Correction: The address of the new office was incorrect in a previous version of this story. The address has been corrected.
Just in time for this fall’s election, the municipal office responsible for voter registration in Richmond has secured a new home base that will bring all of its operations under one roof.
The city’s registrar general’s office moves from city hall and settles into its new digs at 2134 W. Laburnum Ave., where it signed a 10-year lease for 38,400 square feet of office space and storage, as well as a car park with approximately 225 spaces.
The office initially occupies 31,000 square feet of the building, which is located at the west end of Laburnum Avenue, between Acca Yard and the Bryan Park interchange. It will occupy the rest of the space on January 1, 2022, when communications company Windstream plans to vacate the first floor space it currently occupies.
Richmond City Council approved the move in April and office staff began moving into the building in June. A smooth opening is scheduled before Labor Day, with the office until then dividing operations between the building and City Hall 105 room to maintain social distancing guidelines, City Clerk J said. Kirk Showalter.
Showalter said the city has been looking for space for the past five years that could consolidate the office’s operations, which are currently split between its city hall space and a 6,000-square-foot bonded warehouse that it leases at 2910 W. Moore St. to Scott’s Addition. , next to the Moore Street Café. She said the new space would increase the office’s storage capacity to 10,000 square feet.
While bringing everything under one roof, she said the Laburnum space also offers ample parking for in-person early voting, which, along with postal voting, is expected to increase significantly with this year’s presidential election following the adoption by the General Assembly of the so-called “no excuse” early voting rules which came into effect on July 1.
Showalter, who has served as the city’s registrar since 1995, said her staff had outgrown the space at City Hall, which she said totaled around 3,000 square feet. With this year’s elections, the number of office workers is expected to grow from a typical 11 employees to more than 85 with additional support given for postal voting and the presidential election.
“We wouldn’t have had the space for an early vote otherwise, nor the parking lot,” Showalter said. “It will really give voters a better voting experience.
“We are in the current space in which we have been at City Hall since the 1970s, and the number of voters we have doubled since then,” she said. “More voters means more staff needed to process applications and keep up with paperwork, and we were just sitting on top of each other to get the job done.”
10 year lease
The office is leasing its new space from DAR Enterprises LLC, a Michigan-based entity that purchased the two-story building in 1998 for $ 1.75 million, according to city property records. Built in 1976, the building sits on a nearly 5-acre parcel that the city recently valued at $ 3.95 million.
Colliers agents Peter Vick, Harrison Hall and Will Bradley represented DAR in lease negotiations with the city.
Under the lease, the city will pay nearly $ 449,000 per year for the initial space of 31,000 square feet, and the rent will increase to $ 672,000 per year for the entire 38,400 square feet. The first three months of rent will be reduced and then increase by 2% per year, according to a description of the lease provided to city council.
The city also expects to pay $ 57,600 per year for janitorial services and $ 46,000 per year for the operation and maintenance of an on-site emergency generator. A one-time cost of $ 300,000 is budgeted this exercise for public awareness to inform voters of the move, complete the move, security improvements and other costs.
Showalter said the city is launching requests for qualifications for companies that can help with the move, much of which it says was done by staff. She said they budgeted $ 50,000 for the move, but expect to save around $ 40,000 because the building is largely furnished.
Showalter said the search included locations as far as Southside and less developed parts of Scott’s Addition. She said the Laburnum building was the first they found that met all of their space needs, was easily accessible, had ample parking and was located in a populated area near a bus route. She said they were in talks with GRTC to potentially extend the nearby line with a closer bus stop.
“This building met all of these criteria very well,” she said.