RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Developers behind a massive project in Richmond are aiming to build a new neighborhood off Broad Street where people could live, shop, work and enjoy events.
Sauer Properties, a real estate company that’s been in the region for over 130 years, shared its plan for the second phase of its Sauer Center project in late July.
The development team dropped a promotional video on YouTube on July 27 to unveil the second phase, with Sauer company leaders detailing the project’s path forward – including several renderings and illustrations showcasing how the city would look with a completed Sauer Center. RichmondBizSense first reported the details of the second phase.
The mixed-use project’s next phase is set to be built on the 37 acres owned by Sauer between West Broad Street, North Allen Avenue and Hermitage Road, with over 2 million square feet of new construction planned.
“I think it will be an incredibly impactful project and really uplift the city and probably the whole Richmond region,” Ashley Peace, president of Sauer Properties, said in an interview Tuesday.
The first phase of the project, completed last year, includes about 330,000 square feet of retail and office space anchored by Whole Foods Market at 2024 W. Broad Street and CarMax’s brand innovation center, which replaced the Putney Shoe Factory.
The area has already “become a strong employment hub” in the city, Peace told 8News, which has attracted employers to bring their businesses to Richmond. For example, Peace said, the national education nonprofit Great Minds moved its headquarters to Richmond from Washington, D.C.
But what the area will look like after the project’s second phase is still up in the air as developers look to keep options open on potential uses, including for the 12-story, Art Deco-style tower in the middle of the site that Peace said would be “a nice beacon for the neighborhood.”
“The centerpiece of this plan is a public gathering space, so we want to have pocket parks and green space throughout the development,” Peace said, adding that there are plans to construct landscaped streets and hardscape plazas so people could enjoy “festivals, farmers markets or other community-based activities.”
Sauer controls all of the real estate where the project will be built, Peace said, giving developers flexibility to take their time to consider what would be best for the area. With this “long-haul” mindset, Peace said developers haven’t finalized several uses for the project, including the number of potential residential units and more.
“Our master plan allows for this flexibility where if we had a major employment group like a CoStar or an Amazon who wants to relocate their headquarters to Richmond, we can accommodate that on our site,” Peace said. “Or if there’s a more of a residential need, we can also accommodate that.”
Peace said developers have worked closely with the city and the group behind the Diamond District project to ensure the developments complement each other and the infrastructure is interwoven.
This would, Peace said, allow people who live in nearby areas such as the Fan to potentially walk through Sauer Center to the Diamond District once it’s built.
“We consider ourselves to be the gateway into the Diamond District redevelopment,” she told 8News.
Sauer Center will, however, stand out from other new projects in Richmond because of the historic buildings that developers have redeveloped in the area and the high-quality architecture and materials to make the project long-lasting, Peace said.
“We want to create a thriving retail corridor,” Peace told 8News, “almost like a Main Street through the development with retail on the first floor.”
She said with Whole Foods already in place and space for shops, the Sauer team’s project aims to entice companies, restaurants and other businesses to the area.
Peace said the development group has taken “more of a grassroots approach” with community outreach, spending the last two-plus years connecting with stakeholders and city leaders on building the new neighborhood in Richmond’s Midtown district.
She told 8News that with the Fan and Carver/Newtowne West neighborhoods nearby and conversations over building height in the Richmond 300 planning process, developers believe it’s best to plan for mid-density level buildings to match the residential areas.
Peace would not share the total estimated cost of the project — which she said could take up to 15 years to complete — but did call it “significant.” She added that the project would bring a new source of tax revenue for the construction on the other side of Hermitage and Broad.
Developers will begin construction on the second phase “immediately” once they get a building permit for a four-story office building in the area, Peace said. She added that it could go fast as the site plan for that building has already been approved by the city.
Peace praised the city’s administration and others for the project’s progress, telling 8News the support developers have received has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“This is Richmond’s moment. It’s happening,” Peace told 8News. “It’s finally all coming together, and it would not be possible without the leadership of the city.”