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Real Estate

O St. Development is Done!

The picture you see above is the before and after of this development. The before is from December 2017 and the after is October 10th, 2018. A very dramatic transformation!

Developers: John and Benedicte Whitworth, Deworth Restoration
Architect: Forrest Frazier of ArchitectureAF
Contractor: UrbanCore
Realtor: One South Realty Group’s Andrea Levine

First, let me say that most of O St. is done. The rest is scheduled to be completed by early November. In addition, three of the 8 homes have already sold. If you’ve followed CHPN we have talked extensively about the O St. development that is between 25th & 26th St. I had a chance this past week to catch up with the developers John & Benedicte Whitworth and get a walkthrough of this new development in Church Hill. It was obvious from our conversation that John & Benedicte have a real passion for this project and surmounted their fair share of challenges to make this project a reality.

You can find previous coverage of O St. HERE.

A Little about the Project

There were originally 8 homes on this block of O St between 25th and 26th. The left most home you can see in my photo below was rehabbed previously. The remaining 7 homes plus the addition of the new 9th home on the far right-hand side are what I had a chance to look at. The homes were originally built in 1874 and were very small. Two of the homes also had a tunnel between them!

The new homes have modern and open designs with Virginia White Oak floors.

There are also some beautiful architectural elements inside like the metal bars on the staircase that run from the first floor to the ceiling of the 3rd floor.

So what were some of those challenges?

The first thing that stuck out to me as this development progressed is that not a lot of the original structure was left intact. This was a bit of a disappointment for not only me but also the developers. When asked they were quick to share some of the challenges they had to overcome.

Most of the seven houses had demolition notices affixed by Richmond’s Code Enforcement. Structurally the major problems were the interior walls between the houses were all only 1 brick thick and they had no foundations. Only the front wall on O St. and the rear walls of the 20 ft deep houses were two bricks thick. A few of the front windows were perhaps repairable but we wanted both a uniform and low maintenance modern double-glazed window so it was decided to replace all the front with first-class custom fitted windows. In the interior only the original bricks and fireplace mantels were salvageable. Most of the interior wood and floors had perished and the roof had either caved in or leaked badly.

Another big challenge for the project is that the original homes were 650 sq ft a piece! This resulted in the need to extend the homes to the rear and add a 3rd floor. This resulted in homes that range in sq. ft. from 2,002 to 2,466 sq. ft.

Maintaining the original building

According to John and Benedicte maintaining the original 1874 appearance of these homes was paramount in their mind. When they couldn’t execute their original vision of using the original structure they made small, noticeable, and elegant changes to include the original materials.

One change that stuck out was the original brick inside the home. You could very clearly see that they took the original interior bricks and used them inside the building in tasteful ways.

What you’re seeing in the picture below is the original brick being used to recreate what was the original back wall of the home. The original home was only 20 ft deep and behind that is the new 40 ft extension.

In addition, the original front porches, cornices, and gables are being recreated using custom woodwork and copper instead of the original tin to match the original homes as close as possible.

Revitalization/Gentrification of the Neighborhood

While it isn’t the point of this article, I did ask the developers about their thoughts on gentrification and revitalization in our neighborhood. They said that there is a balance to be maintained. Structures like this take a lot of money to rehab which means that money has to be recouped. We talked about how selling homes like these for $379k up to $435k increases property values and taxes which can have both positive and negative impacts. They understood all my points and John Whitworth talked a little with me about his work with the Church Hill Association to try and mitigate the negative effects. The goal is to expand tax abatement initiatives. An initiative like this already exists for the elderly and disabled but John believes this should be expanded to include more residents. This would help to ensure that investment continues to improve the neighborhood and help mitigate some of the negatives that push out long-time residents.

Welcome to the Hill New Neighbors!

In general, I like these homes. From an outsiders perspective, before meeting the developers, I was a little unsure of the choices that were made. However, it’s clear that they had a lot of challenges to overcome and they did not back down. These homes represent a bit of the old and a bit of the new and I’m happy to see another abandoned run-down block brought back to life.

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Lindsey LeCroyO St. ResidentHoly Cow!DaniilLee Recent comment authors

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Sharon Pederson
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Sharon Pederson

What a wonderful commitment to our neighborhood! Kudos to the Whitworths for sticking it out and producing these wonderful enhancements to Church Hill!!

