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A rendering of A2, a six-unit townhouse project to be built on a lot with no street frontage.
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Photo by Ash Daniel
Construction at Huntt’s Row.
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Photo by Ash Daniel
Citizen 6, a development of six new, single-family row houses on Floyd Avenue in the Fan.
For confirmation that Richmond’s real-estate market is rebounding, look no further than Citizen 6, a development of six new, single-family row houses on Floyd Avenue in the Fan. Three of the units sold before construction on the project began; by the time construction finished in March 2015, it was sold-out.
The brainchild of local developer Bill Chapman and architect Burt Pinnock, Citizen 6 is a complete departure from the late 19th- and early 20th-century Italianate, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival architecture of the historic Fan District. With exteriors of tongue-and-groove cedar siding, metal panels and glass, and interiors featuring open floor plans and the latest design details, Citizen 6 stands out.
“Everybody looks at Citizen 6 and its success and goes, ‘I didn’t think we could do that,’ ” says Rick Jarvis, founder of One South Realty Group, the real estate broker for the project. “It proves everybody’s theory that there is a demand for new housing in these 100-year-old neighborhoods. You get a low-maintenance house with a modern floor plan in a historic neighborhood. It’s the best of both worlds.”
The success of Citizen 6 was the catalyst for a flurry of new, modern home construction within Richmond’s urban neighborhoods. From the Fan and Church Hill, to Manchester and Tobacco Row, local developers are banking on the fact that there is a local demand for modern architecture, even in Richmond’s most historic neighborhoods. Individuals also are turning to building modern homes from the ground up on infill urban lots rather than renovate older homes, with visible projects going up on Leigh Street in Jackson Ward and near Swan Lake in Byrd Park over the past year.
The trend is partially the byproduct of a rebounding real-estate market, Jarvis says. “In the past four-to-five years, nobody has built anything new [except apartments],” he says. “The redevelopment of Richmond was hurt dramatically by the downturn in the economy. It’s cool that it’s coming back.”
The focus on modern architecture is an indicator of the changing face of Richmond, says architect John White of 510_architects, a local firm that is working on a number of new, modern residential projects. “I think that with Richmond being a place that businesses want to move to, and with a thriving, young, DIY entrepreneurial culture, the demand for modern architecture will remain,” he says. “The recent national press about Richmond, the bike race and companies like the Martin Agency are attracting different people. We have a lot of people coming here from California and New York. … You can also easily live in Richmond, work from home and commute to D.C. one or two days a week. You can have twice as much house, cut your bills in half and have access to great restaurants here.”
Andrea Levine, an agent with One South Realty who specializes in modern homes, says that during the past year, most of the inquiries she has received through her website have been from outside Richmond. “Richmond is now on the map and people want to come here to be a part of it and enjoy it,” she says.
Newcomers are attracted to walkable city neighborhoods with easy access to restaurants, parks and entertainment but also are looking for low-maintenance homes with modern floor plans, Jarvis says. Empty nesters also are moving back to the city as their children graduate from high school, adds Levine. They also are looking for livable, low-maintenance homes and a change from suburbia. A modern house with an open floor plan, large closets and a state-of-the-art kitchen is appealing.
Architect White says new construction has other benefits beyond the aesthetic. “Creating a master suite on each floor minimizes the impact of vertical living for those with aging-in-place concerns or multi-generational needs,” he says, speaking about Huntt’s Row, an eight-unit townhome project under construction on Kensington Avenue in the Fan. “Great care was taken to maximize the resident experience and not just the developer’s pocket.”
While homes in Citizen 6 and Huntt’s Row are priced at the upper end of the market (Huntt’s Row houses start at $600,000), there also are more affordable homes being built.
The first two phases of Tribeca, a 23-unit development on South Harrison Street in the “TRIangle BElow CAry Street” (hence the name, “Tribeca”), featured townhomes priced below $300,000 in addition to two affordable housing units. The third phase of the project, featuring nine detached homes, will be priced from $302,000 to $322,000. Designed by David Johannes of Johannes Design Group, Tribeca’s homes feature exteriors in modern-day interpretations of Arts and Crafts, Italianate and cottage styles. Interiors are optimized for modern living with open floor plans, spacious bedrooms, second-floor laundry and energy-efficient features.
In addition to investing in new construction, developers also are starting to think in new ways about location. Richmond’s Planning Commission and City Council recently approved A2, a six-unit modern townhouse project to be built on an interior lot off of Robinson Street in the Fan with no street frontage. While the practice is common in larger cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., says Patrick Sullivan, the broker for the project, it is a first for Richmond.
Also designed by 510_architects, A2 will feature minimalist exteriors and spare, functional interior living spaces. The homes will feature garages on the first floor, bedrooms on the second floor and the main living spaces on the third floor, above roof level of adjacent buildings.
Priced from $350,000 to $399,000 and around 1,400 square feet, the homes are designed to appeal to “someone who travels a lot for work, someone who will use mass transit, probably a younger person,” White says. “There is not a lot of excess space.”
But, if the success of Citizen 6 is any indication, A2 may attract more than its intended audience. “[Citizen 6] is a blend across the board of young and old,” says Jarvis of One South. “The commonality is not demographic. It is thought-based. They are all attracted to the architecture.”