Shop Locally, Boost the Economy

Over the past few years we’ve heard people talking about the importance of shopping local. These programs have been springing up across the country, urging consumers to join the “Buy Local” movement.

So, what difference does it make when communities shop at local businesses?

Well, the truth is when consumers buy from local stores instead of big box stores, more of their money stays in the community.

“Those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says The New Economics Foundation researcher David Boyle, in this article in Time magazine.

This movement plays a big role by boosting the economy and generating more jobs in the community.

Although sometimes the costs may be slightly higher at locally owned businesses, there are many benefits, such as lower transportation costs, more eco-friendly communities and the opportunity to form growing relationships with local business owners.

Buying local also alerts the community about the gaps in the market, creating a stronger sense of entrepreneurship and pushing for new businesses to prosper in markets that hadn’t previously existed locally.

When spend your money in RVA it keeps our neighborhoods unique with prospering local businesses versus streets lined with big box retail chains.

Here in Richmond, there are a few organizations that are dedicated to encouraging consumers to buy local goods and services. The Greater Richmond Retail Merchants Association is well known for their Think. Shop. Buy. Local movement, a large scale movement that works to promote the economic benefits of buying local goods by working across Richmond and the surrounding counties.

Originally created as a project at VCU, ShopRVA is a smaller nonprofit made up of local businesses, organizations, and individuals who are joined together to promote the culture and individuality of RVA. ShopRVA was created in 2009 and works to make RVA more green, economically and environmentally. Their goal is to make Richmond businesses into a strong foundation for a thriving local economy.

 “ShopRVA is new and filled with so much potential, people should listen to what they have to offer,” said Micah West, a student who worked with ShopRVA at VCU’s 2012 Social Media Institute. “They support the great things we have in the Richmond area and they want to express the creativity and personality of Richmond.”

These organizations work to remind us what makes Richmond such a unique city and they highlight why RVA is a wonderful place to live, eat, work and shop. With local restaurants on nearly every block, small markets throughout the Fan, and unique stores and boutiques in neighborhoods like Carytown and Libbie & Grove it is easy to shop RVA.

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, 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

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!

Carytown Cupcakes Expands AND Crepes Come to Carytown

For all you dessert enthusiasts out there anticipating the next sweets shop to open up in Carytown, the time is almost here!  Among a bevy of bakeries, sweets and confectionery shops, Carytown will be adding to its list of sweets shops a bigger location for Carytown Cupcakes and a new dining spot for French cuisine: Carytown Creperie.

Carytown Cupakes, a Richmond tradition known for its decadent desserts, is opening its new location at 3111 West Cary Street, across from Can Can Brasserie.  A grand opening date for the new location is still up in the air, but owners Dawn & Albert Schick promise the new and improved cupcake boutique is coming soon with even better cupcake concoctions. (Meanwhile, the old location at 2820 West Cary Street is still open!)

After the big move, the former cupcake shop will be magically transformed into Carytown Creperie, a new crepe shop featuring the traditional French-inspired cuisine with a twist: fast, take-away crepes for on-the-go dining.

[Read more…]

Brown Greer Goes Waterfront on Rocketts Landing

Five years ago, Rocketts Landing – the rural neighborhood of Richmond bordering Downtown and Churchill along the James River – was desolate, barren and considered as just a watering hole by local fisherman. It was pretty much unheard of by the general public.

Two years ago, that all changed with The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing opening in 2010 and The Conch Republic soon after in 2011. The area was completely transformed into an attractive, scenic stretch of restaurants along the James and tourists, visitors, locals, couples, families and Richmond-ers flocked like seagulls.

Today, Rockett’s Landing is making an even bigger splash. One of the Richmond area’s biggest law firms, Brown Greer, is relocating its headquarters to the 38,000-square-foot Cedar Works Building along the riverfront on Dock Street.

Although the building still needs to be renovated, there are major factors in favor of moving to Rocketts, according to Principal Orran Brown: convenient parking, the location, and the long-term prospects of what Rocketts Landing could develop into.

Rocketts Landing Memorial Day 2012 event

Check out these recent articles in the Times-Dispatch and Richmond BizSense, which give a more detailed look into Brown Greer’s latest urban development.

In the mean time, be sure to visit Rocket’s Landing on Sunday, May 27th for Rocketts Red Glare.  The event will feature the Kings of Swingband and a fireworks display to benefit the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton.

“New” development north of Broad on Staples Mill

About once a month I get a question about the large, vacant property that borders Staples Mill Road that is just north of West Broad Street, right over the Henrico Count line. My answer is always that it was an old, rundown neighborhood that was purchased and cleared with the intention of rebuilding, and that the developer is the same group that is doing the project at Monument Avenue and Willow Lawn Drive — Gumenick Properties. As to why it hasn’t been started, well just look around at new building all around the country. The developer was obviously waiting until the economy turns around.

But, I always have to give that answer with the caveat that the last official word I had heard about it was a few years ago. I couldn’t even be sure that the same plans were in place. Thankfully I can point to this article on that gives us the lowdown on the current situation — which is pretty much as described as above. It sounds as though things are just on hold, but the same big plans are still on the books. In fact, this project is expected to take 10 years even once they finally get underway.

You need to go read the article to see all of the reported details, but I thought I would share a couple of details of the plans here:

What: Staples Mill Centre, proposed to include 1,096 apartments, 571 condominiums, 391 townhouses, 32 single-family homes, 60,000 square feet of offices, and 100,000 square feet of stores.

Where: About 80 acres between Staples Mill Road, Libbie Avenue and Bethlehem Road, near Interstate 64.

[cetsEmbedGmap src=,+Richmond,+VA&hl=en&ll=37.591213,-77.49316&spn=0.011885,0.026157&sll=37.588289,-77.492216&sspn=0.011953,0.026157&vpsrc=0&hnear=Staples+Mill+Rd+%26+Suburban+Ave,+Brookland,+Henrico,+Virginia+23230&t=m&z=16 width=350 height=425 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=yes]

Small rental property owners breathe a sigh of relief

There is always a lot of new legislation passed every year that sounds like a good idea at the time and generally goes unnoticed, and every once in a while the consequences of that legislation become horrifyingly apparent afterwards.

This past year, the legislation that was causing so much heartburn for small property owners was a new IRS requirement that anyone with rental property file a 1099 for any repairs that add up to $600+ over the course of the year. (see my post about it here, from December 2010)

Good news — the provision was repealed before it could take effect!! (here is the actual legislation that was passed to repeal the IRS provision, in case you would like to read it)

Hats off to the Realtor community for standing against this for the good of the mom-and-pop investors, who are the ones would be most affected by those proposed requirements — and for Realtor Magazine’s blog for bringing the repeal to my attention. From their description of how everything unfolded, it seems as though everyone understood that this was good to do:

When the provision was included in the small business bill, REALTORS® were among the first and firmest opponents of it, helping to ensure that Congress understood the provision was an example of over-reach that was never intended to burden mom and pop property owners. Members of Congress and President Obama got the message and, in a rare example of agreement between not only Republicans, Democrats, and independents, but also between House and Senate chambers and between the legislative and executive branches, lawmakers agreed the provision needed to come out.

Nice to know that we don’t have this provision coming up to haunt us over the next few years, isn’t it?


