A “crazy” week for Richmond’s GVA Advantis office

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

The phones have been ringing off the hook this week at the Richmond office of GVA Advantis.

In light of Monday’s announcement from the company’s corporate headquarters regarding the immediate closing of six brokerage offices — including three in Virginia — clients wanted to know if Richmond was still open. 

“It’s been crazy. We’re getting pummeled with the rumor mill,” said James L. Thomas, managing director for GVA’s Richmond office.  However, he adds, “Richmond is fully operational. Everyone is still onboard. We’re trying to focus on business as usual.”

But it has been difficult, he acknowledges, with competing firms soliciting his top brokers. “Charlie Polk is being solicited by everyone you can think of. People I’ve never even heard of are calling.”
Polk has consistently been one of GVA’s top producers, outselling brokers from the firm’s larger markets. Altogether, the Richmond office has 14 brokers and manages 3.2 million square feet of property. In addition to brokerage, it offers construction and property management services and was not on GVA’s list of closures.

Blaming the economic downturn, GVA decided to close 6 of its 16 regional offices in Newport News, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Gulfport, Miss; and Tallahassee and Panama City, Fla. Chairman Jeff Neal said in a statement that the company plans to concentrate on its more lucrative lines of construction and property management. To improve performance, it’s pursing a number of possible joint ventures or other affiliation strategies.

One development that may be causing confusion is that GVA’s Norfolk brokerage operations are closing this week — following the flight of several of its top brokers to other firms — even though Norfolk isn’t on the closing list, either.

GVA had a long history in Norfolk, with its early roots going back to the Goodman Segar Hogan realty firm. Likewise, Richmond’s core group had been together for years — and at one point had an ownership interest in the company —  before private-equity group Monument Ventures acquired a controlling stake in GVA about 13 months ago. Monument moved the company’s headquarters from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., and planned to expand its southeastern footprint just as the market was slowing due to the recession. 

“Richmond is a profitable operation, and we’re plugging along,” said Thomas. “Diversity in our business lines is helping Richmond stay alive.” Still, things could change. “We’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode. Our company is working hard to find good initiatives.”

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