The Marketplace is Speaking. Are the Counties Listening?

CoStar is occupying three floors of the Westrock building (on left) in downtown Richmond.

After CoStar Group, a provider of real estate market intelligence, announced last fall its intention to move its research division headquarters to downtown Richmond, the company offered employees from Washington, D.C., Atlanta, San Diego, and Columbia, Md., an opportunity to move to Virginia. A big concern of Senior Vice President Lisa Ruggles was how many would want to make the move. “I had no idea of how many people would be interested,” she said.

She was surprised that 150 applicants responded, Ruggles told Richmond BizSense. After they took part in three-day tours of the metropolitan area, she says, “I told them that they were all welcome to come to Richmond, and the place erupted. Everybody was clapping, people were crying; it was an amazing sight to see.”

AvePoint, a New Jersey provider of Microsoft cloud services, had a similar experience, according to BizSense. “We estimated that when we would be transferring people down here that we might not get a ton of people, because Richmond is very different from New York,” said AvePoint COO Brian Brown. “That’s proved absolutely not to be the case.”

Big selling points: a lower cost of living, shorter commutes and a high overall quality of life. “I think one of the things people are pleasantly finding, especially people who have families, is how cheap it is to find a really nice place to live and how easy the commute is,” Brown said.

Here’s the really interesting thing:

CoStar’s Ruggles said it has been interesting to see where employees have chosen to live in Richmond. Of the 120 employees who made the company’s initial move, she said the majority chose places such as Deco at CNB and other apartment communities in Tobacco Row and Manchester. Only two employees chose to live in Short Pump, said Ruggles, who herself just closed on a house in the West End.

“Coming from D.C., a lot of our employees don’t have cars, and that was not something they were wanting to run out and buy, so a lot of people ended up in locations where they could walk to work,” Ruggles said. “We have found that, because that group relocated from D.C., where they’re used to taking the Metro or walking or riding their bike, they’re continuing to do that here.

Bacon’s bottom line: Richmond’s urban core exerts a strong appeal to highly skilled and educated employees — the affluent, creative-class types who pay more in taxes and spend more in the local economy — from other cities. If the region wants to attract more employees like them, along with the companies that employ them, the city and counties need to facilitate the building of the kind of communities these people want to live in. That means more moderate density, more mixed-use development, more grid streets, more investment in streetscapes, and, where economically justified, more mass transit.

That’s an easy sell for Richmond, most of which was laid out according to the dicta of traditional city planning. It’s a harder sell for Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, built according to the principles of suburban sprawl. The marketplace is yelling loud and clear what it wants. As a Henrico resident with a vested interest in the county’s long-term fiscal viability, I hope county officials are listening. If they’re not the City of Richmond will kick our butts in the economic development game.

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19 responses to “The Marketplace is Speaking. Are the Counties Listening?

  1. Well, hate to take a bow, but I will.

    I have been predicting this for years, that is that Richmond was likely on the cusp of resurgence given northern Virginia’s growing gridlock and the dysfunction, inconvenience, and dislocation that follows in gridlock’s wake. Of course new technologies and life style changes also play a roll.

    But even bigger news is with the national trends involved as New Yorkers now are joining the parade to Richmond.

    Two warnings are apt.

    Do not blow this Richmond! Don’t replicate Fairfax County after it got the upper hand over Arlington in the early 1980s. Cause if you don’t behave, the worm will invariable turn yet again. So do now instead what Virginians too rarely do – take best advantage to today’s advantage over competitors by planning and building your city for the very long term. Build like downtown Arlington did.

    For Fairfax County I suggest this is a blessing in disguise. Now you have a crying need to change radically your game, and the breathing space to do it. So think bold and get about the task of fixing all that is broken, and do it with your close neighbors.

  2. I strongly suspect that these folks, especially the families will be moving to Henrico, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, etc..

  3. The examples you cited were companies recruited to downtown offices. There might be a different living pattern for a new company moving to Innsbrook or some Chesterfield location. I think you are wrong if you assume those locations have no appeal anymore.

