• Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

Three-Part Scott’s Addition: Life – Well, Scott’s Addition – Is a Beach (Guest Comment)

ByRandall B. Phelps

Jul 15, 2022

The Summit is a six-story apartment building in Scott’s Addition. (BizSense File Photos)

Editor’s note: This is the third of three episodes on the development of Scott’s Addition. The first part traced the history of the first years of the district. Part two looked at some of the oldest remaining buildings in the neighborhood. This last chapter is a review of the new buildings in the district.

Recently, a friend referred to a mutual acquaintance as “Yimby”, an acronym for “yes, in my garden”. Apparently, the yimbies strongly advocate pumping up residential construction in response to the lack of affordable housing. I understand. Rental prices for apartments and homes in Richmond and across the country have risen and inventory is low. But yimbies, I’m told, don’t sweat rental fees and house costs, or demand high architectural and construction standards. Nor are they overly concerned with aesthetic considerations such as context and historical preservation. It’s build baby, build.

This conversation came to mind last month as I strolled the winding dirt roads and concrete sidewalks of Scott’s Addition to check out the appeal of some of the new apartment complexes in this neighborhood. Residential construction has proceeded at a rapid pace since the neighborhood’s architectural bedrock – solid, mostly red-brick warehouses and factories – were adapted for apartments and commercial uses; work funded, in part, by historic preservation tax credits.

As I walked along West Broad and West Marshall streets and the cross streets that connect them, one thing became clear: the architectural mix of Scott’s Addition is a not unpleasant mix of old and new, big and small, serious and funky. But the overall feel of the Addition, with its injection of bright new buildings, beer halls and amusement arcades, is that of a seaside resort – a place where modest cottages and commercial buildings Depression-era hotels survive like carbuncles as new mid-size hotels inject minimal ersatz glamour. Replace new apartments near the intersection of West Broad and Summit Avenues with modern hotels and it just might be in Virginia Beach at Atlantic Avenue and 32nd Street.

The Summit in Scott’s Addition, a six-story building (with pool), occupies the south side of the 3000 block facing West Broad. The mass of the facade facing the street is punctuated by recesses that incorporate modestly sized balconies. There are no beach towels hanging from the railings, but Summit’s signage and purple neon lighting suggest a massive mosquito zapper. And that may be overkill, but is this sign a homage to the vintage Triple Triangle sign that hangs at the Don’t Look Back-Triple restaurant at 3306 W. Broad? The Summit’s relentless ground-floor facade along the Broad is broken by an injection of retail activity, the Cabo Fish Taco restaurant. NGM Summit building market opens on Summit. But the building’s austere novelty is tempered by its next-door neighbors, the Brunch, Jr., and Supper restaurants. These low-slung restaurants with outdoor dining areas are simply seaside with their sleek, elongated red and black canvas canopy that runs parallel to Summit Avenue.

The Nest Apartments at 3113 W. Marshall St.

Across the street and up towards the neighborhood ABC store are The Nest apartments. At 3113 W. Marshall St., it’s more subdued and chaste than the Summit, but both were designed by Walter Parks Architects. The Nest, clad in beige panels, is an attractive, tightly configured U-shaped building with no decorative frills. Its balconies are economically contained within the dimensions of the structure itself. There is parking in the building and a branch of the Bank of the Village occupies the ground floor.

Further west at 3200 W. Broad is The Icon, an apartment complex still under construction. This $62 million development and redevelopment was designed by SWA Architects of Richmond. The heart of the complex, which occupies the entire block bounded by West Broad, MacTavish, Highpoint and Marshall streets, was the former Quality Inn & Suites, a six-story hotel. He couldn’t claim George Washington had slept there, but promotional material for The Icon boasts that pop artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and his entourage were guests on infrequent visits to Richmond. Their destination was the nearby Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for activities and events related to contemporary art collectors from Richmond, Sydney and Frances Lewis.

The Icon at 3200 W. Broad is under construction.

It may have been Warhol, a cultural icon of the 1980s, who inspired the mess of 1980s architectural elements that are injected into the Icon’s exterior. The old hotel has been converted into apartments and its exterior painted a yellowish-yellow hue. Five single-storey rectangular boxes of black and greenish tinted glass were lined up along Broad Street. They appear dark Vader-sinister at all hours of the day and night and one wonders what nefarious activities may be going on within them. In contrast to these minimalist, crystalline formations is a second adjacent apartment building, the Icon Tower. At 12 stories, it is the tallest building in Scott’s Addition. This building has classical aspirations and the architectural elements include a rustic base, a well and a demarcated roofline. Capping the building on three sides are very 1970s and 1980s exclamation marks – broken pediments. The nearby tower and parking lot, with similar pediments on the roofline, may be Richmond’s first neo-postmodern buildings.

The old Perch Restaurant at 2918 W. Broad.

A gem of a contemporary building along this stretch that is now empty (victim of COVID) is the former Perch restaurant at 2918 W. Broad. Built in 2018 on the site of the former Joy Garden Restaurant, the exquisitely detailed restaurant was designed by Johannas Design Group. Its two-story entrance is elegant.

But nothing in the sky along this stretch of Scott’s Addition can rival the WTVR Broadcast Tower, a technological marvel that was built in 1953. At a towering 843 feet, the tower is almost twice as tall as the city’s next tallest structure, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Monroe Building on 14th Street at 449 feet tall. It seems to be going nowhere.