Business partners Robin Miller and Daniel A. Gecker have taken a new twist on projects they are doing in Manchester, contributing over the past 13 years to the revitalization of a once-neglected area of Richmond south of the James River.
They’ve done more than 125 historic tax credit projects there, some in such rough shape that many people would have bulldozed them.
Their latest project is new construction — an attached, contemporary duplex at 1109 and 1111 Porter St. that they have just finished.
“It’s a very modern design, yet it fits with the scale of the neighborhood,” said Miller, principal of Miller & Associates, a development company. He also is co-owner with Gecker of Richmond-based Urban Development Associates, an entity that owns various properties.
He pointed to historic houses across the street, including two that he and Gecker took on six years ago at 1106 and 1108 Porter St. The houses, once condemned by the city, stand tall now. They are three stories, similar in height to the duplex. “They were in incredibly terrible shape,” Miller recalled.
The duplex sits on a nearly empty city block that Urban Development bought about five years ago from the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
Two houses on the block owned by other people are located at the northwest corner. The rest of the block — with enough room for 13 more single-family units — will be developed by Miller and Gecker.
The business duo has broken ground on another modern design duplex with a different layout next to this one.
“We’re always reacting to the market,” Miller said. “We would love to see more owner-occupied homes in Manchester.”
The first level of the duplex is a two-car garage with a studio apartment. The second floor is the main living area, half bath and kitchen with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. The flooring is maple hardwood.
The third floor is the master suite and a second bedroom and bath. A deck off the third floor and a flat roof provides outdoor areas with panoramic views of the city.
Each unit is on the market through Monroe Properties for $399,900.
Miller said he sees the units appealing to baby boomers who want to downsize and live in an urban setting. The first-floor apartment could be a rental unit, an office, a suite for in-laws or quarters for a boomerang child who returns to live at the family home.
One of the latest trends is building contemporary-style houses into existing neighborhoods, Miller said. “It’s important to blend the size and scope. A five-story building in this neighborhood would not be appropriate. It’s all about being compatible, not identical.”
The developers expect the duplex to achieve EarthCraft certification for energy efficiency upon final verification of performance specifications.
The building was heavily insulated and high energy-efficient heating, cooling, dehumidifier and ventilation systems were installed. Other energy savings features include tankless natural gas water heaters, Energy Star lighting and resource efficient plumbing fixtures.
The units could be zero net energy, consuming only as much energy as they produce, if the homebuyers choose to install solar panels on the roof. The developers provided the hook up to do so.
Miller estimated the cost for the panels at $15,000 to $20,000.
The siding is a fiber cement product manufactured by Allura. “We chose to use this product because it is durable, low maintenance and environmentally sustainable,” Miller said.
The total square footage for each unit is 2,727, plus a two-level roof top patio with 939 square feet.
The architect was Apex Design Group in Richmond and the contractor was Horizon Construction Management, also in Richmond. The lender was First Capital Bank (now part of Charlotte, N.C..-based Park Sterling Bank.)
Miller and Gecker have developed a total of 540 condos, apartments and homes plus seven offices in Manchester since 2003.
For the past couple of years, they have done new construction projects, including The Terraces at Manchester, a skyline changing, 148-unit luxury apartment building at 800 Semmes Ave., which opened last year.
Their top three rehabs in Manchester are Old Manchester Lofts with 80 condominiums, 1301 Porter St. with 16 apartment/condos and four large single-family homes at 1500, 1502, 1503 and 1505 Porter St.