Richmond developers frustrated with slow City Hall

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

The planned ZZQ site on Aug. 7. The restaurant was originally planned to open in September. (PHOTO: Jonathan Spiers)

RICHMOND, Va. — When Jeremy Connell announced his plan to develop a dozen high-end townhomes in Manchester, he said at the time he expected site work to begin two months later: April of last year.

Four months later, when demolition began, he said construction for the project, dubbed 7west, would start that September – with the first units ready for move-in by this spring and the $6 million project completed by now.

Today, the site at the foot of the Manchester Bridge shows minimal development, with foundations taking shape and initial construction framework beginning to go vertical.

Connell, like a number of developers in town whose projects have likewise fallen behind schedule, puts the blame for the delay squarely on Richmond City Hall – specifically its building inspections and permitting bureau, a division of the city’s planning and development review department.

Several observers maintain the delays are nothing new, with some developers budgeting time, resources and money specifically to offset anticipated delays. But with the increase in development interest and activity in the city in recent years, developers like Connell agree that the delays have gotten worse, costing them money and slowing down development in a city that some say is booming.

“It is by far the worst it has ever been to get a project developed in the city of Richmond,” said Connell, who has been developing in the city for 15 years.

“The process is undermanaged, understaffed and overwhelmed,” Connell said. “It’s a bad three-way combination that retards development in the city.”

With 7west, Connell said the length of time he has had to wait for the city to review his applications for various permits has cost him in interest payments, insurance and taxes – though he said the biggest cost has been to his reputation and missed opportunities to sell units. While eight of the 12 townhomes are under contract, Connell said the full dozen would be sold if the project was further along.

“Our homebuyers lose confidence in the project when they are not able to see it progress,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been making excuses for so long now that I’m completely embarrassed that the project is not further along than it is.”

Click here to continue reading on RichmondBizSense.