Written by | Madeleine Alderman
In the movie “Field of Dreams,” Ray is reminded by a higher spirit “If you build it, he will come.” The words were inferring that should Ray build a baseball field, his childhood idol “Shoeless Joe Jackson” would return to play. So too, as developers continue carefully pursuing projects in fatigued neighborhoods, then businesses, infrastructure and people will follow.
Cities are ecosystems made up of a complex network of unique, independent, sub-neighborhoods that exist in large part because of infrastructure and the collaboration of City Hall with the development community.
To a millennial who grew up in Richmond and now works in the commercial real estate world, the evolution of Scott’s Addition has been shocking. A decade ago, the neighborhood was nothing but warehouses and light industrial spaces. Thanks to programs like the State and Federal Historic Tax Programs as well as the City’s effort to rezone a portion of the Broad Street corridor to allow for more lenient judgement on use and parking requirements.
Since 2010, more than 1,100 apartment units have been either reimagined in these weathered industrial spaces or newly constructed on vacant land in the area with more to be delivered the summer/fall of 2018. The last 8 years have also brought “new age attractions” to a once weathered neighborhood – numerous breweries, cideries, taphouses, restaurants, a neighborhood grocer (that just so happens to be budget conscious), bowling, theatre, and even an adult arcade. With all the reurbanization heaping positive growth in the local economy, price inflation and the dwindling opportunities are leaving everyone wondering – what’s next after Scott’s Addition?
I could argue in favor of a couple different neighborhoods, but I’ll put my money on Manchester. Manchester shares a similar real estate landscape to Scott’s Addition; it’s primed for reurbanization and with the population growth Richmond has been experiencing over the last 5 years, the demand is there.
You might have already asked yourself this but why are people still on the edge about this neighborhood? Why are commercial tenants still skeptical of this region and what makes Scott’s Addition still a safer bet despite the outrageous price inflation between the two localities? Lack of a neighborhood grocer, vacant storefronts, and unfamiliarity with the area are some of the more glaring reasons.
One reason folks still are hesitant to explore Manchester is because they may, depending upon their age, have never experienced a neighborhood transformation. Millennials occupy a large percentage of Richmond’s population, a figure that has been rapidly increasing over the last few years. This is in part due to the fact that Richmond has generated spotlight nationally and large corporations such as CoStar have opened research headquarters in town generating an increase in job availability that heavily target millennials. It’s important to talk about this large segment of the population because they are the majority demographic that high-rise residential development is targeting and they value communities developed with amenities and proximity to retail in mind.
Lack of local amenities has been an issue facing certain neighborhoods in Richmond for years, including Manchester. Looking ahead to the future, rumors of such additions to the neighborhood could very well become a reality. With multifamily development booming, the demand for retail is there.
Why is Manchester’s multifamily development booming? Millennials.
As previously discussed, this population is continuously growing and taking over the workforce. They need places to live and with Richmond’s economy doing better than it has in the last 10 years, they are moving further out in search of lower rents and nicer product. Both the City and developers have begun to catch on to their habits and are seeking to implement “Millennial-friendly” infrastructure, such as public transit (The Pulse) and neighborhood amenities such as South Fall & The Current (two high-rise mixed-use projects in Manchester). I would argue that Millennials and their movement have helped propel some of these communities, especially Manchester, forward.
In the last 5 years, Manchester has accumulated approximately 3,000 apartments that are not only large scale, new construction and redevelopment projects, but also small multi-unit residential infill projects. Not to mention the 350+ apartments in the construction pipeline awaiting delivery and more plans totaling roughly 800 more units, both commercial and residential, awaiting project approval and delivery over the next two years. Couple that with the fact that, like Scott’s Addition, Manchester was recently rezoned allowing for more dense development and lenient parking requirements and developers now have more flexibility in their projects, encouraging growth and revitalization in the neighborhood.
A report pulled from CoStar cited that within a square mile of Old Town Manchester the median year built for housing developments was 2002. Pushing it out to 3 miles, it’s 1959. Population growth is expected to increase 11% over the next 5 years in the neighborhood, meaning the demand remains constant.
The demand for affordable apartments, the transformation of dilapidated warehouses into cool office and commercial spaces, as well as the City’s interest in making developers’ efforts less arduous in conducting business all suggest that Manchester is prime to be the next neighborhood that takes off.
There are more neighborhoods out there like Scott’s Addition and Manchester. Revitalizing a city requires the joint effort of local government and developers. Tax credit programs and enterprise zone incentivise both investors and business owners to enter these anticipated markets. Looking at where Scott’s was and where it is today gives me hope for similar neighborhoods like Manchester, where revitalization is more than simply demolition and construction, but rooted in the effort that is shared and exerted by both government and developers.