Redevelopment plans for Carytown get nod from Museum District

The redevelopment of the old Verizon building at 10 N. Nansemond Street has been hotly debated and contested. (see: the official site for the Carytown Place; Don’t Big Box Carytown‘s website; & this post and the accompanying comment thread on Caramelized Opinions for a good summary & feel of the debate)

The Museum District Association had originally ruled to oppose the redevelopment based on the original plans, but Friday they sent out a press release announcing the reversal of that position.  The gist of the situation can be summed up from this one paragraph in the press release:

The Board voted 13-1 in November to oppose the original SUP and subsequently provided the applicant with detailed requests for further changes to make it more amenable to the neighborhood. The applicant responded by altering the SUP to remove vehicular ingress/egress on Nansemond Street as well as reduce the number of available uses of the property to 10 uses. The applicant also agreed to limit the usable floor space of any one tenant to no more than 25,000 square feet, ensuring there would be multiple tenants in the building and ruling out a single, larger “big box” tenant.

The whole press release can be read here on the MDA’s website (right now it’s at the top, but it will shift down the page as new releases are issued).

What do you think? Are you satisfied with the MDA’s ruling, or are the changes in the plan not enough for you? In that case, what changes would be enough to get your support for the development?

Retail Real Estate Market: 2010 vs. 2011

Retail real estate has gone through a lot over the past year and will continue to evolve over the upcoming year.  I can say from anecdotal experience in our office and from what I’ve heard from other colleagues in the business that the last half of 2010 was very busy, with the level of activity only set to increase going forward.

Retail Traffic is a great resource for information on the retail real estate market and I always enjoy seeing a new issue come out.  If you don’t want to miss anything, I would suggest you watch it closely too.  Of course, if I see anything particularly interesting, I will be sure to pass it along here.  For example…..

Their “Retail Real Estate’s 2010 in Review” is a comprehensive review of the biggest stories in retail real estate over the course of the past year.

And even more important, “What Will 2011 Bring?” (which links to a few other very informative pieces)

Important! New IRS requirements for all landlords

PaperworkAnyone receiving rental payments from either residential or commercial properties will need to review the newly-enacted small business legislation called HR5297 with their accountant and how it expands 1099 reporting requirements.

Currently, only real estate professionals that engage in property management services have to use 1099 forms to report any service provider that they pay more than $600 in a given tax year.

The changes will be enacted over the next two years as follows (details from the NAR Issue Brief released recently — can be found online here or hosted on my site here):

2011 Rule: ALL persons who receive rental payments must provide Form 1099. This affects ALL owners (both individuals and businesses) of rental properties, both residential and commercial. Thus, “mom and pop” investors and those who invest in real estate for their personal portfolios are subject to the new reporting requirement. Only aggregate annual payments of $600 or more for services (but not goods) must be reported.
2012 Rule: All businesses, including real estate businesses, self-employed individuals and independent contractors will be required to make a 1099 report of any aggregate annual payment of $600 or more to any person from whom they acquired goods and services.

Please keep in mind that I am not an accountant, so before you act on any of this information (or panic. or dismiss.) please consult with your accounting/tax professional.  But when I saw this come across my desk, I thought it was important that you are aware of these new rules!

(*Warning! Sales pitch!*) And, by the way, here at Bandazian & Holden, we have dealt with these reporting requirements from when they were first enacted for real estate professionals in the property management field, and we are accustomed to handling the necessary paperwork for our clients.  If you don’t feel like dealing with it on your own, let me know and come on board with us. (*End of warning. Enjoy your day!*)

Business is getting better, Richmond

Business is booming!  Relatively speaking, at least, the economy is buzzing along.  Things certainly aren’t where they used to be, but they are getting better.  Running a small business is tough, no doubt about it — but it’s always tough.

One of the first questions I hear is “how is business” — and the answer lately has been that business is great!  The business I’m in (commercial real estate and business brokering) is busier than it has been in the past couple of years.  I can’t speak for the entire industry, but our small piece has been rolling along quite briskly.  The period between the 4th of July and Labor Day weekend is usually dead for us, except for the residential leasing, but this year defied past trends and was the busiest we’ve had in a long time.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m a small business.  I’m not Coca-Cola or Dow Chemical.  I don’t need the whole economy to be in a bubble to be doing well.  I just need to do well with and by my clients and customers to be rewarded.  Conversely, I don’t need the whole economy to be in recession for my business to be spiraling downward, either.

It’s not just our business at Bandazian & Holden that has been on the upswing lately.  I’ve been hearing from more and more friends that their businesses are doing the same thing, and that brings me great hope for everyone.

Don’t take my word for it, though.  The news outlets are tapping into the data and things are starting to spring back (or at least stop going down) all over:

From Nation’s Restaurant News: Atlanta’s restaurants seeing better days

Operators in the city pointed to an increase in private parties and convention business, which they expect to continue as the holiday season nears. And while diners remain value-conscious, some restaurateurs reported that increased drink and appetizer orders are giving check averages a boost.
From the Wall Street Journal:  Consumers Show Signs of Stirring
U.S. retail sales rose for a third consecutive month in September, posting a stronger-than-expected increase that should fend off fears of a double-dip recession but doesn’t signal a strong recovery.
And from right here in Richmond, in Richmond BizSense: Retail Slowdown Slowing Down?
For the second quarter, area sales totaled $2.59 billion compared to $2.64 billion in the second quarter of 2009.  The decrease of 1.89 percent is the smallest quarter to quarter change since BizSense began analyzing taxable sales data at the end of 2008—a sign that the slowdown may be flattening out.

Restaurants and bars are also doing a little bit better, growing sales by more than 6 percent in the second quarter. That is a big change from the 1 percent to 2 percent decrease reported for previous quarters.

What has changed?  I don’t know. Maybe people are tired of being scared and sitting on the sidelines, waiting for more bad news.  What I do know is that we got ourselves into this mess, and it’s up to us to dig our way out — everyone working on their small piece of the hole.  There is plenty of money to be made in good times and bad times, trick is that the people have to earn their money in the “bad times”.  Let’s keep making this work!

What do you think?  Have you seen business improving in your corner of the world?

Richmond’s next frontier?

Style Weekly has an interesting article this week about a part of Richmond that has been largely ignored, Northside’s Brookland Park Boulevard.  There is a lot of great information in the article, so be sure to go here and read the whole thing, but I felt like this part in particular was a great summary of the past and present of this area:

Brookland Park Boulevard was a bustling commercial corridor in the 1950s and ’60s, with popular bakeries, restaurants, a theater and a nightclub. And today, despite the many vacant buildings, several businesses still do a thriving trade.

On Saturdays, the area’s many beauty and barber shops are packed. Soul food restaurant Sam’s Kitchen is doing well, Epps says, as is his brother’s newly opened restaurant, River City Seafood. The cheerful yellow Michaela’s Bakery, which opened in 2005, sells six-layer cakes and strawberry shortcakes wholesale. Owner Michael Hatcher wishes the city would think of some way to bring more customers in — something historic, he says, or a tourist attraction. Another longtime business owner, florist Sylvia Richardson, says loiterers are the biggest deterrent to business. She says she doesn’t feel comfortable even walking to the convenience store across the street.

The one thing on which the merchants agree is that Brookland Park Boulevard has potential. Car traffic is plentiful, because the boulevard connects the city’s North Side and East End, and the area is served by two bus lines. The street has some architectural gems, such as an old theater and an ornate bank building. Richmond Community High School, a school for the gifted, moved onto the boulevard in 2009. Young people are buying up houses in nearby neighborhoods.

Brookland Park Boulevard reminds me a lot of other Richmond gems like East Grace Street near the Carpenter Center and Manchester’s Hull Street.  A rich history, a questionable present, and a lot of enthusiasm and support to make the area a thriving community.

