Actor Wendell Pierce, known for his role in The Wire, and his real estate partners are planning to develop 400 housing units and 70,000 square feet of retail business space in downtown Richmond.
Amanda Elliott, executive director of Richmond Main Street Initiative (RMSI), who’s working with Pierce on the investment, expects “thousands more people” to move to downtown in the next two years. “We want this to be the type of project that will be a model for all of the Bay Area in terms of development,” she said.
The main project will be built on two blocks of Macdonald Avenue, between 11th and 13th streets, which will provide 60,000 square feet for retail.
Plans also include 400 units of housing, with both market and affordable rates, according to Elliott, who said that the housing-retail project is expected to break ground with construction in 2019 and finish by 2020.
They also plan to build a co-working space on Macdonald Avenue and 15th Street, current site of a retail space underneath the BART garage. This existing, raw 10,000-square-feet space will be developed into a co-working business incubator, coffee shop and another food-related business by 2018, Elliott said.
She pointed out that the co-working space, CoBiz, will be used by Richmond residents as well as others from neighboring communities seeking a temporary space to work. It will also have anchor tenants, offer membership plans and serve as a community gathering space.
“The idea is to activate Macdonald Avenue,” Elliott said.
Elliott didn’t estimate how many new jobs this project would offer Richmond residents, but she said there will be opportunities for construction work and “a number of jobs connected to all of these new businesses that will open.”
Pierce is working with multiple organizations on the project. His real estate partnership, Ernst Valery Investments Corp., had successfully invested in several real estate projects in Washington, D.C.. and Baltimore, Maryland.
The decision to invest in downtown Richmond was announced by Pierce in late August on Twitter, where he called Richmond “an East Bay jewel.”
EVI is responsible for design and construction, and Elliott said they are currently in final stages of approval with the city to purchase all of the land, which will happen in the next couple of months.
RMSI would later bring in communities and small businesses to discuss the needs of local residents to “help existing business to stay and grow, and make sure the incoming progress will support local residents and stakeholders,” she said.
Elliott believed one of reasons that Pierce chose to invest in Richmond is because “they want to serve communities that have been under served.”