Along the eastern border of Henrico County lies Rocketts Landing—a unique urban community where exposed brick, modern finishes, and river and skyline views distinguish the living spaces.
Life is a blend of urban convenience, historic charm and outdoor activity. And now, a seemingly forgotten factory nestled between old railroad tracks and the James River is being given new life. "The Richmond Cedar Works Company began in the 1800s and survived until the 1970s. They made washing machines, ice chests and ice cream makers using cedar wood.
They harvested from their own cedar forests in the Great Dismal Swamp and shipped the raw lumber to the factory by way of the James River," explains Richard Souter, Partner, WVS Companies, LLC. WVS, the development company behind the Rocketts Landing community, is in the midst of reclaiming the area around the old factory. When the work is finished, Rocketts Landing will be a complete mixed-used community spanning approximately 25 city blocks
The evolution of the plastics industry ultimately put Richmond Cedar Works out of business, but in the spring of 2013 one of the area’s biggest law firms, BrownGreer PLC, will move into Cedar Works 2, one of the few remaining buildings available for occupancy at the original Cedar Works site. "The building that BrownGreer is moving into is one of only a few buildings remaining from the Cedar Works factory," says Souter. "The structure is a masonry and heavy timber building dating back to the late 1800s. It has a pitched roof that peaks at about 30 feet, and when you look up you see a very impressive truss system. The original design of the structure is more suitable for an open-plan commercial space, rather than residential." BrownGreer considered spaces in the near and far West End of Richmond, but the Cedar Works building’s history, space and location was just too intriguing to ignore. Plus, the company preferred to stay in Henrico County, and the move to Cedar Works provided the best of all worlds.
We are thrilled to be in Henrico and think that the proximity of Rocketts to downtown is ideal.' Lynn Greer, Partner, BrownGreer PLC
BrownGreer Partner Lynn Greer explains, "We were interested in finding an older building with character and history. We also wanted a building that would allow for a very open floor plan so that we would have flexibility in designing and using the space. The Cedar Works warehouse is a three-story open floor plan that we are designing to meet our needs." She adds, "We are thrilled to be in Henrico and think that the proximity of Rocketts to downtown is ideal."
The firm has hired H&A Architects and Engineers to design the new space. One exterior wall will be opened up to lighten the once-dim warehouse space. When complete, the perimeter offices will feature glass exterior walls so that light will flow through the open office space. Greer continues, "The building itself will give us a chance to combine the old with the new. For example, much of the original flooring needed to be removed because of the age of the building. However, rather than get rid of the wood, we are refurbishing it and using it for hardwood flooring and wooden accents in different places in the building.
These finishes that keep the character and charm of the original building will be juxtaposed with modern fixtures, lighting, furniture and designs." And that concept fits perfectly with Souter’s vision for the Rocketts project. Each building and space in the community perfectly balances the history of area, the pace of the river and the comfort of modern conveniences. Souter explains, "We are very interested in developing buildings and spaces that pay homage to their previous lives but are made relevant and functional for today." Greer hopes the company will be able to move in April 2013 and expects that roughly 320 employees will occupy the space.
More about Rocketts Landing As Souter explains, the vision for Rocketts Landing was always to develop a mixed-used community, but it was the site's residential "pioneers" who have propelled the development toward attracting larger commercial tenants like BrownGreer to locate along the river. "We embarked on a residential strategy as a way to establish the project and reconnect Richmond with the James River. It wasn’t long before the restaurants came to the development." Souter estimates that over 200,000 people a year visit one of the three river-view restaurants on the property. And now commercial tenants are buying into the vision. "We have approximately 15,000 square feet of office space in use today. Every new office tenant is getting bigger, and that fits well into our desired mixed-use strategy. In the not-too-distant future, we would really like to build a 150,000-square-foot office space at Rocketts," Souter adds. Rocketts Landing truly makes Henrico a great place to live, work and grow!
A Day in the Life of a Rocketts Landing Resident... In the morning, your coffee addiction, the lazy James and your private balcony beckon. Later, it’s time for a bike ride along Virginia’s Capital Trail. You can’t do all 50 miles of the trail today—you’re meeting friends at Rocketts marina for a sunset cruise before everyone meanders to M Bistro, one of three restaurants within walking distance. After dinner, it’s a three-minute drive downtown to catch a concert at the National Theatre. You think to yourself more than once, "It’s a rough life, but someone has to live it!"