. (BizSense file photo)

Built in 1963, the Commonwealth Building had been listed for sale with an asking price of $5.5 million, according to a marketing flier from CBRE. Matt Hamilton and Jason Hetherington had the listing for the brokerage. The three parcels that make up the Commonwealth Building are assessed by the city collectively at upwards of $3 million.

The project site includes a rear surface parking lot that CWB Broad LLC also is leasing. The lot would remain as part of the new development, which would range from six stories to three stories based on proximity to nearby houses. The project also would add a sidewalk along Blacker Street from Broad to Radford Avenue.

The property was among several that the city rezoned in recent years to its TOD-1 Transit-Oriented Development District, in an effort to encourage higher-density development along Broad and the GRTC Pulse rapid bus line that runs along it.

City planning staff noted that changes are also in the works for inclined plane calculations for TOD districts.

The rezonings along Broad Street west of Interstate 195 were spearheaded by City Councilmember Andreas Addison, who represents council on the commission.

Of the proposal, Addison said at Monday’s meeting, “This is why I pushed to rezone Broad Street in this district to TOD-1, projects such as this.”

Rubin said he was attracted to the site due to its proximity to Willow Lawn, Scott’s Addition and Libbie Mill-Midtown, where new and infill development has surged in recent years.

“We really like the project as an opportunity to bridge between Willow Lawn, Scott’s Addition and Libbie Mill and benefit from all the great development done in those markets, while also being a value comparison option and contribute to the city’s goal for that section,” he said.

Rubin said the apartments will be market-rate. A project cost estimate was not available.

In addition to the live-work units and coworking space, Rubin said the new building would include 5,000 square feet of traditional commercial space. He said that space would be available to the property’s existing business tenants, and that their current leases would be honored through the rest of their terms.

Pending approval from City Council, Rubin said he hopes to break ground on the project next fall. He’s hired Asturian Group, out of Virginia Beach, as a general contractor. RBA Architects, out of Chesapeake, is designing the project, and locally based Timmons Group is the civil engineer.

City Council is slated take up the permit request at its meeting next Monday.

Note: This story has been updated with info received after deadline from Andrew Rubin and from Pro Printing owner Charles Pearman, who said the business will continue operating in a new location. 

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Andrew Smithe
Andrew Smithe
5 months ago

I vehemently hate the building that currently occupies the space and will be cheering to see it gone. That being said I had high hopes that whatever replaced it would look better, and I’m not convinced by the drawing. The live work idea is intriguing and I hope that works, but the design presented is pretty hideous and lacking any character. Please do something architectural significant even if it’s simply some basic modern wooden trim or paint to make this new building deviate from the current buildings jail esthetic.

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Smithe

It’s not beautiful. But who knows how it has turned out. And we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here

CLARK CHESSER
CLARK CHESSER
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Smithe

Same, the existing building is the worst example of mid-20th century American design. I’ll wait to see what the final design looks like before rendering judgement.

Peter James
Peter James
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Smithe

The rendering definitely isn’t anything special – but it looks like a very preliminary rendering. Not much detail, etc. I’d be interested to see if a better, more detailed rendering becomes available as this project progresses. What’s more – often the brick and mortar result is significantly better than renderings. Either way – very glad to see this project starting to get rolling.

Alan Miller
Alan Miller
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Smithe

Could not agree more. Some of the new ones in Scott’s Addition are really bad as well. Cheap looking.

Stephen Weisensale
Stephen Weisensale
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Smithe

The crude illustration shown here is simply a massing model for the purpose of the zoning request. It’s not an architectural rendering. As this is not a city old and historic district, planning has little if any say regarding the appearance and materials.

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
5 months ago

Looks great and would be a major upgrade to that section of Broad – current building is horrible. The residents in the adjacent neighborhood should be ecstatic.

The fact this needs special permission is nuts though. This should be by right.

One of the reasons housing is so expensive is the large amount of money that has to be spent navigating city processes before building anything. That money has to be earned back, just like a brick or a beam

Michael Boyer
Michael Boyer
5 months ago

Great,my 7-11 stays.

Daniel Cooper
Daniel Cooper
5 months ago

Will they increase the Broad Street setback restriction from what the current building was allowed? That area of East bound Broad is always the last to thaw from wintry precipitation because of how the current building overshadows the roadway.

Stephen Weisensale
Stephen Weisensale
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Cooper

I recall reading somewhere that the setback reduction at the alley was requested in order to accommodate a wider setback on Broad street. However I doubt this will help much with snow melt given the greater height.

Last edited 5 months ago by Stephen Weisensale
Daniel Cooper
Daniel Cooper
5 months ago

Makes sense to give the new developer the same footprint, but increase that setback some. And agree, that the new height will negate any help with snow melt along Broad. Zero sum gain.

Last edited 5 months ago by Daniel Cooper
Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
5 months ago

This is a good way to add housing to the existing city by replacing these out dated buildings.