    I also agree with Larry that as these newcomers settle in the pattern will disperse as they face the choice of city schools (great message dumping another superintendent, Richmond) vs. expensive private schools vs. a move to the ‘burbs. Long term the companies might expand to larger offices outside the city, as well. Which is fine. It is all good.

    My first week working in Richmond, 1986, there was a shooting in broad daylight around the corner from my office on E. Grace, and the city never got a second chance to make a first impression. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded either if I were moving from New York, but I knew I wasn’t in Roanoke anymore.

  4. Not surprising and the now generation is not looking for a suburban homes with cow pastures. 20 years ago Reston was that but in the past ten or so years over 5,000 new condos and apartments have been occupied — mostly along the metro to Dulles. Now Reston is seeing another 5,000 condos and apartments on the way…with many under construction now.
    And several thousand are underway at Tysons Corner which is on the Metro line to Dulles next to Reston. And at this time there are many more apartments being built than condos which is a reflection of the new economy and the new workforce.
    And this is not limited to the USA. A few years ago I visited Robina a new planned city in North East Australia (Queensland) and this was what they were doing. Robina now has about 20,000 residents now and Australia’s first private university Bond University.

    • Mid 20s just moved down here from falls church. Working out in North Chesterfield & was given some info on nearby apartment communities in north chesterfield & Midlothian by the hr dept. Ended up in Jackson Ward. Definitely think I made the better call. Love it here.

  5. Regarding my first comment above and the three follow on comments that all make good points, the key is to use with IMAGINATION the history of urban, suburban and rural mistakes, successes, and learning from the past (that are preserved as if in amber in places like Reston, Courthouse to Ballston, Tysons Dulles Corridor) when applying them to current present day circumstances in places like Richmond Metropolitan Region.

    So for example, in my first comment to this post, I not referring to Richmond City proper alone, but how Richmond City might in the future better interact with surrounding jurisdictions to the benefit of all concerned. And how all jurisdictions might cooperate to the end.

    For example, one of the important untold stories his how the Arlington’s Courthouse to Ballston Corridor successfully interacts with neighborhoods nearby, and those far way away too. Hence, the corridor brought many advantages not only to Cherrydale and Arlington Hospital but also to Spring Valley and Georgetown in DC, facts that are little recognized.

    Another concern for Virginia’s future is the great damage it does to its own future by reason of how its Balkanized political entities combine with its obviously corrupt elite power structures to war against one another, eating each other alive, to the disadvantage of all concerned, instead of leveraging off one another to the mutual advantage of all.

    Virginians are their own worst enemies. Hence folks from Roanoke are right to believe they are all alone fighting today’s Richmond to C’ville Axis.

    What could highlight that fact more than the bogus UVA Cooper Center demographic study with its 25 year growth projections for the Rt. 29 C’ville and Lynchburg MSA corridor versus its competitors in the Virginia I-81 corridor from Winchester Virginia down through the Roanoke Valley.

    There is no good basis for these projections other than a local power play by folks in C’ville, likely in cooperation with certain political forces hard a work in Richmond, and elsewhere.

    This is a very old turf battle, now fought even more viciously in the mad chase for Federal Research dollars by UVA added into the mix. The Rt 29 people have been trying to bootstrap themselves into something they are plainly not for 40 years now, a proven fool’s errand done at state taxpayers cost and wastage of hundreds of millions of dollars on the RT 29 Barracks Road By pass alone.

    Now obviously UVA’s Cooper Center is heavily into the game. The Cooper Center should be ashamed of itself. It obligation is to the entire state of Virginia, not its masters at UVA.

    See;

    ‘Well, the population projections for 2040 look pretty ugly for SWVA:

    http://demographics.coopercenter.org/files/2017/03/VAPopProjections_Localities_2020-2040_2017release.pdf

    What should be really concerning for the area is that Virginia Tech and Roanoke don’t seem to be offering much growth potential from 2020-2040.

