The large murals and new paint colors that adorn a cluster of buildings along a stretch of Westwood Avenue are signaling a new arrival to the neighborhood, as well as the commercial corridor’s continuing revival.
Commuters traveling the corridor from West Broad Street are now greeted with a mural of a toolbelt-wearing, saw-wielding construction worker, as well as a more mysterious image on the side of the 1960s-era Malvern Building, where real estate firm Cava Cos. has made its new home.
The company, led by Frank Cava, is putting the finishing touches on a yearlong rehab of that building at 2405 Westwood Ave., and three other commercial buildings it purchased last year as its first foray into commercial development.
“We’re giving them back some luster,” Cava said. “Some folks had brought up the idea to us to change the names of them, but these are historic buildings. It’s time to bring them back to life.”
Known for rehabbing and selling primarily residential dwellings, the 15-year-old company applied its approach to the group of half-century-old buildings, including The Westwood Building a few doors down and the building at 2323 Westwood Ave. that’s home to Westwood Music Club. A pair of buildings between those and The Malvern Building are not part of Cava’s assemblage.
“At our core, we take old real estate, kind of forgotten about, and we breathe life into it. We’ve done it to thousands of houses in town at this point, and our goal was to breathe life into this, not knock it over and turn them into apartments,” Cava said. “We want to breathe life into what’s here and fit the façade but make it a little bit better.”
Providing some of the oxygen were local artists Nils Westergard and Eli McMullen, who Cava enlisted on the Malvern mural, which features a self-portrait of McMullen. The image shows him looking at a light in the palm of his hand that aligns with a spiraling light feature in the building’s staircase that’s visible in the window above.
Westergard also painted the toolbelt mural, which Cava said is a reference to his company’s line of work.
“I reached out to Nils pretty early and said I want to do something that shows this whole area’s awakening,” Cava said. “This is a really cool part of town. It’s convenient, up-and-coming.”
Cava said the company spent more than $1 million on the rehabs, which go beyond the building facelifts. Interiors were upgraded and updated with new lighting, paint and renovated bathrooms.
Cava Cos. now fills the top floor of The Malvern Building, with a 500-square-foot lower-floor space for its property management arm adding to a total space of 3,300 square feet. The rest of the lower floor houses a variety of office tenants, and the basement is being converted into co-working spaces that can be leased.
The Westwood Building, a 22,000-square-foot building that includes an adjoining 6,000-square-foot structure, also has space available for lease. Cava said interior upfits for that building would depend on who rents it. CBRE’s Matt Hamilton, who represented Cava in its $1.7 million purchase of the buildings, is handling leasing.
The renovations were financed through First Community Bank and designed by local architect Forest Frazier with Two Street Studio.
As was the case with previous tenants in The Malvern Building, Cava is honoring the lease of Westwood Music Club, which has a couple years left on its lease with an option for a five-year extension.
The Malvern Building space provides more room for Cava Cos., which has grown to 50 employees. It was previously based at the Enterprise Center, the flying saucer-looking building near Willow Lawn, where it filled 2,300 square feet.
The company had been eyeing a move to Scott’s Addition, announcing a move to 1806 Summit Ave. before Cava said he changed his mind. Along Westwood, the company joins the likes of TopGolf and Carvana, whose arrivals in recent years have accelerated the corridor’s transformation.
“I believe that Carvana and TopGolf have better demographic studies than I do, and they’re both here. So, we’re pretty bullish on the area. Those are pretty good draws,” he said.
Founded in 2007 and based in Richmond since 2014, Cava Cos. manages more than 400 properties across metro Richmond. Cava said it brought in more than $10 million in sales revenue last year and is on track to close out 2022 near $20 million.
The company is also continuing its “100 Affordable” initiative, which it launched late last year with the goal of adding more than 100 so-called build-to-rent homes over the course of 18 months, to increase the area’s long-term rental housing stock. Cava said they’ve reached the midway point of their goal with about 50 homes completed so far.