by Paula C. Squires
A piece of Richmond’s retail history is staying in the hands of a local player. Henrico County has agreed to buy the former home of catalog showroom retailer Best Products Inc. for $6.2 million. The 92-acre property will meet future needs for county offices. And at $21.68 per square foot, real estate brokers say the three-building, 286,000-square foot complex is a good deal.
The parcel just off East Parham Road is close to Interstate 95, includes 58 acres of undeveloped land and — in a nod to the quirky architecture of Best’s buildings — includes a pair of art-deco stone eagles.
Considering the land and the three buildings, Brian Glass, vice president for retail at Grubb & Ellis | Harrison & Bates in Richmond, said, “They got a good price. You can’t build anything like that today. That’s really ridiculously inexpensive.”
The county’s most recent assessment of the site and its vacant buildings was $9.98 million, said Bob Pinkerton, Henrico’s deputy county manager for community operations. That’s way below a $25 million assessment in 2010 when the building was still occupied by Bank of America. Best, a pioneer of the catalog showroom industry which went on to become a national retailer, left the building nearly 15 years ago when the company filed for bankruptcy.
The site will require some “serious renovation,” Pinkerton said. The county is purchasing the complex from Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. so it will have the ability to consolidate county offices into a single campus in the future. “We are leasing some space now for some operations, and this will give us additional opportunities for consolidation and shifting of services.”
Before any moves take place, the county will undertake a master planning process. “The plan will be extensive and a multi-year effort,” Pinkerton said.
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