2020 Vision: Setting our Sites

As our Richmond office prepares for a big 2020 move, we’re sharing the details on our process and our progress. Previous installations in our 2020 Vision series can be found here.

Location, location, location. The old real estate adage is as true today as it’s ever been, and the most critical aspect of our 2020 move. While we knew our team’s deep love of Richmond meant retaining a downtown-area home was likely, hearing the voices of our many team members clarified – and unified – many of the decisions that lie ahead.

While the team weighed in on numerous considerations for the new space, three big items were obvious priorities: walkability, parking, and outdoor space. Our team craved the convenience and flexibility of downtown’s walkability but realistically needed access to parking. And getting outside – either for a lunchtime walk or for fresh air and inspiration throughout the day – was a big must-have.

Knowing there were likely a variety of options that fit those three major criteria, we set about finding them. We engaged a local broker in our search and put out an RFP to assess every available space in Richmond City proper. The response totaled a little more than ten sites that met our desired square footage and selection criteria and included a few city-adjacent hot spots. The opportunities were vast; greenfield sites with new build potential, historic buildings (including some Baskervill originals circa 1900!), and downtown office towers were all in the mix. They offered us interesting options, and, in many cases, totally unique opportunities.

The iconic Haxall Point Power Plant, the historic Armitage Building, a new build along the James River in Rocketts Landing – all available. And our team toured every last one, inspired by the sheer opportunity each distinct site presented. But when all the pro and con lists were tallied, the spaces were analyzed for fit, and the number crunching began, three major contenders emerged: The Davenport Building on S. 10th Street, a new build with city views, and our new home, the James Center.

While a new build – with all its customization potential and skyline views – was compelling, it was the two existing buildings (which happen to be across the street from one another) that really interested us. Why? We believe in the power of reimagining and reinventing aging buildings for the future. Not only from a sustainability perspective but from a community one as well. Our urban centers thrive with the reinvestment and continual commitment of local businesses, and we want to remain engaged as active participants in the vitality of Richmond’s downtown.

Ultimately, the James Center’s downtown vibe, parking and amenities, available spaces, and lease terms were hard to beat. The fact that we were already working with the building owners, Riverstone Properties, on repositioning the atrium and public spaces was a unique bonus. Additionally, the office complex has long been a hallmark property in Richmond’s Central Business District and we loved the idea of being a part of its reinvention. While we knew we needed a big footprint to accommodate our growing team for heads-down tasks, collaborative work, and creative ideation, what we didn’t expect was to find the perfect solution in two distinct spaces.

That’s right: Baskervill’s new home will be spread over two floors in James Center Two and James Center Three, allowing ample space for individual tasks, teamwork, client meetings and presentations, and creative collisions. The larger, second-floor space of James Center Two will be host to the majority of the firm’s operations, including workstations, “meet, greet, and eat” spaces, and much more. The other space? Well, that’s where it gets interesting. The second space is the former ground-level Wells Fargo storefront of James Center Three that looks out onto the James Center Plaza and to Cary Street beyond. It’s an atypical choice for office space, but that’s exactly the point.

James Center spacesThe layout creates a truly distinctive arrival experience for visitors and clients, while providing quiet zones, meeting areas – not only for our teams but for community organizations as well – and maker space for model building, 3D printing, and much more. A massive 11-foot by 17-foot screen will bring design to life, giving passersby an intimate inside look at the process of design – truly putting design on display. This retail-style approach may not be typical, but that’s exactly what we love about it.

As we head into the new year, and begin our move preparations in earnest, we’ll be sharing the design details and big, bold ideas we’re translating for Baskervill’s new James Center home. With construction in our new space underway, we’re eager to see years of planning come to life in this space. After all, it’s all about location, and we can’t wait to call this one ours.

With the countdown to our big move on, we’re digging into how we translated the big ideas into the floorplans and design decisions taking shape today. By treating ourselves like a client (likely — as designers designing for other designers — the toughest client we’ll ever have), we’ll get up close and personal with our own process, sharing the lessons we’ve learned along the way.