The grassy area next to Old Trail’s original commercial buildings will become a four-story partner building housing commercial space and offices on its first two floors and 22 apartments on its two upper floors. Construction is expected to begin in September.
“Our strategy is to develop and hold,” said Reid Murphy of The Building Management Company, a Charlottesville firm that includes two other partners Robby Noll and Ian Wren. “That makes us a little different because we are not in it for a fee but for the long haul.” Murphy is a western Albemarle resident and has children at Meriwether Lewis Elementary and Henley Middle School. His oldest just graduated from Western Albemarle and is headed to U.Va.
His partners formerly owned Real Property Inc., a firm that has done property management in Old Trail and does a lot of rental management in Charlottesville, and they next owned Property Management of Virginia. They sold both and formed BMC in 2008. The firm handles property development, construction, leasing and financing.
“We’re starting to out-source some stuff we used to do,” Murphy said. BMC has hired Nest Property Management to do the leasing for the new building and Ben Wilson, who has been based at Old Trail for a few years, will be handling it.
BMC has two other projects going in Charlottesville now, Timberwood Commons in Hollymead, a 13,000-square-foot medical and office space project, and development of a site on Preston Avenue next to Blue Ridge Pack and Ship that will include a renovation of that space too.
The firm is also about to redevelop the location of the former Lord Hardwicke’s restaurant on Emmet Street in Charlottesville. It’s had three meetings with nearby residents who are concerned about noise. “We’re all local and we’ll see these people in the grocery store so we want to address their concerns,” said Murphy.
“We’re always looking for where opportunities are. My kids are at Western. There’s a gravitational pull, so Old Trail became intriguing. We feel like there’s a pent up demand. We have to go to Charlottesville for sporting goods?
“All those things became intriguing. We’re pretty risk-averse. We did eight townhouses in Old Trail to get to know the market. We’ve now sold six and two are leased, after three months on the market.”
The new building will have 19,000 square feet on each floor and four “fronts.” Mitchell Mathews Architect and Planners is designing the project. “We’ve tried not to steer them about design,” Murphy said. “We asked them to come out and consider the context. We like it. We have concerns about the color palette. We want to brighten up the street side.”
The small brick plaza now on the site will go but the plan is to surface Heathercroft Drive with cobblestones, or stamped concrete, to connect the two commercial buildings on either side of it and “make them belong to each other,” he said.
Murphy said they hope to find a restaurant to be the tenant of that end of the building. There’s an outdoor seating area allowed for. Other ideas for tenants would be a bodega market, perhaps a sporting goods store. The arrangement of the space on the first floor will be divided as tenants’ needs become known. The first floor has 14-foot ceilings and a wide central passageway, reminiscent of Charlottesville’s York Place on the Downtown Mall is a possibility.
“The idea is to get several restaurants in proximity. You choose which one to go to when you get to Old Trail.”
The second floor will house offices and the upper floors will have a mix of one, two and three bedroom apartments with two-bedroom ones dominating. Those floors will have elevator service too. The existing parking lots have 180 spaces, considered enough for all the expected uses.
BMC will also takeover management of the original commercial buildings so that all the spaces are under consolidated control. “The village center will be a single project so they don’t cannibalize each other,” Murphy said. “They’ve got to co-exist.”
“We’ll partner with March Mountain Properties on Phase 2. [Phase 1 is the existing shops.] The long term benefit is that our interests get aligned long-term.”
The new building is expected to be ready to occupy in July 2017. Two Charlottesville contractors are now the finalist bidders for the job.
Murphy said the firm is also interested in the undeveloped commercial area across the street, potentially phases three and four.
“We’re excited about the building,” said Murphy. “I feel like I’m part of Crozet. We don’t live here, but we’re local and we care about our community. We’re long-term. I’ll be here on the patio with the kids before we go to a Western game. That’s how we want to go about things.”