Larry Simmons
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Leigh Ann Woodley nice. Glad they FINALLY finished them

Larry Simmons
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Leigh Ann Woodley $400k though?!!! I’ll pass on that. Can buy an estate out in henrico for all that lol

Leigh Ann Woodley
Guest

Yeah that seems high, but there are some listed back where I am for $389!

SA Chaplin
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SA Chaplin

Congrats on preserving the original look while creating such beautiful, modern residences. I hope the developers make a good profit.

Adriana R Zamudio Rountree
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More!

Cheryl Belcher
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Cheryl Belcher

I was interested in one of the homes from the beginning when they were only going to be 2 levels with an addition on the back of each one. I got to tour the property with the original developer/contractor and was very impressed with the first house that was completed. I am less impressed with the new ones because they have been priced way out of reach for many people. Also, my inexperienced eye notices things on the outside of the new ones that don’t match or line up with the first one. I am happy they are finally going… Read more »

BAF
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BAF

My recollection was that this was going to be more extensive when Deanna Lewis was involved. I believe O Street was going to be restored to cobblestone and replica period street lighting was going to be installed to bring the whole block back to the era of original construction. What this is now looks like it could be transplanted from West Broad Village.

John Whitworth
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John Whitworth

BAF – Yes, you are correct. An email form the previous Mayor office did agree on Oct 14th 2014 to provide old style street lights. On March 20th 2015 a meeting with the Dept. of Public Works confirmed the City had “not budgetted” for the period style street lamps but they did say they would look at restoring the cobbles as in the long term it woud save them money. It is dissapointing that neither of these proposals have been implemented by the City due to budgetary constraints. What we have done to somewhat compensate is we met with the… Read more »

jean mcdaniel
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jean mcdaniel

You don’t even have to look that closely to see shoddy construction, i.e. clap board already curling up, third floor house trailer windows stairs pieced together like someone cut the board too short and not to mention WAY overpriced. Even the comparatives on their own real estate web site points this out. Maybe we could transplant it back to West Broad Village?

BAF
Guest
BAF

@John:

Please no trees. All they will do is buckle the brick sidewalks eventually, and as bad as that might be, it’s worse near a clinic that needs good wheelchair accessibility. And what is the parking plan and trash collection plans for the units, since there seems to be no alley parking contemplated and no obvious place in the alley for the City to collect their trash.

Cheryl Belcher
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Cheryl Belcher

Well said BAF and Jean McDaniel. It was such a beautiful design in the beginning and I fell in love with them. They were also going to be sold at a reasonable price. The history of the block and what could have been done has now been destroyed.

ein
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ein

Who would want to live in this crap? I understand historical preservation of FINE architecture but this is just awful. gross misuse of the broken historical tax credit structure.

Eric S. Huffstutler
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Eric S. Huffstutler

Geezzz… so much negativity. The builders did the best they could and beyond with what they had to work with which was blighted, collapsing, and condemned 4-room units built in 1874. The facades were maintained while the units expanded and modernized with today’s buyers in mind. Has anyone studied the market value of houses in Church Hill with comparable square feet? They go for $400,000 and up, and are older homes that will need some repairs. Houses with only 1,500-1,600 square feet go for well over $300,000 so, these are on point. It just depends on your lifestyle and needs.

Lee
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Lee

@ EIN – I can’t say for certain, perhaps one of the developers will chime in, but I doubt these are a tax credit project. Generally, something like 70% or 80% of the original walls must be kept or rebuilt in place (these houses were a series of small rooms – looks like original interior walls were demolished), and additions are not eligible for the `credit. Could be wrong, but doesn’t fit the bill. I had the chance to view two of the houses and the storefront (now also residential) when they were last sold a few years ago. The… Read more »

Lee
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Lee

…Also, just noticed the replacement windows are totally different from what was there originally. Would have looked better with six over six windows like the originals. Aside from not being historically accurate (Workforce housing – single pane windows would have been to expensive when they were built), the new windows make an already plain facade even more plain (so not justifiable as an aesthetic improvement).

Daniil
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Daniil

It never ceases to amaze me how this self-prophesed “inclusive and welcoming” community is full of people that turn totally nasty once they set foot behind the safety of their keyboards. Why don’t you guys all be a little more consistent with your lawn signs? “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor”……..unless your massive investment in restoring historic properties in our community doesn’t fit our refined architectural tastes. Or if we don’t like your prices… (Disclaimer: I have zero to do with this project. I just think a lot of people on this board need to… Read more »

Eric S. Huffstutler
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Eric S. Huffstutler

@9 John Whitworth, that is crazy and one wonders how the city prioritizes? They had 4 years to appropriate funds for the lighting. Just like they have had 10 years to find funds for our sidewalk while we have seen at least 6 block stretches of sidewalk immediately around us (one across the street) being replaced. So, when and where did those funds become available while our sidewalk remains a mess?

