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.

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Don’t try to fool the insurance company

Understanding Landlord Insurance

By: Dona DeZube

Published: September 1, 2010

Turning your home into a rental or buying an investment property? Expect to pay up to 20% more for the right insurance policy to protect your property.


Rental properties require their own type of coverage–landlord insurance, which is different than the homeowners policy you buy when you live in a house yourself. Landlord insurance protects you against losses from fire, lighting, falling trees, wind and hail, water damage, and injury to your tenants and their guests.

But it doesn’t cover the renters’ household goods. So encourage tenants to buy a renters policy to cover their stuff. You can even include a clause in your lease saying they have to buy renters insurance, so everyone is clear about what’s insured and what’s not.

Landlord insurance is expensive

You’ll pay 15% to 20% more for a landlord insurance policy than you will for a homeowners policy on the same house–and even more if you offer short-term rentals. Start your policy shopping by calling the company that sold you your homeowners insurance, then check with an independent insurance agent selling commercial and business policies.

Ask how you can get discounts if you have fire prevention devices, burglar alarms, or multiple properties.

What a landlord insurance policy probably will cover:

  • Lightning, windstorm, hail, explosion, riot and civil commotion, smoke, falling objects, snow, ice, sleet, vandalism, sonic boom, sprinkler leakage, frozen pipes, water damage, burglary, volcanoes, and sinkholes.
  • Things that belong to you that stay at the property, like appliances, furniture, or lawn care equipment. Keep an inventory of what’s on site.
  • Outbuildings, like sheds or garages, although this coverage will have its own limit (probably 10% of the overall insurance policy amount).
  • Costs to defend yourself against lawsuits filed by tenants or guests, as well as the costs awarded if you lose the case. Some policies cover medical bills for injuries; some don’t.
  • Lost rental income if the property is damaged and you can’t rent it.

What a landlord insurance policy probably won’t cover:

  • The tenants’ belongings.
  • Your rental property if it’s vacant for more than 30 days. Seek an exemption in advance from your landlord insurance company as soon as you know the property is going to be vacant.
  • War and nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological attacks.

Optional coverage you might want to buy:

  • Flood
  • Earthquake
  • Vandalism (if the policy you buy excludes it)
  • Pool and tennis court insurance
  • Liability for personal injury, wrongful eviction, wrongful entry, libel, and slander

Don’t forget liability coverage

To cover yourself in case you lose a big court case filed by an injured tenant, buy anumbrella insurance policy that gives you liability protection for $1 million to $5 million or more if you have a lot of assets to protect.

Don’t file a claim unless you absolutely have to

There’s a limit to how many claims you can file before insurance companies start charging you more or canceling your policies. Claims can quickly add up as you buy more rental properties.

One time you always want to file a claim is when someone says they’ve been injured on your property. One claim you’ll want to avoid filing: water damage for less than $10,000 because worries about mold growing in water-damaged properties will lead some insurers to immediately cancel your insurance policy.

More from HouseLogic

How to Correct Your Clue Insurance Report

Improve Your Insurance Score

Other web resources

Renters Insurance Brochure to Share with Your Tenants

Dona DeZube, HouseLogic’s News Editor, has been writing about real estate for over two decades. She lives in a suburban Baltimore 1970s rancher on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound.


Visit for more articles like this.


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?


How to make zoning easier to understand

Government regulations are typically so complicated that not only can the lay-person not understand what they mean, but they are written in such a way that even people that think they know what is meant are left arguing completely different interpretations.  Zoning regulations are no exception.

In fact, in NYC the zoning regulations are so convoluted that “In a recent case, a judge said the word “development,” which appears at least 2,500 times in the [zoning] resolution, did not mean what the city said.” (source: New York Times article — we’ll see more about that article in just a minute)

The Planning Commissioner for NYC, Amanda Burden, is attempting to make the zoning regulations a little more accessible to the general public by issuing a new city handbook with plain explanations and cartoon drawings that illustrate what particular zoning designations look like and what they mean.  Check out the coverage in the New York Times about what she has been doing to bridge that gap.

While this may not be the right approach for every locality, the idea is one that every local government should take to heart:  Start building tools that puts control of the government back into the hands of the people.  Sure, we elect officials to represent us and we should not be ruled by mob mentality (see: California), but the people also need to be able to understand what is being done — especially when we are expected to interpret these rules and abide by them.

I have seen far too many business and property owners try to follow the rules that have been laid out, only to find a health inspector or building inspector come in with a totally different understanding and cost the owner thousands of dollars in hard cost and lost business because the rules were not clear enough.

