Coworking finds its home in Richmond @804RVA

Over the past decade coworking spaces have been popping up in big cities across the nation and with the changes in the economy, these spaces have been successful in fostering new ideas and startup businesses.

Larkin Garbee

804RVA Founder Larkin Garbee Photo by: Phil Riggan, Richmond.com

In America the median income for independent workers is about $51 thousand, according to a 2012 government report by the State of Independence government report. This coworking movement has even made its way to the Richmond market. 804RVA is the area’s first and only official co-working space, which is fueled by creativity and techie innovation.

Coworking is a concept that was originally cultivated in the late 1990s from the term “jelly” in New York City by a group of freelancers and it has now evolved into a worldwide movement. The concept is to create a shared workspace for freelancers, consultants and other people who typically work from home. The idea is to develop a space where creativity and new ideas can grow and people can exchange designs while working productively and freely.

804RVA was founded October 2011 by local small business dynamo, Larkin Garbee. “I was just looking for a creative, collaborative office space and I hadn’t understood the coworking culture yet,” Garbee said. Wolf shirt days, creativity, collaboration and jelly pretty much sum up the co-working movement at RVA. 804RVA is located on the corner of Allen and Broad streets near the VCU campus.

Garbee’s personality and experience is the model that the 804RVA coworking structure was built around. “I have a passion for technology but I also represent a lot of other things for small businesses and marketing,” she said.

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804RVA is an artistic, joint office area that is built in the showroom of Garbee’s other business, James River Tile. “I felt like it was a shame to have such a really gorgeous location that was being completely underutilized,” said Garbee. It wasn’t long before 804RVA was created.
“I think Larkin is really kind of the main reason most people are attracted to this and keep coming and that’s because she is a freaking fireball,” said Dorsey McFadden a digital marketing consultant and 804RVA coworker.

804RVA provides its members with varying levels of coworking zones including private offices, collaborative spaces, semi-private work areas and conference rooms. People come to 804RVA for a number of reasons including the value of working with others, for a sense of motivation, inspiration and unique networking opportunities. At 804RVA coworking gives people an opportunity to meet and interact with their peers in an environment that facilitates productivity and learning.

“To me and the next generation as a whole, we don’t want to just spend our time just passing out business cards. We want to learn, we want to get our hands on stuff and figure out how it works,” Garbee said. “Some coworking spaces are unique to having strictly just developers or just designers and I would say ours is truly a mix.”

Coworkers at 804RVA come from a variety of professional backgrounds such as web design, real estate, copy writing, web developing, marketing and researching.

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804RVA is known for its culture because it is different from that of a traditional workplace culture, since there are no bosses there is no tension between supervisors and workers. “The culture changes day-to-day depending on who comes in,” said Dan Kanach, 804RVA coworker and owner of One Duck Creative, a small creative media company. “It is generally like-minded, driven people who want to be around other driven people.” Most 804 coworkers agree that 804RVA provides a fun environment where individuals are free to create and collaborate. “I couldn’t see myself working with other people if I wasn’t here,” Kasach said, who described himself as a bit of an introvert.

Matt Russo is another 804RVA coworker who has been a member almost since the beginning. Russo is a freelance graphic designer and is currently working developing projects for 804RVA. He says 804 is still trying to invent its culture. Currently people are working hands-on trying to make the space a more active community rather than a place used strictly for working. “Members are trying to make 804RVA a place where people interact together, work on projects together and go out together,” Russo said. 804RVA offers classes and organizes social events to strengthen the overall coworking community.

Brian Bassett is a software development principal at IBM and a coworker at 804RVA who chooses to work from 804RVA instead of his traditional office setting because he finds the environment to be more dynamic, exciting, interesting and collaborative. “It’s collaborative even though people work on their own projects, work for different businesses and have different goals,” Basset said.

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Coworking is especially helpful to freelancers and remote workers because it provides those people with a sense of community and inspiration. “It creates a melting pot of creativity,” McFadden said, “not just design creative but techie too.” McFadden sees coworking spaces as motivational tools and she is driven by the office setting because it pushes her to be more accountable.

Coworking facilities like 804RVA operate based on memberships and provide members with better quality networking and stronger relationships. McFadden says small business people get the most out of these networking connections because it makes it easier access others and collaborate.

Coworking has helped some members break into new, cutting edge technology-based job markets. McFadden says coworking helps to hone professional skills and mold individual qualities and as a result of 804RVA she landed her first Pinterest account management job.