    The Blacksburg-Radford MSA (Montgomery, Radford, Giles, Pulaski) would grow by approximately 16,000 people in 20 years.

    The Roanoke MSA (Roanoke city and county, Salem, Botetourt, Franklin, Craig) would grow by approximately 25,000 people in 20 years.

    I suppose one could say that at least those areas aren’t shrinking like the rest of Southwest Virginia. But to think that the combined MSAs growth would be 41K over 20 years is not exactly encouraging. To explain how bad that is in comparison to the rest of the state, I’m going to point to the other 2 small metros in the state: Charlottesville and Lynchburg.

    The Charlottesville MSA (Cville, Albemarle, Greene, Nelson, Buckingham) is expected to add 47K in 20 years.

    The Lynchburg MSA (L’burg, Campbell, Bedford, Appomattox, Amherst) is expected to add 33K in 20 years.”

    See Nobody cares about you Southwest Virginia and Maybe that is a Good Thing article found at http://baconsrebellion.com/39187-2/

    • Let me guess, you’ve never lived in Roanoke.

      My wife’s sister and brother-in-law have lived in South Roanoke with all the other city elites for the past 30 years.

      Trust me, look at the kids in South Roanoke over the last 30 years. Nearly all of the elite kids have moved out. Those parents are the smart ones, and they’ve gotten Junior out of the region.

      As Norfolk Southern continues to gradually cut jobs in the area, there are 2 remaining big employers: Carillion and Advance Auto. If Advance Auto ever left, the city would be in a world of hurt.

      If you don’t trust Weldon Cooper’s numbers, how about the U.S. Census? In 1990, Roanoke, Roanoke County, and Salem had a population of 199K. 26 years later? 216K. In 26 years, the area’s added 17K people.

      Compare that area to Charlottesville/Albemarle. In 1990, Charlottesville/Albemarle had a population of 108K. 26 years later? It’s at 155K. In 26 years, it’s added 47K people.

      There is absolutely nothing that would point to any type of significant growth in the Roanoke area. Nothing. They project Roanoke/Roanoke County/Salem will grow by 16K people in 24 years. Very poor growth. But that’s been the pattern for nearly 30 years now. I have no idea why anyone would think the Weldon Cooper Center would make that number up.

      As I posted, the Weldon Cooper Center is not exactly “breaking the bank” with their 2040 projections for the Charlottesville area. If you just look at Charlottesville/Albemarle (not the rest of the MSA), the area is supposed to grow by a grand total of 42K people in 24 years. Again, how is that somehow part of a grand conspiracy theory? That seems like average to slightly above average growth. Nothing more and nothing less.

      But if you don’t believe me, ask Steve Haner or Jim Bacon. They’ve lived in Roanoke. I seriously doubt they’d have a problem with the Roanoke projections.

      • Unless something dramatically changes, Roanoke is destined for slow growth mode. But I wouldn’t write it off. The Norfolk Southern downsizing has just about spent itself — how much more can the railroad downsize without tearing up the railroad tracks? Maybe the Virginia Tech-Carilion alliance will spark a revival. Maybe Roanoke will develop a cool vibe like Asheville N.C. I really liked living there and would have stayed if it had offered more career opportunities…. But I guess that’s the problem isn’t it?

        • The lack of sustained and strong economic growth in Virginia’s I-81 corridor from Winchester south down through the Roanoke and New River Valley has long perplexed me.

          Logically these areas should be Virginia’s Inland Empire, a natural place for growth given its easy assess from the NW and NE to points south.

          See http://www.virginia81.org/

          There are three north south roads in Virginia. Two have proven dysfunctional absent major upgrades. Neither I-95 nor Rt. 29 work today.

          Only I-81 works. And it works well today.

          This is the primary reason why the air cargo hub at Dulles Airport made no economic sense. Dulles is isolated. And it cannot complete given its location. And its lack of good access.