For another great write-up on the area, take a look at this very thorough post on This Decrepit Victorian from March 2010:  The Brookland Park Historic District.

What’s next for Brookland Park, I wonder?

Official recommendations on the privatization of ABC stores

Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell, has been getting a lot of news coverage lately over his push to privatize ABC stores statewide:  RTD from 9/3/10, NBC12 from 8/19/10, from 8/26/10, Style Weekly from 6/29/10.

This proposal still has a ways to go and many levels of bureaucracy to push through before it becomes reality, but McDonnell ‘s senior staff members have been studying the issue to make recommendations.  Here are their official findings (the full version), which were released today.  You can find the presentations that were made through this link. (although it doesn’t look like it will stay the top story but for so long)

I pulled out a number of points from the press release that I found to be the most intriguing:

  • 1,000 retail licenses will be auctioned off to the highest bidders
  • The licenses will be broken into three categories: 600 licenses for large establishments such as grocery stores; 150 for smaller establishments such as package stores and wine and beer shops; 250 for convenience stores/retail pharmacies
  • No one company will be allowed more than 25% of licenses within each level
  • 1,000 licenses will still give Virginia 1.8 outlets per 10,000 adults, far below the private state average of 3.8 per 10,000 adults
  • Majority of new license holders will be existing stores; Virginians will primarily see new shelves in retail establishments, not new establishments.
  • 332 licenses will be guaranteed for areas currently served by an existing ABC outlet
  • The additional 668 licenses will be granted based on population density
  • The wholesale side will also be privatized, allowing the Commonwealth to completely focus on law enforcement and regulation of distilled spirits
  • There is no tax increase in the privatization proposal
  • The Commonwealth will also make an additional $33 million on the sale of the ABC warehouse in Richmond and 19 state owned outlets
  • The number of ABC enforcement agents will be increased by 25%
  • The Commonwealth, through the ABC board, will maintain health, safety, law enforcement and marketing regulatory authority over private distilled spirit sales and distribution

Also, the point that has been making the most buzz lately is the idea of a 4% tax on the gross liquor receipts for restaurant operators.  That seems to have been taken out of the recommendations (given the 9th bullet point listed above), unless it’s a matter of semantics and they’ve buried it by not calling it a tax.  I didn’t have time to go through, but I’m sure there will be lots of other people combing through the details of this proposal word for word.

Another point that is of particular interest to me is the sale of the ABC main warehouse.  I wonder who will be listing that? *ahem* Mr. Governor, I’d be happy to take a look at it for you!

Should I wait to sign a lease, or is this as good as it gets?

Fear is a strong motivator, but so is hope.  They’re especially strong when they come together.  It’s a special moment when we’ve made it through an especially bad economic downturn and your business starts to tick upwards for the first time.

Commercial landlords have been through that hard time right along with every other business owner, and they are ready to see that uptick themselves.  They are ready to deal to get in good steady tenants.  At the same time, businesses are seeing new contracts come in (I know we have!) and they are ready to start taking advantage of the deals on leases — are you?

empty salon space

2217-2219 W Main Street

I’m certainly not the first to point this out, and I’m taking my cue from a recent online article on National Real Estate Investor — “Office Tenants and Landlords Battle for Upper Hand

Landlord concession packages are not likely to get any bigger… “They’re as good as they’re going to get.” The same may be true with rents, he adds. “Rents may fall in some markets a bit further, but the ship starts to turn before a lot of people know they’re on it.”

Robert Bach, senior vice president and chief economist at Grubb & Ellis, agrees. “More tenants are active now and willing to sign a long-term lease because they are more confident in their own outlook and realize now is a good time because of the concessions available.”

They’re talking about office leases in the article, but it makes just as much sense with retail and restaurant spaces, too.

Of course you never know when the economy has hit bottom until it’s too late to take advantage of the best deals.  The great part is that as long as you’re not making decisions out of fear, you can keep your eye on your own business and use cues from your business activity help you decide when is the best time to move.

So if you’re seeing cues that things are getting better in your business, perhaps it’s time we talk about finding a good deal now…?

Tips on leasing commercial space

If you’re looking for commercial space for your business, or think that you might ever be looking — read this article from Entrepreneur Magazine, “How to Negotiate a Lease“. It has lots of great information on what to expect and how the process works for finding a commercial space to lease. [please ignore all of the obnoxious advertising that Entrepreneur Magazine is so horrible about, the article is worth suffering through the ads]

Be educated about the process and do your homework, but don’t let your ego get in the way and think that you can do this on your own. As the article mentions, be sure to use a commercial broker to find and negotiate the space with you, and use an attorney to review the lease documents.

There are things that you won’t know that you’re missing, no matter how savvy of a tenant you are — and those things that you missed will become painfully obvious the moment you reference your lease regarding a contentious issue 2 years from now, or the moment you hear about the space that wasn’t officially “on the market” but was half the price and better positioned than the space you chose.

More info about The Devil’s Triangle!

This is an article that you don’t want to miss about The Devil’s Triangle by Alix Bryan

I said my bit in a post yesterday, after seeing Alix’s videos — but there is SO much more that can be said, and she has a quite a few of the stories I have heard over the years about the rough days here in the Triangle. Be sure to read all about it!

Insight into The Devil’s Triangle

There is a little-discussed part of Richmond’s Upper Fan/Museum District that was once a pretty rough area — “The Devil’s Triangle”, or as it is sometimes called, “The Bermuda Triangle”.  Now it is an economic corridor with independent shops and restaurants that serve the residents of the Museum District, the Fan District, and anyone else that wants to wander through.

I lived in the area for several years back in the mid to late nineties, and I missed most of the rougher times but heard plenty about Felix’s, Cafe 21, and the Ritz — now Caliente, Cafe Diem, and Arianna’s.

We moved our offices over to 604 North Sheppard Street several years ago to be in the heart of the revitalization going on, and to show our commitment to the area.  Our founder and CEO, Bedros Bandazian owns all of the commercial along this part of Sheppard Street except for the 7-Eleven, as well as some nearby commercial buildings — so there was already a strong commitment within the company to revitalizing the area.  Our move made a further commitment, and  of course we all patronize the surrounding businesses faithfully.

The transformation has taken another step with the most recent additions of:

  • Sylvia’s Stitch & Suds (renovated coin laundrymat, now a seamstress and laundry),
  • Arianna’s Grill (Italian restaurant from the extended family who also own Mary Angela’s and several others around town — built out from almost from scratch shell)
  • The parking lot in the rear of the buildings at Park & Sheppard (repaved, landscaped, lighted, and available for any customers of the shops along Sheppard)

The Devil Doesn’t Live Here Anymore from Alix Bryan on Vimeo.

The Devil’s Triangle is located in the Museum District, which is nestled within the Upper Fan, of Richmond, VA.

This area received its name from three rough local bars, which formed a triangle. The bars have changed ownership, and the area has undergone a major transformation.

However, the nickname has stuck, and has a quirky appeal to locals–locals who never went when it was actually the Devil’s Triangle.

It wasn’t unlikely for police to find wanted suspects in the bars, or for gun and fistfights to happen almost nightly.

Origin of a nickname from Alix Bryan on Vimeo.[vimeo]

Rich Holden, former owner of Felix, talks about how a two block area came to be known as The Devil’s Triangle. Located in Richmond, VA, this area was home to drug trafficking, prostitution, bar brawls and gunfights. The triangle consisted of three bars, The Felix, The Ritz, and Cafe 21.

