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Riverfront condos slow to catch on

Alec Depcrynski September 24, 2008 0

riversideonthejames1The two riverfront condo towers are around 50% occupied, according to a BizSense count.

Note: After we published this story, Jack Berry, Executive Director for Venture Richmond, got in touch with us to give us some hard numbers. There are no unsold units at Riverside, and 10 unsold units at Vistas. We would like to note that this does not refer to vacancies; rather, it refers to units sold by the original developer, either to an end user or an investor. To quote Berry, these sold units “may be occupied, vacant, rented, or up for re-sale.”

Richmond’s riverfront condos might not be as popular as you’d think.

The two riverfront condo towers are around 50% occupied, according to a BizSense count.Following the methodology of our “Better Know a District” series, we counted the number of residences that had patio furniture (chairs, tables, etc… ).

Marketing materials tout the downtown lifestyle as if it were Greenwich Village. We were curious how many people actually live in the two condo towers along the James.

Our unscientific method for determining occupancy is simple; if you live in a condo chances are you’re going to put furniture on your patio. Uninhabited condos would be free of plastic deck chairs, tables and grills. It’s not an error-free methodology and doesn’t take into account the number of units that are owned but empty, but it’s still sound.

Vistas on the James
has a total of 168 units. We counted 86 patios with signs of life. That means just over half of the units are occupied. Eighty two are unoccupied. That gives the complex a 49.9% vacancy rate.

Some of the condominiums in Vistas might be combined, (we know of at least one) meaning that a single resident could own two or three patios, which would skew our numbers slightly.

Riverside on the James has 122 condos. By our tally, 96 have patios. The other 26 units were not involved in our count.

We came up with a total of 57 patios with furniture or plants. That means 60% of the condos are occupied. Thirty nine are vacant, or around 40% percent.

Obviously, there are some problems with our count. Some people might dislike patio furniture. It’s unlikely, but possible. Some owners might have just moved in or may be moving out. Others may prefer to stay indoors at all times.

But even if our figures are rough, a vacancy rate so close to 50% could be a real sign of trouble for the two riverfront properties as well as the renaissance of the downtown Richmond.

A possible explanation: BizSense has heard for the last year that local investors bought the properties with the intent to flip them, but nobody seems to know the actual count.

Condos at Riverside run between $200,000 and $600,000, and condos at Vistas start at $350,000.

So what gives? What do you think is holding these two developments back? What might it mean for future development? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section or send them directly to me, Alec@richmondbizsense.com.

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