It’s one of the rules that drive real estate: The rarer a sought-after property is, the greater its value. So when the undeveloped parcel of land at 2901 Monument Avenue went on the market two years ago, developers Jeremy Connell and Jon Rasich understood the opportunity it presented.
Or as Rasich put it: “An untouched corner lot on Monument Avenue—what’s not to like?”
It’s definitely a rarity.
Residential construction began on Monument Avenue, perhaps Richmond’s grandest street, at the turn of the 20th century, and the section that runs through the Fan and Museum districts was mostly built out by the 1930s. In recent years, only a few new houses have been built there, and undeveloped lots are scarce.
The parcel at 2901 Monument Avenue offered “a very rare opportunity to do a really thoughtful, intelligent, new-construction infill project on Monument Avenue and in the Museum District,” Connell said.
Connell and Rasich finalized the sale in late 2017.
Granted, the parcel was small – just 0.09 acre, or 3,900 square feet – and mandatory setbacks would reduce the buildable footprint to 2,500 square feet. Designing a building to fit the site would pose challenges.
“The previous owner had, at one time, contemplated constructing a single-family home at the site, but those plans didn’t materialize,” Connell said.
To maximize the site’s potential, Connell and Rasich knew they’d need a bold, creative plan. After first considering a condominium building for the site, they worked with Joseph F. Yates, president of Richmond-based Joseph F. Yates Architects, to design a three-unit town home complex.
The front unit will face Monument Avenue, and the other two units will face North Colonial Avenue. Each unit will have a garage and a bedroom on the first level, two bedrooms on the second level and an open-format living, dining and kitchen space on the third level, as well a rooftop deck.
The front unit will have 2,400 square feet of living space and the middle and rear units will each have 2,200 square feet of living space.
The town homes will be “age-in-place ready with wide doorways and the ability to include elevators,” Connell said.
The front unit will have an elevator, and the other two units will be “elevator-ready” for stops on every floor from the garage to the rooftop deck, Rasich said.
Creating expansive floor plans in a relatively small footprint wasn’t the only design challenge the site posed. Yates’ design also had to establish its identity on a street known for its standout architecture.
“The site is next to an apartment building with two prominent porches, and we didn’t want to do something that would overwhelm that building but also not be a poor stepchild,” Yates said. “I’ve always felt corner lots are more prominent and should be treated accordingly.”
Yates designed the town homes in what he described as “contextual Colonial Revival,” in order to help them blend in with Monument Avenue’s historic buildings, many of which are Colonial Revival.
“We chose brick for the front unit and stucco for the other two units because we wanted the front unit to be the prominent one,” Yates said. “We worked hard on the Colonial Avenue elevation to get the balance and the arrangement of the windows right, with detailing that didn’t overwhelm the front of the building.”
Standout features will include a two-level front porch with a terrace above it on the unit facing Monument Avenue.
“We definitely wanted a porch because virtually every house or apartment building on Monument Avenue has a porch, and it extends the living area,” Yates said.
The Monument Avenue Preservation Society, the Museum District Association and the city’s Commission of Architectural Review reviewed the town home complex’s architectural design and were supportive, Connell said.
Construction began last summer, with Rasich in charge of the day-to-day operations. Union Bank provided project financing. Richmond’s record-setting rains slowed the project down, but it’s now nearly finished. The three units will go on the market in May, and Rasich will be the listing agent.
Although he and Connell haven’t firmed up pricing yet, Rasich estimated the front unit will be listed in the $800,000s. The middle and rear units will each be listed in the $700,000s.
“We have not marketed the homes yet,” Connell said. “We have had some early conversations with interested buyers, but we are opting not to go to contract until we are closer to completion.”
Take a tour
The three-unit town home complex at Monument and Colonial avenues will be featured as a part of the 25th Annual Museum District Mother’s Day House & Garden Tour, which is presented by the Museum District Association. The tour will take place on May 12. A tour trolley will run from 1 to 6 p.m. and make stops near the homes on the tour, as well as the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
For more information, visit museumdistrict.org.
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