What do you think, Richmond? Have you had any issues with the local zoning regulations (city or county)? What would you suggest could be done to make the rules more clear?

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)

Breakin’ the law! Or not… (new real estate laws)

July 1st each year is when most of the new legislation that was passed by the State of Virginia takes effect. This year (as every year), there are a number of changes that will directly impact the real estate business.  — Side note: Thank you to the Virginia Association of Realtors, RPAC, and the local associations for all of their hard work in getting these laws proposed and lobbying to get them passed!

VARbuzz has a great summary, so be sure to go there for the full list.

Here, I want to highlight a few of the new laws/updates that I found particularly interesting and/or encouraging:

* Brokers who do the right thing won’t be punished (amnesty for honesty). A real estate broker who discovers, either through a self-audit or through a third party retained by the broker, that the firm or a member of the firm has violated a law or regulation will no longer be penalized if the broker satisfies certain requirements:The broker must notify VREB within 30 days of the discovery of any noncompliance, and he must submit a written plan explaining how the issue will be fixed. This may include entry into a voluntary compliance program. Any voluntary compliance or other remediation must be completed not more than 90 days after the date the plan is submitted to the VREB, and must be certified by the broker or a third party in order to create immunity from enforcement. *Note that bill does not protect the broker if the noncompliance was intentional or the result of gross negligence.*

* Landlord and tenant laws changed. A number of changes were made to landlord and tenant laws this year. Some key revisions:For leases governed by the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act:

* Landlords are now allowed to provide information about tenants to a commissioner of the revenue and, in the case of a military tenant, to his commanding officer.
* A landlord may withhold a reasonable portion of the security deposit to satisfy unpaid water and sewer bills.
* Interest rates on security deposits are updated for 2010.
* Utility charges are treated as rent.
* The definitions of “commencement date” and “effective date” of leases are added to the Act.
* Several other things were clarified as to landlord-tenant law generally:
o the bifurcated rent and possession practice in some courts
o what property managers and Realtors® can do in court without a lawyer
o that interest runs on all judgment amounts

* Vested rights are better protected. If a local government issues a permit (other than a building permit) for a property improvement, it can’t change its mind and later declare those improvements to be illegal (although it can find them to be nonconforming).The law also clarifies that a property owner may replace an on-site sewage system for an existing building in the same general location, even if a new sewage system would no longer be permitted in that location. However, if access to a sanitary sewer system is available the property owner must connect to it.

*If a rental property occupied by a tenant is foreclosed upon, the landlord must transfer any security deposit to the new owner of the property, and the new owner, on termination of the lease, must return any security deposit and any interest owed to the tenant in accordance with the provisions of the lease. Interpleader actions limited to disposition of an earnest money deposit may be brought in district court even in cases where the amount of the deposit exceeds the ordinary jurisdictional limits of district court cases.

Does downtown Richmond have a parking problem?

Given the info in this post at The Urbanophile, I sure hope we do!
The author is specifically talking about Buffalo, New York, but this is an issue that most cities of any substantial size have to wrestle with all of the time.  I can’t count all of the times I’ve heard people complain about parking in downtown Richmond — and I know that I have at certain times/events.

Here’s an excerpt that I felt summed up the key point of the post to me:

Downtown can never compete with suburban office parks on the basis of convenient and affordable parking. To compete successfully on that basis would mean the destruction of all of downtown’s remaining (and emerging) value.

By definition, downtown can never out-compete the suburbs on suburban, automobile-based terms. By necessity, parking takes up a tremendous amount of land, creating lots of dead, open space, which the suburbs have plenty of. In fact, that’s the suburbs’ main asset: lots of open space. A city’s main amenity is not open land, but density, walkability, a diverse mix of uses, and the quality of the streets and other public spaces. These are the areas in which the suburbs cannot out-compete downtown.

That doesn’t mean that we should ignore parking entirely.  Complaints about parking are a symptom, not the actual problem.

Parking will always be an issue if everyone is coming from out of town to visit the downtown.  More importantly, we should focus on bringing more businesses and residents downtown — increasing the walkability and decreasing reliance on cars will make parking less of a problem.

But more to the point of the post, downtown isn’t supposed to be a wonderland of surface parking lots.  It’s supposed to be a dense area with lots of people and businesses, and events that bring more people from all over.  If the downtown is a vibrant place, then people will deal with the parking issues (they will still complain, but they will still come).  If you want lots of open parking, go to the suburbs — that’s what they’re good at.

There a good discussion in their comment section, so be sure to check that out while you’re reading through the original post.

Photo credit greeneyedhedgehog

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)