Although Holden called it “The Bermuda Triangle,” that moniker is also commonly synonymous with “The Devil’s Triangle.”

[editor’s note: Richard Holden is now the Principal Broker and President here at Bandazian & Holden, Inc.]

I’m eagerly awaiting Alix’s article to go along with the videos, and if she’ll allow me I’ll share it with you in a later post — or at least I’ll link over to it! I greatly appreciate her allowing me to use the videos here, and encourage you to go to her Vimeo site to take a look at her other work!

If you haven’t visited the Devil’s Triangle in a while, you should!  Visit the Black Hand for some coffee that was roasted right there on site. Come sit on Caliente’s patio and enjoy the spring breeze while you have dinner. Come listen to some amazing music down at Cafe Diem. Or explore one of the other shops or restaurants.

[edit (4/13/10, 2:27pm): After a couple of off-blog responses, I’m curious to ask — If you are familiar with the Devil’s Triangle, please share some memories of your time there with us in the comment section below!]

New use for the Ukrop’s building at VCU

The Ukrop’s location on West Grace Street closed almost a year ago, and since then has sat vacant in the midst of the bustling VCU community.

Plans are finally underway for making use of the space since the acquisition by VCU just a few months ago.  Not a grand retail redevelopment, but it’s certainly a logical progression for VCU to acquire and use the space for additional classrooms and storage.

See the full story at Richmond BizSense here (which, by the way, does an EXCELLENT job with the business news for Richmond and the surrounding areas — if you aren’t subscribed then you are missing out!).

Waitstaff in DC accused of stealing credit card numbers

This is a sad story about people taking advantage of trust given to them by the general public.  No, it's not about the government or big-business (this time), but about the trust that we put in the waitstaff at our favorite restaurants.

Six servers at high-end restaurants in Washington, DC, were accused of stealing credit card numbers from customers and selling them to criminals who used the numbers to create counterfeit cards and charge $750K worth of items at local stores. (See the full article from the Washington Examiner here.)

Secret Service investigators cracked the Washington-area scheme
after customers began complaining to their banks of unauthorized
charges on their cards, Secret Service Special Agent Philip Soto wrote
in a sworn statement filed in Alexandria’s federal court. Soto
discovered patterns in the charges that led him to the restaurants,
where managers helped him trace the stolen information back to specific

“Every employee has a unique
number they put into the register before ringing up a charge,” Clyde’s
of Gallery Place manager Paul Walker told The Examiner. “With that
system in place, we can point back to an employee very quickly. …
It’s very traceable.”

A few lessons to be learned and points to be made in light of this story:

  1. Watch your credit & bank accounts for odd activity. You can't catch what you don't see.
  2. Regardless of the poor example these servers have give, most servers are wonderful and extremely trustworthy.  Don't let a few bad apples make you disrespectful.
  3. As an industry, retailers and restaurateurs need to use systems to make the detective work easier (at least) and stealing private data harder (even better).

It's a shame that these stories happen at all, and with a bad economy people become even more desperate.  The best that we can do is show that this type of behavior will be recognized and punished, without over-reacting and only seeing the negative.

New life for closed Ukrop’s VCU location

Per breaking news on the RTD website today, the former Ukrop's location on Grace Street adjacent to the Virginia Commonwealth University campus will now be part of that same campus.  VCU's real estate foundation purchased the property for future development.

"The foundation bought the property last month
for $9 million from BET Investments Inc., a Pennsylvania-based
development company."

Watch for more information in upcoming press.  I'm sure there will be articles soon.

For more on the closing of the Ukrop's at VCU, see here, here, and here.

(Thanks to burt from UP Richmond for the heads up on the article!)

Today’s Grand Opening at White Oak Village (pictures, too!)

Today was the big day for the Shops at White Oak Village!  The
eagerly anticipated shopping center was formally introduced to the
community this morning, and while the line of speakers patting each
other on the back for a job well done was the agenda for the event (and
well deserved!), the important news is that this is not your typical
shopping center.

Every developer says that their shopping center
is unique, but this time it was proven.  Not only was the environment
taken highly into consideration in the construction and build-out, but
the way the traffic is controlled and the landscaping is done lends to
a very pedestrian-friendly environment.

Then again, this is the
same developer that did Short Pump Town Center and that was a new style
for the area, too.  I have to say that it is refreshing to see that
there are developers doing such high quality work and not just churning
out the same strip mall over and over again.

Entrance_WhiteOak PededstrianFriendly_WhiteOak

UPDATE #4: White Oak Village

Lately I have seen a flood of inquiries for information on the newest addition of shops in the East End of Richmond — The Shops at White Oak Village.  From all of the internet traffic, it is easy to believe that this shopping center will be a huge hit.

With the GRAND OPENING occurring this Monday, October 13, it is an appropriate time to revisit the project and see how everything stands for the public unveiling.  All of the shops that were revealed in the previous post (3/27/08) have been confirmed, plus quite a few more.  Take a look at this page of the official website for the directory of shops.

Several comments from the previous post called for a fitness center, a Chipotle, and a movie theater.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though any of those are on board yet — except that there is a Qdoba scheduled to open right away!

There is a grand opening event on Monday that I will be attending, so I will be sure to report back with my impression of the overall project and see if I can bend the ear of an insider to find out about any other hot pieces of info to share! 

Be sure to check back next week for the update, or just subscribe using your feed reader or by typing your email address in the "subscribe" box under my picture along the left hand side of this window (be sure to confirm your address when the service sends you their email).  If there is anything else you would like for me to find out, leave a comment and I'll see what I can do!

(In the meantime, take a look back through the other updates for this project on this blog:  5/15/07 and 6/15/06)

UPDATE: The Shops at White Oak Village

Since there have been so many inquiries to my blog regarding The Shops at White Oak Village (see previous entries on the subject from 5/15/07 and 6/15/06), I thought it was time for an update.  Considering the time between each posting on the shopping center development, maybe I should consider labeling this as an annual update…

Now there is an official website for the project, and there are confirmed tenants listed:

Here's a factoid that I knew but had forgotten — the developer for The Shops at White Oak Village is the same developer that put together Short Pump Town Center and River Lofts at Tobacco Row, Forest City Enterprises.  Of course, given the confirmed tenant mix so far, White Oak will be a very different shopping center than Short Pump is.  That doesn't mean it won't be a good mix, just that it will be different — hopefully different in the way that reflects the needs and wants of the surrounding demographics.

It looks as though the project is still on target for a grand opening in Fall 2008, but we'll keep an eye out for any updates to that — and maybe another update before a full year passes…

[EDIT (10/13/08): Click here for the latest update on the Shops at White Oak Village.]

[EDIT (10/31/08): Click here for pictures and a post about the grand opening today!]

How is Circuit City like the City of Richmond?

Q: How is Circuit City like the City of Richmond government?Compare_2

A: They both share a very unfortunate self-destructive behavior — rewarding poor management with large raises and retention bonuses. 

Now…that’s not entirely fair.  The behavior isn’t self-destructive so much as it is harmful for the people that have entrusted these folks with their livelihoods and well-being.

I was flabbergasted back at the end of 2007 when I read the news that the executives at Circuit City were being rewarded with retention bonuses after a series of very, very bad decisions that had been handed down over the previous few months.  If it were my company, I would have been much more likely to pay those same executives extra to walk away and stop causing so much harm to the reputation and morale of the company.  I wouldn’t have asked them to stay, and I certainly wouldn’t set up incentives to keep them in place.

