He wasn’t in the market for another residence but, with his first commercial building purchase in the Richmond market, an out-of-town real estate investor now has a new place to call home.
Murry Pitts, an investor active in Charlottesville, is the new owner of the renovated former Honey Shop building at 405 E. Grace St. after buying it in late September for just over $2 million.
The deal includes the commercial storefront that currently houses Order Hair Co., and the modern-design condo that fills the rest of the building, which Pitts is making his primary residence.
Pitts, whose holdings in Charlottesville include the downtown Gleason Building and a portfolio of long-term home rentals, said he was searching online listings for commercial properties in Richmond when he came across the condo when it was listed for sale over the summer.
While he was taken by the condo’s design and rooftop deck, Pitts said his interest was in buying the entire building, including the 2,000-square-foot storefront that previously was the longtime home of The Honey Shop health food store.
“I jumped on it right when I saw it,” he said. “The commercial unit wasn’t for sale. But my deal was I wanted the whole building, not just the condo.”
Nevertheless, he said, the condo was a draw.
“It was kind of an added benefit, the condo on top, because it supplements some of the overhead costs of the building,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s anything like it in Richmond, honestly. It’s spectacular.”
Using an LLC, Pitts paid $1.6 million for the condo, just over its $1.59 million list price, and $440,000 for the commercial space. The city’s latest assessment puts the condo at $1.4 million and the storefront at $486,000.
Pitts worked with One South Realty Group agents Andrea Levine and Angel Papa, who co-listed the condo for seller Jershon Jones.
Jones, a managing director at Richmond-based investment bank Harris Williams & Co., bought the building in 2017 and renovated it the following year, working with Leipertz Construction and Walter Parks Architects. The renovation was completed in 2019, and the storefront was briefly leased to a nonprofit before Order moved last year.
Pitts described the renovation and design as top-notch.
“It’s such a spectacular piece of property. The guy did a really excellent job on rehabbing it,” he said.
“It was a rip-out gut, even on the commercial side, all the way down to the timbers. There’s some utilization of some of the older aspects of the building, and then there’s a lot of new upfitting of the whole building, with an amazing staircase as you go in that looks straight up to the fourth floor. And the rooftop is something out of New York magazine. It’s really cool.”
Totaling 4,500 square feet of space, or 5,200 counting the rooftop, the condo takes up the rest of the building, filling part of the first floor behind the storefront and all of the upper floors.
Featuring a modern design with skylighted high ceilings, refinished hardwoods and other original building accents, the condo includes three bedrooms, three bathrooms and two half-baths, as well as two kitchens, a primary suite with media lounge and walk-in closets, and a kitchen with waterfall-edge island.
The unit includes an elevator, two gas fireplaces and three dishwashers, and the rooftop deck features a built-in grill and seating, outdoor speakers and views of downtown. The property also includes two off-street parking spaces and a gated entry with deck walkways.
Called The Ruelaine, the original brick building was constructed in 1910 and is included in the Grace Street Commercial Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also known as the Tompkins House, it was altered in the 1920s when the residence was converted to retail use, according to a description of the district. A tax abatement conveyed with the property’s sale.
Levine said she and Papa fielded interest from potential buyers who were equally intent on the storefront as well as the condo. She said Jones, whom Papa represented when he purchased the building, initially wanted to hold onto the storefront but agreed to include it in the sale.
Levine said they received another offer when they were already in negotiations with Pitts. She said they marketed the listing on social media and through their own networking, and decided to co-list as they’ve done on some properties before.
“Due to the nature of the property, showings required one of us to be present in order to share in-depth knowledge, history of the project, architectural/design features,” Levine said in an email.
Pitts said the condo will add to other homes he keeps in Charlottesville and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Down the line, he said he may consider offering the condo as a rental.
“With the legislature in town and when they’re in session, there may even be some opportunities for short-term rentals of the property,” he said. “I’ve done that for many years in the Charlottesville market. There’s all kind of potential for the building.”
Pitts said he’s honoring Order’s existing lease, which he said has a few years left on it. He said there may be an opportunity to make improvements to its space, which he described as “almost perfectly fitted” for the salon.
While the building is his first investment in Richmond, Pitts said it won’t be his last. He said he’s keeping an eye out for more commercial properties downtown and along the Grace Street corridor specifically.
“I think there’s a lot of potential in downtown Richmond in that area. It’s not as robust as the Charlottesville market on the commercial side, but it’s certainly got strong potential long term,” he said.
Pitts’ purchase adds to other recent investments that have been made along East Grace Street. A couple blocks away, a rehab of the building at 208-212 E. Grace St., also designed by Walter Parks, has made room for 10 apartments and storefronts for consulting firms Markham Planning and Sadler & Whitehead.