Eric S. Huffstutler
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Eric S. Huffstutler

@16 Lee, the intro piece said “A few of the front windows were perhaps repairable but we wanted both a uniform and low maintenance modern double-glazed window so it was decided to replace all the front with first-class custom fitted windows” 6 over 6 windows that are energy efficient would have to be custom made and expensive because the cheaper type is only what is in there now with false muntins (dividers). They look fake, tend to slip out of place, and are not approved by the CAR if wooden 6 over 6 were in the windows. Also mentioned was… Read more »

Lee
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Lee

@ Eric – there are plenty of divided light windows available – it’s a stretch/copout to call them “custom,” more like “made to order.” They cost more than something you can buy off the shelf at box store, ansolutely, but they aren’t exorbitant (especially since each house these houses only has two street facing windows!). My previous comment could have been clearer: my point was if it were a tax credit project the window lights/divides would usually have been required to be maintained as they were and not changed. As to the issue of CAR – would they approve a… Read more »

jean mcdaniel
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jean mcdaniel

Eric, What “charm in this restoration” are you talking about? This is not a restoration of anything. Any connection that existed with various craftsmen has been wiped out. A third floor was added to increase aquare footage for the purpose of getting more sales money. I have seen house trailers that have more charm and better design. If the Whitworth’s can sell them that is fine, but don’t insult the intelligrnce of Church Hill by claiming that this is anything other than a money grab. They look cheap. They especially look cheap sitting next to the first one that was… Read more »

Eric S. Huffstutler
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Eric S. Huffstutler

@21 jean mcdaniel, I am not even sure I should dignify your post with a response but if you are referring to the units matching the store… both are brick… check. Both have window heads and sills… check. Both have bracketed eves… check. The original porch design was recreated… check. Other than the windows (and 3rd floor), what is so different? The “charm” refers to the facade looking closely like it did when built. @20 Lee, My reference to the CAR was a general statement. This does fall within the 2000 Boundary Extension for the DHR Church Hill North Historic… Read more »

Lee
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Lee

@ Eric – The thing is, when a design is this simple, little details go a long way and removing those details makes a big difference. I drove by this morning and observed: – The windows in the original rowhouse facades don’t match those in the storefront and detract from the appearance of the row. – the ventilator panels are wrong/gone – The porch posts seem to be decent replacements, but brackets on the porch posts are missing/removed. (additional details visible in older photos…) – The porches desperately need some sort of railings. Hopefully they just haven’t been installed yet.… Read more »

jean mcdaniel
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jean mcdaniel

Eric, I do not want you to “dignify my post with a response”. Lee @23 has said all I had to say and did a better job than I could. Please READ his post. You might just learn something! Lee, the copper on the roof looks odd because it is. There would have NEVER been copper on these little roofs. I have attempted to say what you have said and that is, This is NOT by any stretch of the imagination a restoration or historic preservation. It IS a money grab void of any charm and to attempt to cloak… Read more »

Holy Cow!
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Holy Cow!

Jean, why are you so angry? All the time!

BAF
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BAF

@17 Daniil 90% of the time, we view things the same way and I have vocally defended your projects, but I must differ with you here. The initial proposed project did real honor to the structures and the history. The final project, while ending the blight, look like they could have been done by Ryan Homes anywhere. The lack of brickwork on the back and other shortcuts are disappointing. Again, I am glad the buildings are no longer blighted. I am just disappointed because the initial plans were so much stronger. Also there is no evidence of any work to… Read more »

O St. Resident
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O St. Resident

Excited to be a new resident on this lovely stretch of block and our neighbors are so nice. Sub Rosa, here we come!

Lindsey LeCroy
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Lindsey LeCroy

O Street Resident II:

@jean mcdaniel
@baf
@lee
@cheryl belcher

Im so excited to be part of this historic row. All the negativity is quite upsetting. I’d love to show you these houses. Hopefully, it will shed light on a great project I’m sure all of you wish you were a part of. I’d also love to meet all who have the negative comments to work on how you can help benefit with positive comments in this great community. This commenting is not it, however.

Thanks,

Lindsey LeCroy