          Meanwhile, trucks from Philly airport have far better access to the southern states. And this is true whether those southern states be Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and/or the Gulf States. Philly beats Dulles access wise every time.

          Yet, this I-81 corridor still has the slows, even today.

          Perhaps it is cultural as well as political dysfunction. Perhaps folks just want to be the way they are. Who knows?

          But absent some not so obvious obstacle, places like Bridgewater today should be booming. They have in the past. Been very well off, with robust cultures and societies, that still remain in many places. And could up their game and do it again, easily. But its not happening. Why?

          I do not know the answers beyond that.

        • When however you compare the geographic and topographic location access wise of the 1-81 corridor generally to that of the Rt 29 corridor generally, there simply is no comparison.

          And there should be no contest between the two.

          Rt 29 is a exceedingly narrow corridor through hill country. The Shenandoah and Roanoke valleys and surrounding areas are open and wide from one end of the state to the other. In the north that corridor opens out suddenly to a raft of places from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Lancaster, Philly, New York and beyond. On the south I-81 leads to Blackbsburg and points to SW with access also to the SE places like Charotte growing like topsy.

          C’Ville growth by contrast is highly confined in space by geography with no obvious natural outlet save I-64 to Richmond. The road net and develop-able commercial ground around C’ville is highly confined and constrained.

          Here one need only refer to a Google Satellite map to see the startling difference in developable land around C’ville versus to numerous towns between Winchester and Blacksburg Virginia.

          This raises the simple question of how can a locale such as C’ville complete long term and successfully as a world class research powerhouse with the likes of Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix and Salt Lake, not to mention Charlotte, Raleigh Durham, Baltimore and Boston. It cannot. Nor can it come even close to those places. Nor can it come close to Virginia’s I-81 corridor if that locale is given a fair chance or if it made a fair effort. In which case Virginia’s Inland Empire would soar.

          • LocalGovGuy

            The facts are this: Charlotte beat out Roanoke and the rest is history. Piedmont Airlines was expanding and looking for its hub. It came down to Charlotte and Roanoke. Piedmont chose Charlotte. That was a backbreaker for the entire Roanoke region.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Many commentators have recently noted that red areas in heavily controlled blue states seem to suffer unduly where crony capitalism rears its head, benefiting the politically connected at the cost and loss of everyone else. Perhaps this trend is increasing in Virginia. Here the heavy reliance of Virginia power structures on Government hand outs seem to be increasing dramatically. This expands Federal Government power dramatically. This is very dangerous.

            Especially where Federal Government gains control of State higher education along with control of our nations research and high tech industries and schools, private and public. That is what is happening here.

        • Like you, I’d love to see the Roanoke area prosper. But you put your finger on the pulse of the problem. It’s too isolated to truly grow. Unless you move up to an exec level at Carillion or Advance, there really isn’t much else.

          We were in Roanoke over Thanksgiving to see my wife’s sister. We walked around the medical school area on that Friday. Something that stuck out to me was the neighborhoods around the medical school. You would expect to see an area like that gentrify rather quickly. The school opened its doors in 2010. Outside of one small mixed use development, I didn’t see any signs of a true upgrade to that area of the city, which is ominous. If you plopped that facility and that much money in a neighborhood in Richmond or Norfolk, you would have seen the immediate area quickly redevelop and gentrify.

          To tell you how bad things are, take a look at the Census estimates for the city in 2015 v. 2016:

          https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/51770

          The city actually lost population last year.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Regarding how you look at these demographic numbers: It is always a tricky business, projecting how populations will grow, contract and/or stagnate, given all the variables and unknowns that typically emerge in unexpected ways to render many projections obsolete quick. In short, demographic projection are akin in many ways to our efforts to project the weather, and here we are trying to make those projections more than 20 years into the future.

            For example, look at the estimated population changes within Ablemarle County and the 8 Counties that adjoin Albemarle County between the years 2010 and 2016. Here you discover a rather dramatic decline in growth and in some cases persistent stagnation and loss.