I’ve always thought that the public sector could learn a lesson or two from the private sector, but if I knew this was the lesson they were going to learn then I never would have wished for it.  After all of the debacles that the city has been through at the hands of the current executive leadership, why would anyone think that these same officials deserve a raise —  much less raises of 13-20%?!  (Read the entire article from yesterday’s RTD by clicking here.  There are a lot of details that add to the shamefulness of the situation.)

I guess the City of Richmond has Circuit City to thank for blazing the way in rewarding ineptitude.

Latest Plans for the Boulevard

A short but very interesting article in this morning’s RTD discusses the redevelopment plans for the area around the Diamond on Boulevard.  The focus of the article was more on the deadline yesterday for developers to submit their bids on the project, but I found the details of the City’s plans for the area to be more interesting than the names of the developers

(Although, it is interesting that Douglas Development Corp. has bid on the project.  That’s the firm owned by Douglas Jemal.  They are firmly entrenched in DC and Maryland, and have been buying up properties downtown over the past couple of years.)

Per the advertised qualifications for the bids, the City has outlined their vision of the redevelopment:

  • a new 8,000-seat baseball stadium closer to I-95 — When I first read that,  I couldn’t imagine it being very much closer than the Diamond is now, but it could be moved back towards the I-95 South entrance ramp.
  • redevelopment of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control headquarters, perhaps to include the relocation of the Richmond Coliseum to this site
  • demolish the Diamond, using the 27-acre site for a mixed-use development
  • demolish the city maintenance complex, resulting in another 27-acre site for redevelopment
  • build a parking deck beside the Arthur Ashe Center

It will be interesting to see it all move forward, and to see the renderings that the chosen developer presents.  If anyone has further insight on the project, I would love to hear more!

Movieland: The new frontier

A couple of weeks ground was broken on the new cineplex on Boulevard.  There has been a lot of buzz about it, and judging by the hits on some of my prior posts on the development (from 03/14/07, 11/30/06 & 05/18/06), I would say that there is quite a bit of interest from the general public.

The report from River City Rapids has me very excited to see the finished product from Bow Tie Partners.  This is a company that gets it!  Look over Jon’s post, Movies On The Boulevard: Even Better Than You Think, to see all the details that I haven’t seen anywhere except for on River City Rapids.

Comments on The Crupi Report

I just finished reading The Crupi Report, and there is quite a bit that I agree with…and some that I don’t.  Instead of taking this post to get into the individual points that I am for or against, I wanted to share my most immediate gut criticisms of the report:

  1. What was up with the misspellings?  I noticed a handful sprinkled throughout the report (and I wasn’t looking for them) — "lose" was mispelled a couple of times, i.e.
  2. What is the "medium of house prices"?  I assume Dr. Crupi meant "median", but I can’t be sure.  Maybe he meant average?  Who knows…
  3. There was a quote from "A black leader" that said "I drank from the back of the bus, but it doesn’t define my life."  I get the meaning and appreciate it.  But, am I missing some piece of historical reference here or is that a mixed reference — i.e., sitting at the back of the bus and having to drink at a different water fountain?  Given the other mistakes in the report, I don’t know whether that is a misquote or the actual words he/she used.  Either way, it’s  wouldn’t have used it in the report as-is.

My point is not to be nit-picky, but come on, these are pretty simple mistakes to catch and correct.  Why undermine your credibility by letting them slip through?  I certainly don’t think that my writing is perfect, but I’m not getting paid to produce reports that are going to be read by an entire region.

Getting past the simple mistakes, I enjoyed the overall theme of urging cooperation and overarching vision as necessary for the strategic growth of the entire region.

One of my favorite quotes from the report was:  "It is ironic that while people in the counties recognize that the city can influence it with negative pollitical and economic images, they under-appreciate the benefits of what would happen if those same images were positive."

I am anticipating a great future for the Richmond-metro area, and I think that this report was a great way to generate interest and involvement by the general populace.

New Downtown Master Plan released today

The new Downtown Master Plan was presented today.  See the following link for a quick RTD article about it: Richmond leaders see vision of downtown – News –

Here are links to the different parts of the plan:

It looks like a night of reading reports, between this new release and catching up on The Crupi Report.  I hope to have some insightful feedback for you within the next couple of days.

[edit, 5/17/10: I realize that the links for the Master Plan no longer work, but I don’t seem to be able to find where they’ve put it. If you find it, please add a link in the comments below! — NVH]

Visit the small businesses for the holidays

Rhonda Abrams over at has written an excellent post to remind us "Don’t forget to shop at small businesses".  It is thought-out and well worth the read, so I won’t rehash all of the details here.

I’ll give you just one quote to get you started:

Patronizing small businesses is a matter of self-interest, especially
if you’re in business yourself or work for a small company. After all,
I’d bet many of your own clients or customers are also small companies.
By supporting the small business sector, you’re indirectly helping your
own company to thrive.

Go read the post, and I would love to hear any specific stories you have about how shopping with local retailers really worked out especially well.  Leave a comment here to share your story and encourage everyone to shop locally!

Chesterfield Town Center gets facelift

The former movie-theater at Chesterfield Town Center is finally being redone, with the move of Barnes & Noble from across the street, the opening of a new Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, and a brand new Coldwater Creek retail store.  In addition, the mall’s owners will be updating the front of the mall that faces Huguenot Road.

(see "Renovation for Chesterfield mall" from the RTD for the source story)

VA Sales Tax Holiday Puts Some Green Behind the Green

The sales-tax holiday on energy-efficient products starts today, 10/5/07, and will run through Monday, 10/8/07.  The official cap on the tax-free purchases is $2,500 and is only good on certain products that bear the Energy Star logo, which denotes that it has received a blessing from the Federal government as being energy-efficient.

Here is a list of products that are eligible, from the VA Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy site:

  1. Ceiling  Fans
  2. Compact  Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs)
  3. Dehumidifiers
  4. Dishwashers
  5. Programmable  Thermostats
  6. Refrigerators
  7. Room  Air Conditioners
  8. Clothes Washers

Don’t forget that there are also Federal tax credits on certain energy-efficient purchases, regardless of the state sales-tax holiday.

There are quite a few exceptions to the tax-free sales, for example commercial-grade items and computers do not fall under the state program.  Similar to the back-to-school sales-tax holiday, individual retailers can opt to pay sales tax for consumers on some products that are not covered officially.

Regardless, this is a great way to kick-start some tax-payers into being energy-efficient without breaking the bank or setting up ongoing subsidies.  I applaud the state for enacting the sales-tax holiday.

At the same time, I hope that this does not become a free-for-all in having sales-tax holidays for every pet project that comes along.  It’s exciting and newsworthy if there are a couple of sales-tax holidays each year, but the novelty loses its power to drive purchases if there is a sales-tax holiday declared once a month.

See also:  Effects of VA Sales Tax Holiday, posted 8/9/06

Cinemas, Cinemas….Everywhere!

There’s a recent growth spurt in the cinema sector here in Richmond lately, or at least in the plans for new cinemas.  In today’s RTD, “Lease signed for cineplex” lays out the plans for Regal Cinemas to open a 16-screen digital theater complex at Westchester Commons, at the intersection of 288 and Midlothian Turnpike.

As I’m counting (and I may be missing a theater or two, please chime in if you know of one that I’ve missed!), that makes four either announced or opened within the past year.

The others that I know are:

And of course, each of these cineplexes have the accompanying retail and sometimes residential component coming along with them.

