NoVa architecture firm makes move into Richmond

Dwell Design Studio opened this month in Scott’s Addition. (Photos courtesy of Dwell Design Studio)

A sizable Northern Virginia-based architecture firm has planted its flag in Richmond.

Dwell Design Studio opened this month in Scott’s Addition, where it has taken over the anchor space of the Summit Suites building at 3122 W. Marshall St.

Leading Dwell’s move into the market is Shawn Glerum, a Virginia Tech grad who was recruited over from competitor Odell.

Since joining Dwell’s ranks in June, Glerum said he’s grown the firm’s local headcount to 10, a brisk pace he attributes to the region’s architectural talent pool.

Glerum said Dwell started in 2009 with offices in the Washington, D.C. area and Atlanta, and has since been filling in with offices in markets in between including Charlotte.

Shawn Glerum

“It seemed like a logical extension to reach down to Richmond,” Glerum said. “We have a lot of clients in Richmond and a lot of clients interested in Richmond and the vibe of it.”

Dwell has 261 people in seven locations, which also include Orlando, Dallas and Salt Lake City.

Glerum said the firm focuses mainly on mixed-use and multifamily projects, along with student housing and assisted living developments.

He wouldn’t comment on specific projects it has in the works in the Richmond area, but said it has interest in Henrico as well as in the city in Scott’s Addition and Manchester.

For its first Richmond office, Dwell chose the 8,000-square-foot second floor anchor space at Summit Suites, which until recently had been occupied by IT firm Shockoe.

“We just wanted to be where there’s a lot of activity in a walkable neighborhood. This space just really fits our vibe,” he said of the new space.

With plenty of room to work with, Glerum said Dwell obviously still believes in having an office space for its employees, although it does allow for a mix of home and in-office time.

“We’re hybrid but we do like to get together. Culture is a big thing and you can make it work over virtual meetings but there’s just a sense of camaraderie when everybody is sitting in the same space,” he said. “And we like a place for clients to come to see our work and get a sense of who we are. You can’t do that virtually.”

Dwell’s new Richmond landlord at Summit Suites concurs with that sentiment.

The 16,000-square-foot building is owned by 1850 Investments, led by Yogi Singh, Stewart Garland and Pushkal Basavaraj.

The firm has taken over the anchor space of the Summit Suites building at 3122 W. Marshall St.

They redeveloped the building in 2018 into modernized office space and quickly filled it. It was hit with two recent departures but quickly refilled the suites with Dwell and another recent arrival, logistics company Worldwide Express.

“We had zero down time in that building and were able to re-lease all that second generation space,” Singh said.

Yogi Singh

While Singh’s group has focused its more recent investments on cold storage properties and RV parks, he said office spaces of less than 10,000 square feet are holding up well despite work-from-home trends in the broader market.

“We’re very bullish on the Scott’s Addition office market and creative, flexible, smaller floor plates,” he said.

The firm also owns the nearby Clay Suites, a similar 14,000-square-foot space at 3117 W. Clay St. that has also had good luck in backfilling for departing tenants. Thalhimer’s Amy Broderick and Kate Hosko handle leasing on 1850’s office properties.

Singh said the office market generally may be in flux and there will be some pain for spaces of a certain size, but human habits die hard.

“There are going to be some unfortunate victims of the change and shift in mentality toward office. It will survive, it’s just not going to be like it was in 2019,” he said. “More companies, even ours, are realizing you need space to meet, collaborate, mentor, learn and sharpen skills.”

Singh added, “I think people are looking at their needs. They may not need every single square foot they had, but it’s going to be important to maintain a presence in the markets that matter.”