            Given those most recent reversals of former recent trends, how can anyone now predict with confidence any strong reversal of this current downward trend. I suggest you cannot in any case. But you can’t do it here in particular given the current Federal Administration in DC efforts to cut or slow even further US Federal Research. On which C’ville by its own recent admission depends to an unusual degree.

            Hence, here we have not the necessary means to predict this contrarian growth or chose winners and losers among competitors for these funds or whatever remains of them during the Trump era, much less predict what other outside sources do to impact the region. And that to make such predictions creates false impressions, just like happened so recently in the case of Northern Virginia. And, if this be true, then it does unnecessary harm by suggesting certainty where there is none or high levels of confidence in a future that cannot be divined.

    • Jim – this is a two pronged issue, involving commercial and economic health, independence and/or dependence of two Virginia regions, Charlottesville versus Roanoke, and 1-81 versus Rt. 29.

      Regarding Carlottesville Region The Daily Progress last week told that story. The May 1, 2017 article characterizes C’ville’s high tech mission to be just another pig that is wanting to feed at the US government’s trough that keeps otherwise indigents on the US dole with their hands out for other people’s money.

      Here are excerps from that article:

      “Spending Deal Could Mean Relief for UVA, Local Groups

      Federal funding for medical research and the humanities — which had been targeted for major cuts by President Donald Trump — would increase this year under a spending deal reached by Congress on Sunday night. Congress will vote on the proposal this week, with the Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown looming.

      The increases would benefit the Charlottesville area, as the University of Virginia, various biotechnology companies and the Virginia Endowment for the Humanities rely on grant funding from the federal government.

      The plan sets aside $34 billion for the National Institutes of Health, which funds most health research across the country. That represents a $2 billion increase over the previous year. The Trump administration had asked Congress to cut the NIH budget by $1.2 billion — one of the major reasons for the pro-science demonstrations staged around the country recently.

      The increases would provide some relief for UVa, which received about $143 million in federal research funding from the NIH, as well as the biotechnology companies the university’s research has spawned.

      The National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts — which have provided support for programs in the Virginia Festival of the Book and the Virginia Film Festival — would receive $150 million — a $2 million increase over last year. Trump’s budget plan called for an end to federal funding for those agencies.

      “We are grateful for the congressional support and hope this will continue in 2018,” said UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan in an email Monday. “Federal support from not only the NEH and the NEA, but also the NIH and the [National Science Foundation], is critically important to the success of the university’s mission.”

      The deal is a promising sign for the Charlottesville-based Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, which draws about 21 percent of its budget from the NEH … Charlottesville’s economy is particularly dependent on federal research funding, but business leaders around the country are taking notice. Tim Hulbert, president of (C’ville) Regional Chamber of Commerce, is one of 65 chamber leaders who are publicly lobbying for a “continuum” of research funding that — at the least — will keep ongoing projects alive.

      Hulbert said he’s pleased with the proposed spending deal — which would fund the federal government through September — but he is still worried about the next fiscal year. He will join other chamber of commerce leaders on Capitol Hill this week to speak with Virginia’s congressional delegation.

      The Trump administration has shown its intention is to make cuts, he said, and even if the proposal is approved, the president will pressure Congress to make the changes he wants in fiscal year 2018.

      “The Congress can change its view pretty quickly, particularly when being urged by the president of the United States,” Hulbert said.

      The Trump administration’s 2018 fiscal year budget proposal requests a $5.8 billion cut for NIH. The proposal calls for a reduction of administrative costs and a major reorganization of NIH “to help focus resources on the highest-priority research and training activities.”

      What this article really tells us is in the truth that is going on here. C’villes wants to be a another northern Virginia that is highly dependent on the annual payment of funds from the Federal Government. And all the pathologies that such abject dependence and bondage brings.

      The article also highlights why the higher education of students in this country is in such big trouble. And why students are so unhappy, and getting so little education for their money. The best institutions and professors are fleeding the teaching profession in droves as they flood into the Arts and Sciences of milking the US Government and US taxpayers.