In the case of the Westchester Commons theater, it is part of a much larger development being developed by Zaremba Group, Watkins Center, which will contain more than a million SF of retail space, 1,600 residential units, and 2 million SF of office space (per Zaremba’s website).  The entire development is scheduled to be open for business in spring of 2009.  Here are the plans for Westchester Commons, as supplied by Zaremba Group.

Death of the Farmer’s Market

Seth Godin’s blog has declared the end of the farmer’s market.  He doesn’t mean that they are all disappearing, quite the opposite really.  He has noted that the "farmer" is disappearing as the markets become more and more popular.  The small farmers get left behind as the market caters more to the masses.

While this is not happening here in Richmond (see Style‘s recent article "Growing a Conscience" about the farmer’s markets in the area), Seth provides a warning call that we should heed.  Encourage the markets to grow, but be careful to keep it focused on how it began:  the local farmer selling their goods to the local consumer.

UPDATE(2): New Downtown Hilton Hotel

From "UPDATE: New Downtown Hilton Hotel", posted here on 11/18/06:

And as a side note:  This hotel will be a full-service upscale Hilton,
but developers are not revealing which sub-brand name they will be

Style Weekly reported this past Wednesday that HRI Properties has downgraded this site to a more limited-service Hilton brand, "Hilton Garden Inn".  You may be familiar with this brand already, but the spokesperson points out that this location will have more "bells and whistles".  (Actually, the Hilton in Innsbrook is a Hilton Garden Inn.)

Some news that I hadn’t seen before was regarding a full service restaurant, The Great American Grill, and an additional 25,000SF of retail space, all of which will be at the bottom of the hotel building.

The Great American Grill is already being used in Hilton hotels across the country, here is a review of one in Hampton Roads: Rise & Dine blog (Hampton Roads, VA).  You can easily find other sites by Googling "great american grill, hilton", but the other pages I found didn’t have anything specific regarding the quality of the restaurant.  Consistently, the description was "American cuisine, under $10", and they all seem to be in Hilton Garden Inn hotels.

UPDATE: New Shopping Center in East Henrico

More information has been released and has been reported by the RTD regarding the plans for The Shops at White Oak Village.  With all of the comparisons to local area shopping malls, I thought this was going to be a "lifestyle center" like Stony Point Fashion Park or Short Pump Town Center.

The article in the RTD ("Sam’s, Penney plan new stores") from this past Friday, however, highlighted a number of the stores going into the shopping center planned to open in latter part of 2008 near the Laburnum Avenue exit off of I-64 (the one in the East End, not Northside).  These are not your typical "mall" stores, but more like one of these big box strip centers (a la the strip centers that pop up around the big shopping malls).

Target, Lowe’s, Ukrop’s, Sam’s Club, and J.C. Peney have all been confirmed as new tenants.  The site is 136 acres, and is planned to house a total of 913,606 square feet of retail, as well as a 150-room hotel.  Other possible tenants (not confirmed) are Red Lobster, Circuit City, Panera Bread and Ruby Tuesday.

June 2007 is the expected start date for construction.

Pay what you think is appropriate

I don’t know that I would suggest this pricing strategy, but it is interesting.  There is a coffee shop (Terra Bite Lounge) in Washington state that has no prices, but instead has a donation box.  The theory is that peer pressure, guilt, and common decency will cause the consumers to give appropriately (or more than appropriately).

Here is a link to the Seattle Times article, but I would suggest that you go to the Freakonomics blog where there is an interesting discussion going on in the comments.  Apparently there are several other businesses that have tried the same approach in different parts of the world — with different results.

Big Boxes Explode in Mechanicsville

The development in Mechanicsville certainly isn’t new, and there is still new construction going up all the time.  I noticed in Commercial Notes in this Sunday’s RTD that three big retailers have signed leases out there, which goes to show that it’s not all smoke-and-mirrors.  Hanover is definitely a hot-spot to be watched.

28,000 SF to Marshall’s:  7230B Bell Creek Road
15,000 SF to Old Navy:  7230C Bell Creek Road
30,038SF to Best Buy:  7297 Battle Hill Boulevard

UPDATE: “Chippenham Place” (Cloverleaf Mall)

Last week, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors approved Crosland’s initial plans for the redevelopment of Cloverleaf Mall.  The plans include at least 500 residential units and 200,000 SF of commercial space.

From an older report, the outparcels that have been consistently active will remain, and Kroger has signed on to build out their largest store yet in the Richmond-metro area.

This certainly sounds like it is moving along nicely, and it will help the area turn around after years of decline.

For a more thorough report of the announcement, read "Cloverleaf’s Newest ‘Place’" on  Here is a clip from that article that I found gives us some insight on the timeframe we are looking at for the redevelopment:

“It’s not
unrealistic for a project of this size to be absorbed over a period of
four years perhaps even until build out,” [
James Downs, vice president for Crosland’s retail division] said. “The commercial
component, however, we see moving forward immediately.”

(For previous posts about this topic, see Something’s Moving at Cloverleaf Mall on 12-28-06)

Plight of the Independents

The ongoing struggle of the independent retailers vs. the big-box retailers is the focus of many blog entries (mine included).  There is a new entry ("Film traces struggles of mom-and-pop shops") on’s Small Biz Blog that summarizes a movie by independent filmmakers Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes.

The couples’ documentary is available on their website, and the trailer is on YouTube.  The trailer is very engaging, and I’m looking forward to sitting down later today to watch the movie.  Two former journalists trek across America to highlight the business of fighting against "big business" and "the corporate machine".

While they didn’t come through Richmond, don’t think that this doesn’t affect us locally.  If you don’t believe that, then just do some local searches on the battle from a few years ago in Ashland against the establishment of a new Wal-Mart.

Another recent example of the local reflection of this national issue is the VCU graphic design project put together the Fall 2006 semester that emphasized the benefits to the community of shopping with locally owned shops.  From the words on their own site:

ShopRVA is a coordinated effort to direct the public towards shopping
at local, independently owned businesses. This is not only to benefit
small stores. The act of buying locally allows cities to be more
self-sustaining and helps prevent intervention from corporate business.
Small businesses also add to the unique nature of the city by providing
services that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Through this
campaign, ShopRVA hopes to provide incentive through education as to
why shopping locally is a wise way to give back to your community.

It’s a worthwhile project, and I hope it doesn’t die just because the class that put it together is over.  I have the feeling it will disappear with the tide of students that created it, but it is a movement that someone should take up.

Does anyone else know of local movements here in Richmond, or anywhere else, that falls in the same vein?

Something’s Moving at Cloverleaf Mall

This bit of news slipped by me when it hit the RTD a couple of weeks ago, but thanks to the Chamber of Commerce pointing it out I’m all up to date! 

After a long period of silence about the status of Cloverleaf Mall, there is movement.  In January, Chesterfield County officials expect to have a signed purchase agreement from Crosland Inc., who will be redeveloping the site.  The buyers have been involved since May 2006, and have several versions of a proposal that calls for redeveloping the aged mall into a mixed-use development.

Several plans have been proposed since Chesterfield purchased the property in 2004, all of which include a "pedestrian-friendly community that blends residential and business components".  The county has said that it will be subsidizing the redevelopment, in order to make it work.

Ukrop’s is NOT for sale

Greg Gilligan reported in this morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch that the rumors that have been flying around about Ukrop’s grocery store chain being for sale are not true.

The rumors were squashed (or so the Ukrops hope) by both Robert S. Ukrop and James E. Ukrop denying flatly any truth to the rumors that have been flying around the River City over the past week.

There seems to be some confidence in the statements, but as a business broker I know that in order to keep business flowing and to maintain confidentiality, sometimes you have to deny sales negotiations even if the cat is out of the bag.

