For as long as I can remember, there have been musings about redeveloping the old Muse Buick dealership at 1400 Semmes Ave. Most recently an out of town developer from Indiana had the dealership tied up with plans to redevelop the property with 200 low income apartments. It never seemed to go anywhere.
Monument Companies, which is known most recently for its re-development of the Fan’s GRTC bus depot (Cary Street Station), put the Muse Buick property under contract earlier this year. Working in partnership with Howard Kellman of the Edison Co, the group has plans to redevelop the parcel through a mix of new construction and renovation. The plan calls for 40+ apartments in the old buildings, with a larger but yet to be determined number of new units where new construction is to be added.
The draw to Manchester is obvious. The area is gaining momentum not only in terms of new development, but in regulatory infrastructure work which is helping to spur investment such as the recent re-zonings of Hull Street and the proposed expansion of the Manchester Residential and Commercial Historic District. These “regulatory infrastructure” changes make investment in the area almost a no brainer. The Muse Buick Dealership is one of the properties that is proposed to be added to the expanded historic district for Manchester that was previously ineligible for historic tax credits. If approved this summer, the resulting tax credits could be used to invest in the renovation of the old structure so that it can be put back in service via adaptive reuse. The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently covered the Muse Buick news and here is what they had to say about the transaction:
“The partnership group decided to pursue buying the property because of its location in Manchester and its proximity to the downtown and the Fan District. The property is about a block east of Cowardin Avenue.
It also has become more attractive because it could be included in an expanded historic district, which the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is considering and should decide on this summer.
The initial investment in the Semmes Avenue project is between $4 million and $6 million, Dickey said, but it could eventually be $20 million to $25 million depending on what the group decides to do with the rest of the property.”
It bears mentioning that Monument Companies has also been contracted to do the commercial shell renovation of the old Siegel’s grocery store at 2000 Bainbridge which is another project in the newly proposed expansion of the Manchester historic district. It seems as if the attractiveness of the area will cause more and more developers who have historically focused on the north side of the river to bring their attention south. Compared to ultra pricey areas such as Scott’s Addition, there is still investment opportunity to be had in Manchester and Swansboro. It will be interesting to watch it play out as the long neglected area along the western edge of Manchester and Eastern edge of Swansboro is transformed.