Summit Avenue Rising

Summit Avenue’s coffee shop and its beer brewery alone, Mac Gambill half-jokes, cover two key pillars of his lifestyle these days. Lured to Scott’s Addition by its industrial-turned-mixed use properties and its hip, young professional vibe, the 27-year-old signed a lease at the Ambience Lofts in January. After graduating college in 2010, he moved to the burgeoning tech and creative hub of Chattanooga, Tenn., and took up digs in its eclectic Southside, which, like Scott’s Addition, morphed from an industrial center to a place to live, work, and play.

“And I get to watch it happen again,” says Gambill, co-founder of the Nudge health tracker iPhone app. “The area is really turning into something interesting—it’s going to be an awesome neighborhood.”

Scott’s Addition has been abuzz for years, but only last year did it begin to take flight, led by the retail and residential rise along Summit, a mini village of sorts. The activity sits at the diamond-shaped neighborhood’s eastern point, a stone’s throw from Movieland and within walking distance to Fat Dragon Chinese Kitchen, En Su Boca, and other spots along the budding North Boulevard.

In February 2013, Summit got a coffee shop when Lamplighter Roasting Co. moved into 1719, its second location (it now has three). In September, chia seed bar company Health Warrior took street-front retail space in 1707, the Summit Corporate Center, which for years has housed production group Studio Center and was once home to Style Weekly. In October, Isley Brewing Co. turned on its taps at 1715. And this year, Urban Farmhouse will enter the end of the block when it opens its fourth location at 3031 Norfolk Street in the form of a restaurant and market.

Yet Summit’s retail rise stems back to the summer of 2010, when Craig Dodson moved his cycling enterprise to 1717 Summit. “It just felt good—you got a sense that there was a revolution going on in Scott’s Addition,” says Dodson, the company’s founder. With two others, he opened Richmond Bicycle Studio, a cycling shop that funnels funds to its Richmond Cycle Corp., which offers youth cycling programs to low-income neighborhoods. “Summit Avenue is kind of the anchor of what’s happening in Scott’s Addition. The reason it’s super hip and cool is it’s a bit more off the beaten path—it’s almost like a speakeasy for those in the know and that just kind of helps with your street cred. It’s definitely like no other.”

There are pockets of historic residential and commercial development throughout the industrial Scott’s Addition, yet none more so than Summit. “It’s the one piece of Scott’s Addition that has developed faster than the others,” says Brooks Stone, president of the Scott’s Addition Business Association. He lives in the 3100 block of West Moore Street, a block from Summit’s core. Summit has had lofts and condos for some time, but “it is kind of unique in the fact that it is, for me, changed to what I would consider ‘creative mixed-use’ as opposed to just residential. I frequent Lamplighter, and when I’m there it seems to be a mix of residents and … it seems to draw a lot of attention from outside the neighborhood.”

Birck Turnbull, a partner in High Summit Holdings, which owns five properties in Scott’s Addition and three on Summit, calls the street “the nucleus of rehab” in the area. “Business begets business,” says Turnbull, “and I think certainly Lamplighter has a following of young entrepreneurial types who live in the city and that has brought some awareness to the area.”

Mike Isley opened his namesake brewery in October, fit snugly between Health Warrior and Richmond Bicycle Studio. “When I came up with the idea for a brewery, in looking for zoning, I knew the guidelines at that point that I had to follow and I knew I was limited,” explains Isley, referring to the need for breweries to locate in industrial zones. “I was looking for the least bit of industrial that I could find.”

He’d had his eye on the area and was originally told it would never happen in Scott’s Addition. Turnbull’s company helped him through city regulations to get the doors open on the brewery. “I just felt like it’d be a fabulous place to be. With the mix of residential, it’s the best of both worlds,” Isley says.

Parking is a concern in the neighborhood, as residential spaces require it. Across the street from the Summit Corporate Center at 1707, developer H. Louis Salomonsky is converting 1700 into 41 apartments, all of which will have interior parking spaces in the middle of the complex.

There is much more to come for Summit and its neighboring streets. In addition to 1700, Salomonsky is developing the caddy-corner 3031 Norfolk Street, which will contain 90 apartments and 5,200 square feet of retail space, part of which has been taken by Urban Farmhouse. All told, about 1,000 new living spaces are coming online in and around the Scott’s Addition vicinity over the next year.

Craig Dodson moved Richmond Cycle Corp. to Summit Avenue in Scott’s Addition in 2010.

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Jeff has been a business reporter, account manager, and more recently served as director of marketing for a biotech company. He is the principal of Kelley Communications, a public relations and content strategy firm. His work has been honored by Richmond Magazine, the Virginia Press Association, and the Richmond Ad Club.