Loan Sharks or Saviors?

There has been quite a bit of noise lately about payday lenders and their very high (some would say "predatory") interest rates.  Last Tuesday, 12/5/06, House Bill 619 was defeated in the Virginia House of Delegates.  The purpose of the bill was to repeal the Virginia Payday Loan Act of 2002, which had exempted these payday loans from the maximum interest rate of 36%.

Anyone with a checking account, an ID, and evidence of a job can borrow against their next paycheck, with a "payday loan".  The concept is simple enough, and sounds like it does the job exactly as the payday lenders proponents say it does.  They say that these loans help people in real financial distress dig themselves out of a hole.

The problem is that the interest rates and the policies are set up such that cause these individuals who borrow this way end up in a downward spiral that is very difficult to break.  The opponents of payday lenders say that other options exist for individuals that need to borrow, and that the payday lenders are taking advantage of people that have no choice.  Every state around Virginia, has agreed and banned payday lenders with similar legislation — Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

I am a big believer in allowing market forces to decide what is necessary and what is an unsustainable business model.  BUT, there are situations where the public needs to be protected from themselves — and this might be just such a situation.

What does everyone else think about this?

UPDATE: Cineplex Slated for Boulevard

This is a call-back to a posting several months ago (5/18/06, to be exact): New Cineplex Slated for the Boulevard?  — see the post to get up-to-speed

This has been long in the works, obviously, and is still in the early stages.  As Style Weekly pointed out in this week’s edition ("Merger Won’t Slow Boulevard Complex"), the architectural plans are still being drawn up.

But there is no rush for Bow Tie Partners (the developers), as Richmond Steel isn’t planned to relocate for another 8 months.

Some interesting facts from the article:

  • the new cineplex will be called Movieland
  • the redevelopment project is being called Boulevard Square
  • there will be 13,000+ sq ft of retail and restaurants in the development
  • the area where Bowtie originally planned for a cineplex is called Jefferson Square (between Main, Cary, 3rd & 4th Streets)

UPDATE: New Downtown Hilton Hotel

People have been asking me for an update to my post from 5/2/06 ("New Hilton Hotel redevelopment of Miller & Rhoads") which outlined the redevelopment of the old Miller & Rhoads department store downtown into a sparkling new Hilton hotel, along with lots of new condo units (just what we need) and new retail space.

Anyone driving by the site on Broad Street can see that not a whole lot of progress has been made.  One would think that the project has just been forgotten.

In fact, the construction has just been delayed a few months due to various factors:  the recent rise in construction costs, difficulties in financing, the softening in the housing market, and tax credit issues.  The developers expect to have everything in place and to begin construction in December.

And as a side note:  This hotel will be a full-service upscale Hilton, but developers are not revealing which sub-brand name they will be using.

(Source:  "Downtown Hilton Delayed to December" in 11/8/06 edition of Style Weekly)

Walmart’s $4 prescriptions

Just a quick newsworthy blurb that I heard on NBC12 yesterday:

We’ve all heard of the plan that Walmart has to sell generic prescription drugs at the low, low price of $4.00.  Well, Virginia has now been added to the list of states running the new program.

(11/30/06 UPDATE:  deleted dead link from "blurb that I heard on NBC12 yesterday")

2006 Golden Hammer Awards

If you haven’t seen the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, pick it up.  There are quite a few good articles related to business and real estate today.

One in particular that I want you to note is the profile on Ed Eck.  This man and his company  have done (and continue to do) a great service for Richmond in redeveloping the area just west of VCU, specifically along the West Main St and West Cary Street corridors.  (If you are struggling to identify where I mean, think of the pastel colored buildings along West Main Street, Mulligan’s, the old El Rio Grande, Gold’s Gym, etc.)

Congratulations to Ed for winning the Andrew Asch Developer Award, from the pool of 2006 Golden Hammer Awards, from A.C.O.R.N. (Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods) for "contributions to historical conservation".

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees!

Independent Pharmacies Being Swallowed

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard the news that Rite Aid is buying the Brooks and Eckerd chain of drugstores, making it the largest chain on the East Coast.  If you haven’t heard the news, check out these stories:

USA Today:  Rite Aid to buy Brooks, Eckerd Rite Aid confirms Brooks-Eckerd purchase
RTD: Rite Aid to buy Eckerd stores

Now that we’re all caught up on the news, let’s review the consequences underlying this big merger.  In this era of mega-supercenters (a la Walmart and Target), the little guy either learns to adapt and leverage the boutique concept, or they get squeezed out.  We have seen this over and over again in different retail industries.

This is being played out in the pharmacy sector, as well.  On, the article entitled "Amid Rite Aid deal, independent drug stores ailing" summarizes some of the details that independent pharmacies totaled 47% of all stores in 1994, but they are now only 32% of the total stores.

The only independents I can think of in Richmond are the one on West Cary Street by VCU and Westwood Pharmacy.  Anyone else?

Effects of VA Sales Tax Holiday

The sales tax holiday here in Virginia had a great turnout this past weekend.

For those of you who don’t know, an annual sales tax holiday was approved by the General Assembly to begin in 2006, being held on the first full weekend in August.  Only certain items are exempt from the sales tax (per the Virginia Department of Taxation website):

During Virginia’s Sales Tax Holiday, purchases of school supplies selling for $20 or less per item, and articles of clothing, including footwear, selling for $100 or less per item, will be exempt from sales tax. All retailers selling these items MUST participate in the Sales Tax Holiday. Sales tax exemptions do not apply to items selling for more than the amounts listed.

For items that are not exempted, retailers had the option to pay the sales tax themselves.  Many local retailers exercised this option, and used it for a great promotion.

Of course, everyone loves saving money.  This weekend (the sales tax holiday ran all day Friday, through midnight on Sunday) proved to be very successful for area retailers.  It looked like Christmas-time in the shopping mall parking lots.

The Richmond Times-Distpatch reported that Wal-mart benefitted quite a bit, with the "sales of boys and girls apparel…[rising] more than 200 percent at Richmond-area stores".

It’s good to hear that the super discount retailer did well, but I was really more interested to hear how the independent retailers fared.  From reports from the Retail Merchants Association, they did well, too: "31 percent of the retailers surveyed said their sales jumped 30 percent or more."

Landlord vs. National Tenant

Link: Style Weekly : Richmond’s alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion.

One of Shockoe Bottom’s most heralded redevelopment projects smells like chicken-wing grease, charges a lawsuit filed two weeks ago.The landlord of Canal Crossing, at 101 S. 15th St., is suing a tenant — the operator of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant — claiming the persistent smell of grease is seeping into posh neighboring offices and disturbing other tenants.

You can read all the play-by-play details for yourself in the above-referenced link.  I just wanted to point out why landlords do (or should) think ahead when allowing a particular business to set up shop in their buildings.  I love restaurants, and do a lot of business with restaurants, but even I have to admit that they have an impact on the other tenants in the building — especially a busy and successful restaurant such as Buffalo Wild Wings.

I certainly don’t know the particulars of the case, so I don’t entertain the idea that I know what is exactly going on here (so my comments should not reflect on how the case should be handled). 

The key here is:  Before you accept a tenant, think about how that business will affect the rest of the tenants in your property.  In the same vein, think about how the tenant will affect your property itself.  Heavy usage means more wear and tear, which should be reflected in the upfront negotiations — and not brought up as a surprise later.

