Rockett’s (and its unrelated cousin, West Broad Village) is another version of a developer’s interpretation of the concept of ‘new urbanism.‘ Located along the James River on land that straddles the borderline of the City and Henrico County, RV is slated to be a massive mixed use project of over 1500 residences and something like 300,000 square feet of commercial (office/retail) space spread over 20+ city blocks when completed. The original expectation was a 8-10 year window for project completion but the recent economic environment has obviously rendered that timetable no longer reasonable. The final chapters of RV are likely to be written well into the 2020’s.
The developer (the WVS Companies) is a Northern Va based company that deals primarily in apartments and mixed use projects. WVS purchased the land from the late William Abeloff who was instrumental in the development of the warehouses along Tobacco Row. Before his passing in 2006, Abeloff and WVS were able to create a vision of a development that could overpower the pervasive and ingrained western bias of Richmond and establish a new neighborhood with powerful views of the city along the eastern banks of the James River.
Opened initially to great fanfare, RV quickly sold some upscale and price pushing units and had success in the Sky Line, Fall Line and Cedar Works buildings. However, once the market turned, sales slowed dramatically (as they did everywhere) and the unsold units as well as the 210 Rock building sat largely dormant for the better part of 2009 and 2010. RV did a good job of making adjustments and creating favorable programs that worked within the confines of lending rules yet still created acceptable forms of occupancy. At the end of 2011, RV should be close to 70% sold across the existing residential portfolio. This should be considered a very good number, especially considering their inventory at the time the market shifted.
Rocketts is largely new construction (with a few exceptions) and (as of now) entirely located in Henrico County…which differs from much of its competition. The projects in the City typically employ Historic Tax Credits and also qualify for Tax Abatement program meaning lower costs of construction/development as well as reduced ongoing real estate taxes. Due to its location (Henrico County), RV does not have access to either of these programs and thus its costs feel higher. This disadvantage will disappear over time as the historic building stock evaporates and the abatement phase out.
As one of the two RVA area ‘New Urbanist’ communities, RV has a commercial/service retail element that supports the residential spaces. While it has been a bit slow to develop, commercial momentum is now relatively strong and it beginning to complement the residential experience. By the end of 2011, RV will have 3 fully operating restaurants (M Bistro, The Boathouse, Conch Republic) and the large majority of its street level office/retail filled.