Dovetail construction retreats from rehabilitated wagon barn in Northside

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Julie and Paul Weissend in the old cart barn which they have transformed into an office for their company Dovetail Construction, which is moving. (Jonathan Spiers pictures)

After turning a piece of Northside into their own version of Oz, Julie and Paul Weissend seek to hand over the keys to their industrial building transformed into an office aptly dubbed The Emerald Barn.

The wife and husband who owned Dovetail Construction Co., which was based in the old forklift repair shed they converted to a corporate headquarters ten years ago, this week listed the building at 1620 Brook Road at the rental after completing an addition that has doubled its usable square footage.

Now totaling nearly 12,000 square feet of rental space, the building – the first in the United States to be LEED Platinum certified and net zero energy certified and listed on the National Register of Historic Places – is offered for lease as the Weissends are shifting their business from primarily high-end residential construction to development projects like this one.

“We are personally in the process of pivoting and we wanted to see things develop further. It’s kind of our first experience, ”said Julie. “We have decided to withdraw from the general contractor. It’s been 33 years, and we just wanted to do more strategy – design and planning.

As the only employees of the company, the Weissends are moving Dovetail offices out of the building, likely to their home on Monument Avenue, Weissend said. At one point totaling 30 employees, the company now uses subcontractors as needed.

The structure of Brook Road dates back to 1907 and was originally used to repair electric wagons.

“It depends on us and the submarines we have worked with for 30 years. So from an employee perspective, we don’t need a big office anymore, ”she said.

The Weissends will continue to own the property, which they bought in 2005 for $ 250,000 and rehabilitated in 2010. With the addition that was completed over the past year, Paul said they had invested around 3 million dollars in property.

Built in 1907, the structure originally served as a repair barn for electric wagons. The tracks that brought the cars from one side to the other are visible in the concrete floor of the building, and a still operational gantry hangs from the ceiling.

The only original part of the building is its riveted steel frame, which accentuates the interior and helps dampen sound in larger spaces in the building, Julie said.

“It was state of the art at the time. It was partially prefabricated, ”she said. “He carved in some places on the ‘Carnegie 1903’ frame, so they planned it out and did some riveting before sending it in, and then they made other components in place. For 1907, it was pretty amazing.

The main space of the building consists of a gantry crane and railway tracks which are visible in the ground.

Later used to repair tractor-trailers, the building was in disrepair when Julie spotted it as she searched for a location for their business after working at their then home in the West End.

A fan of “The Wizard of Oz,” Julie said she was drawn to the property in part for its view of the city skyline, which to her resembled the Emerald City.

“We love ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and to me the city in the distance looks like Oz,” she said. “And we want to be inspiring and to be inspired ourselves, and we want to come to a nice place to work.”

Weissend added, “It was kind of a joke. The entity that owns it is Yellow Brook Road, ”referring to the LLC they used to purchase the property. “And in the film, it’s a bit monochrome on the outside, and on the inside we did Technicolor. It just continued from there. We literally have a yellow brick driveway.

A “yellow brick road” sidewalk leads to the building. The foundry apartments are visible next to it.

Working with Walter Parks Architects and engineering firm CMTA, the couple designed the interior of the building to look like something above the rainbow, with accented walls and railings bright colors that contrast with the gray walls and floor of the building.

Highlighting its role in Richmond’s history as the birthplace of the nation’s first city-wide electric streetcar system, the Weissends successfully requested that the Wagon Barn be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

This allowed them to use tax credits for historic preservation, which in turn, Weissend said, subsidized the costs of achieving LEED Platinum status – the highest certification of leadership in energy design and environmental award from the US Green Building Council.

“Then Paul said it would be so cool to net zero,” she said, referring to the energy standard achieved by canceling greenhouse gas emissions. “It turned out to be the first building in the United States to be these three things: LEED Platinum, on the National Registry, and net zero.”

With the addition, which they anticipated before COVID, features of the pandemic era such as touchless faucets and an air filtration system have been incorporated into the space, which Weissend says makes up about a third. the size of the original building but doubles its place. footage with a mezzanine upstairs taken into account.

The mezzanine of the addition adds to the rentable area of ​​the building.

She said the addition was prompted by plans for The Foundry apartment buildings under construction next door and the loss of sight to the west of their property. With skylights providing natural light above the head, the window locations were oriented to draw the occupants’ attention inward, she said.

“Knowing that the apartments were coming, we wanted to go out front and then control the view and make sure you were looking at the cool and fun part that we created, rather than in someone’s apartment window,” said Weissend.

Among the new buildings, she added: “I am satisfied with the energy and the diversity. Mixed use is totally the way to go, and there’s no desktop like this. This therefore helps to supplement the available spectrum.

The entire building has two kitchens, various meeting rooms and work spaces, as well as a bicycle storage room. Two patios and green spaces fill the rest of the 1.1-acre property, which features freestanding solar panels and a new 32-space parking lot. A metal fence along Brook Road was needed and was added as well, Paul said.

Depending on usage, the Weissends expect to rent the space for about $ 22 to $ 25 per square foot. Although they described this range as high for the neighborhood, they said it was justified given the quality of the building and the amount of investment and development activity seen in the neighborhood in recent times.

A view from the second floor of the main building space with the addition to the left.

Recognizing that they were at the forefront of such an investment, Paul said, “It has been really great to see the neighborhood change. We really wanted to improve the neighborhood as part of what we were doing.

As for the next step for Dovetail, Julie said she wouldn’t say no to another industrial rehab, perhaps to a company office down the line. As it moved towards real estate development, the company’s residential work over the years has included a restoration with Mako Builders of the 1920s Tudor Revival mansion at 5103 Cary Street Road, as well as their own home at 2710 Monument Ave.

“I would like to do it again. I’m still looking, ”she said of the company’s move towards real estate development. “I haven’t been to the Southside much, and all over the Manchester area there are some interesting old buildings out there where we could potentially do a similar thing.”

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