      This is collapsing legitimate higher education in this country. And it is creating a system of higher education comprised of little more than US government bureaucrats feeding off another corrupt and disfunctional government program.

      • The Daily Progress’s claim that “the president of (C’ville) Regional Chamber of Commerce, is one of 65 chamber leaders who are publicly lobbying for a “continuum” of research funding that — at the least — will keep ongoing projects alive … (And that) “He will join other chamber () leaders on Capitol Hill this week to speak with Virginia’s congressional delegation” is a common activity on Capital Hill at this time of year.

        Now is the spring time when local delegations fly in from all over the country to lobby their state delegations to make claim on as big a share of annual Federal Research Grants for their colleges and universities as they can manage.

        This annual clamor before Congress for Federal Research grant dollars has been going on forever. In the 1790s, for example, when Geo. Washington urged John Adams of the need to build a formidable United States Navy for warships unlike any built before, and how to spread the pork around the many states was John Adams first big problem.

        The Barbary War and much later the Civil War and WW1 accelerated these programs, and their problems.

        By the late 1930s FDR had NIH heath research up and going before WW11 put all government sponsored research on overdrive, including the Manhattan Project that designed and built the first atomic bombs. Thus began America’s vast explosion of Government sponsored technology research done by universities and private companies under government contract.

        This work changed the world, and mostly for the better. Many achievements are well known with the money spent well earned. However by 1961 President Eisenhower warned of the rise and growing dominance of America’s “military industrial complex.”

        Ike’s concern has now grown 56 years later to all areas of government sponsored research. These annual junkets by local politicians and vested interests to seek influence before Congress so as to win for themselves ever larger increases in Federal research dollars and thus “bring the bacon home” looks and smells like what most likely it really is: political patronage commonly call “Pork” but here dressed up to look like science.

        Many observers today believe that this rent seeking from government has reached a point that threatens legitimate higher education is this country.

        We’re soon elaborate on their concerns.

        • Interesting observation. We have expanded the federal teat beyond recognition since the Founding Fathers. Yet I can make the case for government funding of some things, inefficient as the government is, on the basis that no one else will do it. The military for sure. NASA, and the protection of patents, yup. Basic research in science and health and computer tech, maybe not but an awful lot of good things for the economy have come out of them. The Arts? Well, that debate goes on; but personally I’ll watch PBS before Fox News. Education? Huge impact on people and on budgets, but how could we have a democracy or a thriving economy that’s competitive in the world without education? And then there’s the big one today: health, Health means NIH and all that federal funding of MedicAid and Medicare and drug cartels and research at hundreds of universities and it’s the only economic activity in countless small towns. So it’s out of control;. But somebody has to do these things, don’t they?

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            As you suggest the power of the US Government today is immense. If the last decade has proved anything, it is that Federal power, when deftly organized and wielded, can intrude into most every aspect in our lives and the conduct of our public and private institutions based on the control of US Federal funds alone.

            To some, this is frightening even assuming the government’s best intentions given the unintended consequences of such long distance power over local events small and large.

            Given bad intentions, the harm done to individuals and the fabric of government and society seems without limit. Modern technologies, and the lighting fast pace of change they compound, put these threats on steroids. We have entered an era where old lessons and experiences either no longer apply to modern problems and practices, or they can be quickly and easily overrun.

            Hence events seem to be ever more prone to spin out of control.

            Recent Title 1X, STEM research and Global initiatives illustrate these points. Consider the disruption they’ve marshaled and deployed since 2011. And the damage that has ensued even as the movements they represent recede or flounder upon the hidden rocks and shoals of reality.

            We have ventured into an unknown place.

  6. As a rental property owner in the Fan, I can attest that this is real. It’s not just “local PR.” I know a couple of other rental property owners in the Fan, and all of our properties are scooped up within hours of a vacancy by young professionals.

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