From above, the bulk of industrial Manchester looks something like the top of grand piano. Tucked into the bend where Ninth Street becomes Commerce Road and held in Commerce’s curved embrace to the straight edge of Maury Street, the neighborhood is roughly 40 blocks unfolding from the floodwall along the south bank of the James. It was the home of factories and warehouses before it became the next frontier of Richmond’s downtown expansion.
Fueled by a growing city population, made possible by historic tax credits and tax abatement programs, the neighborhood’s growth has been astonishing. Its assessed property value has gone from slightly more than $56 million in 2005 to its current $174 million, according to numbers run by developer Sam McDonald, whose Property Results company was one of the first to build apartments in the neighborhood. By his estimation, 2014 and 2015 brought almost as many apartments online as did the previous decade combined.
Who’s moving in? “You can’t pinpoint a type,” says Tom Papa, co-founder of Fountainhead Properties, also an early investor. “You have blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, graduate students, empty nesters. It’s not just artists and people who want to be here because it’s trendy.”
What’s still needed here? Sidewalks, parks, trees, greater investment in infrastructure from the city, developers say. And a grocery store. Definitely a grocery store. A potential site for one, as you can see in this chronological snapshot, is on the drawing board.
WATCH: This animation shows Manchester's development over the past 12 years.