After talking with Garbee and Richmond’s coworkers the consensus is that people are tired of waiting on big companies to offer up jobs so they have taken matters into their own hands and created new jobs and projects through collaboration. People often turn to coworking spaces like 804RVA because of the lack of opportunities in traditional careers.

Some people agree with Dorsey McFadden and Dan Kanach and say coworking spaces serve a greater purpose as more transitional occupations. On the other hand others agree with Russo and Bassett and say these collaboration spaces have great potential to ultimately lead to better opportunities and new industries. As for Larkin Garbee, she says the future looks bright for coworking spaces in Richmond. As new ideas grow and evolve, she looks forward to playing host to more collaborative projects and classes in the future. She is currently planning on a larger scaled coworking space that will serve a larger community in the Greater Richmond Area by making things more accessible to non-members.

 

Avalon Restaurant & Bar — SOLD!

sign for Avalon

2619 West Main Street, Richmond, VA

There are very few restaurants that have the distinction of having been successfully run for 16+ years 20 years [editor’s note: confirmed after posting that the start year was 1993!], and even more rare is the restaurant that has done so with only one set of owners. Avalon Restaurant & Bar at 2619 West Main Street, in the Fan District, has done so under the care of owner Peter Harahan since he first renovated and opened it so many years ago.

Even as a well-established restaurant, Avalon has recently gained recognition by bringing in Chef Jen Mindell to add her well-known flair to the kitchen. Chef Mindell was recently recognized by the Richmond restaurant community as a 2013 Elby Nominee for “Rising Culinary Star”.

Walied Sanie and James Baldwin just completed the purchase of Avalon Restaurant & Bar

Walied Sanie and James Baldwin just completed the purchase of Avalon Restaurant & Bar

Congratulations to the new owners, Walied Sanie and James Baldwin (pictured), who took the reins from Peter Harahan effective late yesterday afternoon. The new owners are keeping the staff in place and will do some remodeling after getting settled into ownership. I look forward to seeing how their vision of the restaurant develops and the changes you will make happen over the years to come.

This particular restaurant holds a special place in my heart because not only have I been close friends with a number of the staff here over the years, but also it is the place where I met my wife several years ago. It means a lot to me to have been involved in this deal, and I appreciate that it will remain to be Avalon under the new ownership.

**Richard Holden and Nathan Hughes, both with Bandazian & Holden, Inc., brokered the sale of the business and coordinated the new lease with the owner of the building.

What’s going on with all of the restaurant closings lately?!

There has been a lot of attention given to the recent closings of restaurants in the Richmond area. There have been a lot lately, no doubt — here is a list of closings this year from Richmond.com that they are keeping up-to-date as things change. Some of these have been big surprises to the community at large, but it is important to keep in mind a  few things.

Not all businesses close (or are for sale) because of poor sales. There are a variety of reasons:

  • personal issues (divorce, wanting to spend more time with children, need to take care of an elderly parent, the owner has an illness)
  • the business strategy has changed (the owners no longer want to be in a particular area of town, the owners only want to operate where they own the building)
  • the owners are absentee and have other full-time jobs that are suffering because of the demands of owning a restaurant
  • the business is on track to make a profit but the owners have run out of operating capital
  • the owner is burned out, having spent the last XX number of years in the same location
  • the owners realize that the best time to sell is when business is booming — cash out while things are good and maximize the sales price
  • poor money management — sales might be great, but if you don’t manage your money well then you won’t stay open for long
  • the landlord isn’t willing to renew the lease — maybe they have a better offer from another prospective tenant
  • the owner isn’t changing, but they are changing the concept
I have seen all of these over the 8 years that I have been brokering restaurant deals and I am absolutely certain that I haven’t seen everything. There is always something new in this business, for good and bad.

There is also the counterbalancing effect of new restaurants opening up. Karri Peifer, Editor and Food Writer at Richmond.com, has been keeping track:

Almost one year ago, we posted a story about the transitioning of ownership of one Richmond restaurant legacy, Mulligan’s Sports Grille. The past month (Tuesday, October 9, 2012, to be exact) has unfortunately brought us the end to this story — covered here by CBS6 and here by Richmond.com. The restaurant’s official statement from their website is posted here (click the photo to enlarge) –>

Another restaurant that has gotten a lot of press coverage for its closing is Cafe Diem, at the corner of Patterson Ave and N Sheppard St in the Museum District — and right beside our office at 604 N Sheppard St. Since our company is involved in the ownership and management of their building, and most of the commercial property in the area, the media turned to us for some insight.

