Lone landlords stand firm amid main Manchester site

Lacey Cooke and Erik Colley bought 1006 McDonough last spring, unaware that everything around it would soon go on sale.

When TForce Freight’s local headquarters hits the market as planned next month, it will offer four contiguous blocks in Manchester, one of Richmond’s hottest areas for new development.

The campus at 1000 Semmes Ave., 1100 McDonough St., 1100 Semmes Ave. and 1001 Perry St. covers seven acres in a part of town where land lately sells for over $2 million per acre.

But there is a catch: whoever wins the right to transform the site will have to bypass Erik Colley and Lacey Cooke.

This is because, right in the middle of this value assemblage, there is a part of a property that is not for sale.

It’s the 1,200-square-foot home at 1006 McDonough St. that Colley and Cooke bought in April. And they are in no rush to sell it.

“At first glance, we were like, ‘This little house is on an entire city block all to itself, and this transportation company owns every parcel on this block but this one,'” Colley said. “And we were there with this opportunity to buy this house right in the middle of these four blocks.”

The house, outlined in blue, is right in the middle of the TForce assembly in red.

What now houses TForce HQ was reconstructed by Harwood Cochrane, the founder of Overnite Transportation. The Cochrane freight forwarding empire called the site home, before selling the business and property to UPS in 2005. UPS continued to operate there, using the site’s two office buildings and parking lots , until he sold the business to parent company TForce in 2021. That deal also included real estate.

But none of those three companies ever acquired the 83-year-old cottage on McDonough St.

Sitting across from TForce’s 226,000 square foot office that he is about to leavethe McDonough home came on the market last spring and caught the eye of Colley and Cooke, who are a couple and work as real estate agents at ERA Woody Hogg & Associates.

They have a portfolio of around a dozen rental units and saw the Manchester Cottage as a potential renovation project in a growing area.

“There’s nothing quite like it in Manchester when it comes to a single family home with nothing but an empty block around it,” Cooke said.

Lacey Cooke and Erik Colley.

They made a cash offer and closed the house in April for $258,000 and invested about $100,000 in renovations.

Before their closing date, Cooke and Colley said they were worried TForce would step in and make a more competitive bid, but that never happened.

“It was like, ‘What’s going on? Who made a mistake?’” Cooke said with a laugh.

“We were like, ‘Let’s hurry up and shut this thing down.’ That’s why we paid cash for it,” Colley said. “We wanted to get it back as quickly as possible.”

They now advertise it on Airbnb, and when there are no short-term tenants, they use the house as a way to enjoy the Southside with their friends.

“I planted my feet in Church Hill but we love the area and obviously there’s so much development at play in Manchester,” Colley said. “We absolutely love going there, taking friends there and enjoying this part of town.”

Colley and Cooke finished renovating the house in the fall and were on vacation in Florida when they learned that TForce was planning to vacate its headquarters and put its entire property up for sale.

“We’re on the beach, I have a margarita in my hand, and my phone rings and it’s a commercial realtor representing TForce,” Cooke said.

Colley said he knew it would probably happen eventually, but the timing was surprising.

“We didn’t know if this (would go on sale) tomorrow or 20 years from now,” Colley said. “When it does sell, we really hope it’s a responsible buyer who comes along and makes Manchester what it can be. These four grounds together have so much potential, it’s ridiculous.

Colley said they gutted about 80% of the house, including the kitchen.

A Thalhimer marketing flyer for the property obtained by BizSense describes TForce listings as “almost” four blocks and the largest contiguous office space available in the Richmond market. He says that in the spring, TForce plans to rezone the land to allow for greater density and a mix of uses on the property.

Brian Berkey, Karla Knight, Eric Robison and Drew Wiltshire of Thalhimer are the listed agents, according to the flyer. TFI International, the parent company of TForce, did not respond to requests for comment before press time.

The flyer says the list will go live this month.

Colley and Cooke, on the other hand, are content with their little cottage, in particular because they have just renovated it. But they are not naive.

“We obviously realize what we’re sitting on, it’s no secret,” Colley said. “But (selling him) is not in our forecast. We sit back and appreciate it for what it is.

When asked what they would do if the right offer came along, Cooke replied, “I mean everything is for sale, right?”

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