Local venture capitalist plans to build office building in Libbie-Grove area
Brock Saunders is used to investing in growing companies through his venture capital firm, Summit Action Fund.
But now he’s getting into real estate development with an office project in the Libbie-Grove area.
Saunders plans to construct an 11,000 square foot office building at 5605 Grove Ave.
The former home of Kim Faison Antiques is on the site and would be razed to make way for the new three-story building.
Saunders, who lives in the Westhampton neighborhood, said he and his brother Paul started discussing finding office space for Summit Action Fund and Hutch Capital, a local hedge fund managed by Paul last year. .
âAlthough (Paul and I) don’t work together, we talk a lot and I think they’re good sounding tables for each other. And we’ve always said, âWould it be great to be in the same office at one point?â Saunders said.
âI put the idea in his head to do something in Westhampton. The problem is that it is difficult to find space in the neighborhood. It’s a super limited capacity, and frankly anything that comes on the market is overpriced. “
Saunders and Faison struck an off-market deal in late December for the 2,700-square-foot building, located near the intersection of Grove and Granite avenues, and he bought it for $ 1.26 million.
Faison began operating his antique store there in 1987 and has since moved the store a few blocks north to 2111 Lake Avenue near the Libbie Mill.
The nearly 50-year-old building was originally a home and Saunders said that with her problems with the water leak, the building was not in a state of detox.
âI’m not an expert, but I don’t think it’s fit to reuse it, certainly not for our use,â he said. “The idea of ââtrying to keep this space and tear down the walls and make it work was too heavy, both economical and just nonsense.”
In January, Saunders applied for a special use permit to allow the use of office space on the property in a residential area.
Fultz & Singh Architects designed the office building, which would reach three floors. Saunders said it will be set back from the street and its third floor will have an open roof terrace facing Grove.
âCOVID has changed the way everyone works and I love the idea of ââhaving an outdoor space on the roof,â Saunders said.
They hope that the rezoning request will be submitted to the city’s Planning Commission in the coming weeks before going to city council in the coming months. The cost of the project has not been determined and Saunders said there was no lender or general contractor.
The project received some rejection from residents of the Westhampton neighborhood, but Saunders said they were continuing conversations with the neighborhood association and he believed the project was part of the Richmond 300 master plan. recently adopted by the city.
âI think it’s important to think critically about new developments. Unlike anyone who would undertake a project like this, we are not doing it to maximize rental income, âSaunders said.
âI live in (Westhampton). I love it and want to work on it. We believe we are adding value to the neighborhood by destroying a building that is past its prime.
After that project was completed, Saunders said he was unwilling to continue to dive into development.
âIt will be a thing for me. I’ve learned a lot, but there are a lot more people who can do that kind of thing than I can, âSaunders said with a laugh. “There is a real process to this.”