Developer Jay Nichols eyes new office building in Libbie-Patterson area

nichols granite Cropped scaled

The site was once the home to longtime local bookshop Book People. (Mike Platania photo)

A familiar developer in the Libbie-Patterson area is plotting his next project in the neighborhood. 

Jay Nichols is in the early planning stages of three-story, 15,000-square-foot office building at 536 Granite Ave. 

The 0.3-acre lot near Granite’s intersection with Patterson Avenue is where the Book People bookstore previously operated for decades until it moved farther west into Henrico last year. The former Book People building has since been razed. 

The site also is adjacent to the two-story office building Nichols built at 5701 Patterson Ave. That property, a former gas station, is now home to tenants such as Granite Wealth Management and Ameris Bank. 

Nichols previously owned Handcraft Cleaners with his brothers Jeff and Keith before selling the family dry-cleaning business to Puritan Cleaners in 2020. 

jay nichols

Jay Nichols

The brothers are no strangers to real estate development. The redevelopment of HandCraft’s namesake building in Scott’s Addition is their most prominent project. They’re also charting another warehouse transformation in the Westwood area.

Whereas Nichols’ building at 5701 Patterson Ave. has a more modern design, he said the proposed Granite Avenue building will be very different architecturally to better blend with the street’s single-family homes. 

“This one is going to look real nice. I think it’ll take it up a notch from the last,” Nichols said. “It’s more of a transitional piece where we transition into the neighborhood. The city wants it to look a little more in keeping with the neighborhood.”

Nichols bought the 0.3-acre plot for $1 million last year. It was an off-market deal that moved quickly. 

“From the time I called and the time we closed, it was less than a week,” he said. 

As for prospective tenants for the new building, Nichols said he’ll look to draw on the neighborhood’s trend in recent years of attracting financial firms. In addition to Granite Wealth Management next door, Raymond James & Associates is at the nearby Westhampton Commons development, as is the University of Richmond’s investment arm, Spider Management. 

“I’ve been getting all kinds of phone calls. The market’s there,” he said. “There’s a lot of folks leaving downtown and, for whatever reason, at the whole Libbie-Grove-Patterson corridor, there’s a lot of finance and wealth management companies up there.”

Nichols said they’re working through the design process with architecture firm Hickok Cole. The project’s budget and construction timeline are unclear, but Nichols did say they have hired an unidentified general contractor.  

Though they no longer own the HandCraft Cleaners business, the Nichols brothers still own the Puritan Cleaners building at 5705 Patterson Ave. Combined with 536 Granite Ave. and 5701 Patterson Ave., they control 1.1 acres on the corner. Nichols said he’s not ruling out someone else in the family redeveloping all three of the sites in the future. 

“One day, maybe much later in my life, that’ll all get scrapped and maybe my kids will be able to build something six stories there – retail on the bottom and apartments on top,” Nichols said. “But who knows? That’s just looking down the road.”

Two other office developments are in the works nearby, with one nearing the end of its cycle and the other just getting started. 

Across the street, a development group filed plans late last year to redevelop the Westhampton Pastry Shop building at 5728 Patterson Ave. into a four-story structure. Three floors of the proposed project would be office space and the longtime bakery would remain a ground-floor retail tenant. 

To the south, work is nearing completion at 5605 Grove Ave., where local investor Brock Saunders is building a two-story office to be occupied primarily by his firm Mattock Capital, formerly known as Summit Action Fund. Saunders said they’re awaiting a few final inspections and hope to move in by the end of July. 

POSTED IN Commercial Real Estate

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Randy Reynolds
Randy Reynolds
11 hours ago

This looks like a very well thought out project. Best of luck! Great to see Office coming back.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
9 hours ago

I can’t see anyone going wrong for real estate along the Libbie Avenue corridor between I-64 and Cary Street. What hadn’t been redone will be redone shortly.

Josh McCullar
Josh McCullar
3 seconds ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Truth!

Kathi Clark Wong
Kathi Clark Wong
4 hours ago

“There’s a lot of folks leaving downtown.” Downtown has so much to offer, and if these businesses stayed downtown, they’d be helping to preserve the old city as well as revitalizing it so others will also want to stay. All the new development around Libbie and Patterson is going there because they want to take advantage of the vibe there, but they are, ironically, going to ruin it.

Peter James
Peter James
55 minutes ago

Vibe plus the cost. Not being in the CRE industry (and being just an armchair observer) I’m guessing Westhampton – even with brand new Class A office space – is still less expensive per square foot than space in some of the legacy downtown office buildings that have been slowly but steadily losing tenants for years now. Then there’s the issue about downtown itself. Despite the fact that metro RVA is leading the Commonwealth in rate of growth, much of it is missing the city, which is growing, but at a less robust pace than it did a decade ago.… Read more »