Shopping Centers: New Non-traditional Anchors

Shopping centers are relying less and less on traditional anchors, such as department stores.  The latest trend is to use restaurants, grocery stores, and movie theaters.

We have seen the popularity of the open-air malls, such as Short Pump Town Center and Stony Point Fashion Park.  The traditional malls have taken hits not only from these new formats, but also from discount super-retailers like Walmart and Target.

Shopping habits have changed, undeniably.

The Washington Post this past Sunday had an article that went into this issue in depth.  Here is an excerpt that I thought was particularly insightful:

Restaurant-anchored developments may also attract wealthier shoppers. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, people who ate at full-service restaurants four or more times per month were more likely than the average adult to shop at department and specialty stores and less likely to shop at discount stores. Their average income was $65,483, compared with an overall average of $52,300 for those surveyed.

Traditional malls, meanwhile, are grappling with tepid department-store sales and closings. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, same-store sales at department stores were up just 1 percent in February, the last month for which data were available.

College Areas Good for Investing

While students are the not always the best tenants, there are lots of good reasons to buy investment properties in college areas.

College enrollments expected to rise by almost 1.6 million students, or
15 percent, over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of
Education, and the number of graduate and professional students is
growing even faster, at almost 25 percent.

With the increase in students, there will of course be a rise in professors, administrative staff, space needed by the colleges, and supporting industries (research, retail, restaurants, etc.).  While the article at REALTOR� Magazine Online -Daily News- College Town Properties Are a Smart Buy focussed on small college-dominated towns, this is a very good sign for Richmond.  With Randolph Macon, VCU, UR, VUU, and the community colleges here, the areas around each of these schools will feel the impact.

Now is the time to jump in and start investing for the future growth, especially since the market has slowed down just a bit.

[Source: Dow Jones Business News, Jennifer Openshaw (07/04/2006), cited in the article mentioned above]

City Budgets for Shockoe Bottom

I have heard a lot of dissent about the way that Shockoe Bottom has been ignored by the city.  Sure, sure, the business owners in the Bottom feel slighted from the lack of assistance in response to promises made after Gaston.  But I have heard a lot of people complain about the lack of focus on keeping the streets clean.

There is even a special property tax (only assessed to property owners in the Bottom) that is supposed to go to keeping the area nice.  Maybe the tax isn’t enough, I don’t know.  But something needs to be done to retain existing businesses and to attract new businesses.  (And, yes, I am aware that this "special" tax is assessed in other areas, but I don’t think that most people know about it.)

In any case, this news that Style reported on yesterday was a welcome announcement (now we just need to be sure that it is spent the way it is intended):

Link: Style Weekly : Richmond’s alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion.

City spokesman Linwood Norman says that in the budget passed June 27, $1.9 million is set aside for drainage improvements in Shockoe Bottom. And $3 million is earmarked for The Main Street Plaza, a kind of pedestrian connector between the 17th Street Farmer’s Market and an expanded Canal Walk. Norman describes the project as a “cathedral” walk marked by elaborate brickwork and lighting that compliments the $54 million Main Street Station across the street. | White Oak: Short Pump East?

Link: | White Oak: Short Pump East?.
White Oak: Short Pump East?
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Jun 15, 2006

LOCAL NEWS: Henrico County

The Henrico County Planning Commission is scheduled to decide tonight whether to recommend rezoning for a proposed shopping complex in eastern Henrico that would be nearly the size of Short Pump Town Center.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the county administration building, 4301 E. Parham Road. The public is invited to speak on the case before the vote.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc., the developer of Short Pump Town Center, proposes to build the 950,000-square-foot White Oak Village complex on 136 acres along Laburnum Avenue just south of Interstate 64.

It is the site of the former Viasystems Technologies Corp. plant, which closed in 2001. Forest City plans to raze the plant.

By comparison, Short Pump Town Center is about 1.1 million square feet. The total square footage of White Oak Village would be slightly less than that of Virginia Center Commons but more than that of Regency Square mall.
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Once the Planning Commission either recommends approval or denial, the rezoning case then moves to the county Board of Supervisors for the decisive vote.

For full coverage, see tomorrow’s Times-Dispatch. | Ukrop’s still grocery king

Link: | Ukrop’s still grocery king.

Ukrop’s still grocery king

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Jun 14, 2006

Top 50 Area Employers Top 50 Area Employers
� Ukrop’s Super Markets Inc.

Ukrop’s is still No. 1 for groceries.

But Kroger and non-traditional grocers such as Wal-Mart and CVS continue to eat away at Ukrop’s Super Markets Inc.’s market share

Locally owned Ukrop’s, long the dominant chain here, saw its market share dip to 21.64 percent among all retailers that sell groceries from 22.41 percent a year ago. The market share is published each June by Food World, a periodical that follows the grocery industry in the mid-Atlantic.

Kroger increased its market share, as did CVS and Walgreens.

To check the rankings, and compare the sales to last year’s results, see tomorrow’s Times-Dispatch.

New Cineplex Slated for the Boulevard?

As reported in Style Weekly (5/17/06), there are plans for the redevelopment of Richmond Steel, just a short walk from the Diamond. 

Plans for an entertainment complex … that include a 12-theater multiplex and two restaurants are those of Bow Tie Partners, a real-estate development and entertainment company with principal offices in Manhattan and Aspen, Colo.

Bow Tie Partners specializes in redevelopment of historic and architecturally significant properties, while its affiliate, Bow Tie Cinemas, owns and operates a string of luxury movie houses.

As exciting as it sounds, we won’t know until the plans get a little further along.  As Style points out, "in May 2005 Bow Tie Partners bought a 2-acre block downtown….preliminary plans included retail and residential space and a movie cinema."

[Read more…]

New Hilton Hotel redevelopment of Miller & Rhoads

After 5 years of trying to get a good plan in place, the redevelopment of the Miller & Rhoads department store in downtown Richmond looks like it is finally within reach.  The artist’s rendition of the redevelopment was unveiled last Wednesday, with the help of Mayor Wilder and several other City representatives.

Once completed, the
project will include a 250-room Hilton Hotel with full amenities as
well as 150-unit condominium complex. The hotel will also bring 20,000
additional square feet of retail space to the area. The condominium
units are expected to start in the low $200,000s.

See the full article at

The “New & Improved” J.C. Penney

T1_jcp_logoAs reported by the NREI (National Real Estate Investor), J.C. Penney has initiated a national drive to renovate existing stores and build new, free-standing stores as a way to increase earnings.

J.C. Penney is launching a major store upgrade program, based on the
strong performance of a new prototype. The 1,019-store chain plans to
spend $1 billion renovating 250 existing stores and constructing more
than 170 new ones by 2009, using a new, flexible “Box One” layout
formula. Company officials say 90% of the new stores will be off-mall.

On the renovation side, J.C. Penney is making over 50 stores this year and ramping up to 65 or 70 a year through 2009.

The new off-mall stores will be 80,000 sq. ft or 100,000 sq. ft., a
format the Plano, Texas-based retailer introduced with three stores in
2003 and fine-tuned at four larger stores opened in 2004. Using a
design strategy dubbed Box One, the combination of décor, aisle
spacing, adjacencies of departments within the store and other layout
factors is adaptable to a number of store sizes and will be used in
renovations and new construction alike.

With the outline from J.C. Penney, the Richmond market should not expect to see a "Box One" store anytime in the near future.  The renovation of the 4 stores in the area (Regency Square, Chesterfield Town Center, Virginia Center Commons, and Southpark Mall) are much more likely, even if it will be a few years in the future before they are slated.