Automotive retailer CarMax Inc. is again planning to expand its office space in the Richmond region.
This time, the Goochland County-based chain has signed a lease for 80,000 square feet in the Putney Building at 2220 W. Broad St., which had been used by the Virginia Department of Taxation for years until 2011.
CarMax is leasing about 60% of the unoccupied building. The lease marks the largest amount of space that CarMax is renting for offices in the Richmond area.
The building is part of The Sauer Center development, which includes a Whole Foods Market store and planned apartments, office and retail space.
Sauer Properties Inc., the development and property entity of the Sauer family that is developing the urban mixed-use development, is in the process of renovating the Putney Building to much of its original architecture. It originally had been used as a Putney Shoe factory building when it opened in 1906.
The timeline for the renovations is still being determined, but CarMax expects that it could take between 18 and 24 months before the space is completed, spokeswoman Jennifer Bartusiak said.
“We are early in the process and don’t have a timeline for completion,” she said. “We will design this space to provide an exceptional workplace environment for attracting and retaining top talent. We are excited to continue to grow CarMax’s presence in our hometown of Richmond.”
For instance, CarMax is currently hiring more than 130 positions in the Richmond area, with more than 55 positions in the digital and technology areas.
To accommodate the chain’s growing needs, it signed the lease with Sauer Properties for the space. It informed employees this week.
CarMax has expanded its office space in Richmond in the past couple of years.
Since 2016, CarMax has leased 32,000 square feet of space at the historic Lady Byrd Hat building along the Canal Walk in downtown Richmond.
In May, CarMax announced it was leasing 14,000 square feet in the Canal Crossing building in Shockoe Bottom located about two blocks from the space it leases along the Canal Walk.
That additional space was needed to accommodate CarMax’s product and marketing department, which currently has employees working at CarMax’s headquarters in the West Creek office park in Goochland and at the digital and technology innovation center in the Lady Byrd Hat building as well as in the Canal Crossing building.
The 80,000 square feet in the Putney Building might be used to bring all of the chain’s product and marketing department employees together under one roof.
“Our intention is for the product and marketing teams to use the space, but it is too early to say for sure,” said Trina Lee, the company’s assistant vice president of public affairs and communications.
Lee also said it was too early to say what would happen to the space CarMax leases in the Lady Byrd Hat and Canal Crossing buildings once the Putney Building space is ready.
The Putney Building location is ideal to attract and retain top-talented workers, she said, because it is between Virginia Commonwealth University’s academic and medical campuses and Scott’s Addition and is near the Fan District.
And the offices will be in a renovated historic building. “If you look at our digital and technology innovation center [at the Lady Byrd Hat building], we wanted to create an environment that entrepreneurs and innovators want to work in, and we want the same at the new space to retain top talent,” Lee said.
CarMax is outgrowing its 250,000-square-foot corporate headquarters space in the West Creek office park. It opened the five-story building in 2005.
The retailer owns 130 acres west of state Route 288 and north of Tuckahoe Creek Parkway — across from where Capital One Financial Corp. has its campus. CarMax could build up to two or three more similar-sized buildings and garages on the land it owns.
But there are no immediate plans to build a second building there, Lee said. “But that is an option that continues to be available to us in the future.”
Sauer Properties bought the 133,036-square-foot Putney Building with 215 parking spaces on 4.85 acres from the state for $4 million in 2012. It recently was assessed for $5.82 million.
The building fronts West Broad Street and is between the main offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and a Lee’s Chicken restaurant.
The state tax department began moving out of the building in 1999, and the last workers left in the fall 2011.
Earlier this year, Sauer Properties was restoring the exterior facade on the building and doing other work.
It is unknown when Whole Foods Market will open there. A company spokeswoman recently said no information was available.
An employee working at the Whole Foods Market store in West Broad Village in Henrico County said employees there were told the new store would open in early 2020.
The sign on the exterior of the 40,700-square-foot store was installed last month. The Sauer Center sign — with Whole Foods’ name and logo — was recently added at the parking lot entrance along West Broad Street.
The grocery chain announced in May 2014 that a Whole Foods Market would anchor the proposed development, located on a site of the former Pleasants Hardware building adjacent to C.F. Sauer’s headquarters.
The Pleasants Hardware store was demolished in late 2017 and early last year. Construction on the new two-story, brick façade grocery store began in spring 2018.