Downtown’s Branch Building sells at auction for less than what seller paid four years ago

branch building scaled

The building boasts a cast-iron façade with Corinthian columns. (BizSense file photos)

After waving the white flag on the softened office market, a North Carolina investor has found a buyer for the downtown Richmond office building it bought four years ago – though it fell short of recouping its purchase price.

The Branch Building at 1015 E. Main St. sold at auction Thursday for $1.31 million. The identity of the winning bidder was not disclosed. 

The seller was Durham-based developer Hem + Spire, which put the six-story building on the auction block last month, about four years after buying it for $1.47 million. 

Hem + Spire specializes in historic rehabilitations and planned to use the Branch Building as its entrance into the Richmond market. But a few months after it closed on the building the pandemic arrived, stifling the office market. Hem + Spire completed some renovations on the property but struggled to fully lease it. The 12,000-square-foot building was about 50 percent leased at the time of the auction. 

The auction was conducted online this week through CoStar Group’s Ten-X auction site and concluded Thursday. The starting bid was $450,000. Going into the auction’s final minutes, the high bid was $1 million, but numerous bids came in later and ultimately pushed the price to $1.31 million. After fees, the unknown buyer is set to pay $1.35 million for the building. 

Hem + Spire founding partner Maxwell Joseph wasn’t available for comment by press time, nor were Commonwealth Commercial’s Nash Warren and Jamie Galanti, who handled the auction for Hem + Spire.

Ahead of the auction, Hem + Spire had touted the Branch Building as ripe for a residential conversion and eligible for historic tax credits. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is zoned B-4 Central Business District. B-4 allows for many uses, including mixed-use multifamily. The property was most recently assessed by the city at $1.3 million.

Thursday’s auction came about three years after another nearby property, the old bank building at 1005 E. Main St., sold at auction

The buyer in that deal was father-son duo Antar and Nael Abouzaki. Nael said this week that they’re still planning to build about 12 floors of condos in the building’s upper levels, but that their focus is currently on their pending development at 931-933 W. Grace St., near VCU.

For that project, they plan to raze the two existing structures to make way for a three-story mixed-use building with 21 apartments plus ground-floor commercial space. He said they’re finalizing financing for that project and hope to have work going this summer. 

branch building scaled

The building boasts a cast-iron façade with Corinthian columns. (BizSense file photos)

After waving the white flag on the softened office market, a North Carolina investor has found a buyer for the downtown Richmond office building it bought four years ago – though it fell short of recouping its purchase price.

The Branch Building at 1015 E. Main St. sold at auction Thursday for $1.31 million. The identity of the winning bidder was not disclosed. 

The seller was Durham-based developer Hem + Spire, which put the six-story building on the auction block last month, about four years after buying it for $1.47 million. 

Hem + Spire specializes in historic rehabilitations and planned to use the Branch Building as its entrance into the Richmond market. But a few months after it closed on the building the pandemic arrived, stifling the office market. Hem + Spire completed some renovations on the property but struggled to fully lease it. The 12,000-square-foot building was about 50 percent leased at the time of the auction. 

The auction was conducted online this week through CoStar Group’s Ten-X auction site and concluded Thursday. The starting bid was $450,000. Going into the auction’s final minutes, the high bid was $1 million, but numerous bids came in later and ultimately pushed the price to $1.31 million. After fees, the unknown buyer is set to pay $1.35 million for the building. 

Hem + Spire founding partner Maxwell Joseph wasn’t available for comment by press time, nor were Commonwealth Commercial’s Nash Warren and Jamie Galanti, who handled the auction for Hem + Spire.

Ahead of the auction, Hem + Spire had touted the Branch Building as ripe for a residential conversion and eligible for historic tax credits. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is zoned B-4 Central Business District. B-4 allows for many uses, including mixed-use multifamily. The property was most recently assessed by the city at $1.3 million.

Thursday’s auction came about three years after another nearby property, the old bank building at 1005 E. Main St., sold at auction

The buyer in that deal was father-son duo Antar and Nael Abouzaki. Nael said this week that they’re still planning to build about 12 floors of condos in the building’s upper levels, but that their focus is currently on their pending development at 931-933 W. Grace St., near VCU.

For that project, they plan to raze the two existing structures to make way for a three-story mixed-use building with 21 apartments plus ground-floor commercial space. He said they’re finalizing financing for that project and hope to have work going this summer. 

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Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
2 months ago

Only going to get softer as state is slowly vacating, relocating, and teleworking staff away from downtown Richmond. I wonder if anyone has done a study to see how many state jobs have left for the counties since say 2012. I picked that since that was when Game and Island Fisheries – now DWR (which the front side part of the old buildings were in the City and on the Henrico line) started its move. To me that is when the great migration out of the City started. VEC, OEM/DFS, DEQ, DPOR, DSS, ABC….the whole big alphabet of agencies has… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
1 month ago

Interesting. There are always multiple things going on simultaneously. I remember even earlier I had a friend who worked for VA’s DEQ in downtown — this may have been in maybe 2007? — he was happy because he was given the option to telecommute one day a week which was nice because he lived 30 minutes outside of downtown. His ability to not routinely drive in I think got higher but IDK what the situtaion is now because he doesn’t even work there any more. Likewise, my wife and I moved to the RIchmond Metro when her job HQed at… Read more »