NBC12 coverage of Cafe Diem closing (with video and a guest appearance from yours truly)

Richmond.com coverage of Cafe Diem closing

Richmond Bizsense coverage of Cafe Diem closing

I think the press has done an excellent job with the coverage on this closing. It is often a touchy subject, not only for the restaurant owner(s) but the landlord, the restaurant employees, the loyal patrons, the restaurant vendors, and even the surrounding businesses.

In short, there are lots of reasons why restaurants close. Sure, times are tough all around and lots of people are cutting back on spending, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. If anything, if you enjoy a particular restaurant, be sure to visit it plenty and enjoy it while it’s here. It is fun to always look for the next big thing, but don’t forget about the old favorites either.  — By the way, there are LOTS of new restaurants coming soon. Keep an eye out here for announcements!

Renting on the Rise in Richmond (and everywhere else)

Have you noticed a recent spike in your monthly rent? A lot of people have, and it’s a trend not only locally but in markets across the country.

According to http://news.investors.com, over the past several years homeowning has become more difficult and former homeowners are now becoming tenants in mulitifamily dwellings. Due in large part to the economic downturn, many homeowners today can no longer afford to pay a monthly mortgage and instead are resorting to the next alternative: renting apartments.

As with most news, this is a mixed bag — it’s not good for renters, but it does make for a strong market for multifamily properties, supporting higher sales prices and spurring new development and redevelopment of multifamily properties. (see last week’s post about local development for current examples of this happening right here in Richmond)

Across the nation, multifamily properties are leading in occupancy and rent growth when compared to commercial developments, like office space and retail properties.

In a recent housing study by commercial property brokerage firm Cassidy Turley, chief economist Kevin Thorpe said:

“I’m optimistic about the multifamily sector, certainly for the next two years…We’ve entered a period of sustained rent growth.”

This recent boom in multiple tenants occupying apartment units is due to the fact that the average renter a year ago could afford the rent for a single family home when now the cost is too high.

Richmond seems to be following that rising rent trend, too. In 2007, the cost of a single bedroom apartment averaged $754/mo. and now the average cost is approximately $814/mo.

Have you seen this happening when your lease has come up for renewal? What do you think the renting forecast will look like in RVA for the rest of 2012?

Venture Richmond Forum Unveils New Developments in RVA

After years and years of work throughout the city, Downtown Richmond is finally getting the attention it deserves, thanks to a nearly $1 billion dollar makeover from the state.

This makeover was the highlight of discussion at Venture Richmond’s Annual Downtown Development Forum last Thursday, May 31st, as Richmond’s business leaders, developers and architects met to reveal their latest ideas for up and coming projects.

Proposed projects included the VCU School of Medicine building, the Virginia Biotechnology Park, a 150,000-square-foot addition for Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc, as well as several apartment buildings in the Manchester and business districts.

Over $120 million is going into creating more residential spaces across the downtown area, according to agbeat.com, who says the recent heightened demand for apartments is a result of the drop in the Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI).

Fyi, the MVI measures the multifamily housing industry’s perception of vacancies which has recently dropped to a level of 31, an all time low.

“Multifamily construction continues to be a bright spot in the overall housing market,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe, in a report by agbeat.com.

Residential development across Richmond was a large part of the revitalization plans discussed at last Thursday’s forum.  For more information about how the State is funding these different projects, click here.

Another project in the works is by the Franklin Development Group, who is working to revitalize the Manchester District by building a 17-acre development at the Reynolds South Property.

“We’re a long way from closing,” said Franklin Development’s Manager, Thomas Wilkinson, who discussed the possibility of  over 300 apartments, office space and an upscale grocer at Thurday’s forum.

Although the project plans aren’t official yet, Wilkinson assures Richmond-ers  that the development will revitalize the Manchester district and appeal to the area’s increasipopulations on.  Checkouts Richmond BizSense’s coverage of the Reynolds Development for more info.

Millions of dollars from the City are being put into new construction on the VCU campuses, as well as some of Richmond’s most beloved landmarks, including the Main Street Station Clock Tower and 17th Street.

The idea behind Richmond’s makeover? To transform traditonal buildings and warehouses into modern, revitalized structures for public use.

Be sure to keep your eyes open, as these new developments pop up across the city!