Richmond BizSense, December 17, 2020 – Mike Platania

After spending $20 million this summer for four acres of undeveloped land in downtown Richmond, CoStar Group has a deal in the works to further cement its presence along the city’s riverfront.

The commercial real estate data giant is under contract to purchase the nine-story, 310,000-square-foot office building at 501 S. 5th St., which it shares with packaging firm WestRock.

CoStar CEO Andy Florance announced the deal Tuesday during a virtual meeting with the company’s employees, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the announcement.

The sale has not yet been recorded on Richmond’s property records. However, on the same day as the meeting, the status of the building was listed as “under contract” on CoStar’s own real estate databases.

CoStar declined to comment for this story.

The building is owned by Office Properties Income Trust, a subsidiary of The RMR Group, a Massachusetts-based REIT. A predecessor of the company bought the property for $143.6 million in 2013. It was assessed by the city this year at $112.6 million.

A spokesperson for Georgia-based WestRock confirmed that it has been informed that RMR is planning to sell the building, and that the sale will not affect WestRock’s presence there.

RMR did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The deal would give CoStar control of the building and a total of seven acres along the river. In August it purchased an adjacent, undeveloped 4-acre parcel at 600 Tredegar St., upon which it is planning to develop a new office tower.

The seller in that deal was an entity to Richmond-based NewMarket Corp., a publicly traded petrochemical firm that had owned the land for decades. NewMarket also was the original developer of the WestRock/CoStar building before selling it in the 2013 deal.

The deal was the biggest Richmond has seen on a per-acre basis in recent years. CoStar has not announced or filed any plans for the site.

Since first arriving in Richmond in 2016, Washington, D.C.-based CoStar has continually grown its local presence. It now has around 1,000 employees in Richmond.

The publicly traded group has enjoyed a prosperous year despite the pandemic. The company posted a profit of $347 million in the third quarter of 2020, up from a profit of $281 million in the same period last year, per its latest earnings report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Its stock price also has been on an upswing this year, starting 2020 at $620 per share and closing Wednesday at $860.

While the company’s plans for the riverfront assemblage are unclear, it did hint last year at its desires for newer office space in the city when it said it wanted 400,000 square feet within the now-dead Navy Hill project.

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