The pandemic taught Richmond-based technology firm Mobelux something about office space: It didn’t need it anymore.
Mobelux, a software company that designs and develops computer platforms, websites, mobile apps and brands for clients, has decided to sell its 13,600-square-foot headquarters building on West Broad Street near Virginia Commonwealth University’s academic campus.
The building — the former historic Saunders Station post office at 1635 W. Broad St., across from the Lowe’s home improvement store — underwent a major renovation when it was turned into Mobelux’s new home in late 2016.
But COVID-19 forced the company, like many businesses, to adapt.
“COVID pushed everybody to work remotely, and it gave us a really good solid year of data to analyze and see what how people responded to that,” said Garrett Ross, who co-founded the company with Jeff Rock in 2008.
The co-owners started rethinking its office needs while hearing from employees who wanted to continue working from home.
“A year and a half later into COVID and we have learned a lot. We learned to trade coffee breaks with employees to breaks with our kids and pets. We learned that the commute to work was actually a fairly big chunk of time,” Ross said.
“We learned that digital tools for communication have gotten good. I mean really good. We learned that getting in front of a camera isn’t that bad,” he said. “In short, we learned that we were more productive not only with our projects but in life by staying at home. In many ways life got better.”
The co-owners decided that Mobelux didn’t need that big of a space.
In fact, it didn’t need any office space.
The building went on the market in late July. The asking price is $5.175 million, according to the marketing flyer by commercial real estate brokerage 7 Hills Advisors, which is representing the owners.
Mobelux, through its Torq Holdings LLC entity, acquired the building in October 2015 for $812,000 from the U.S. Postal Service. The property is assessed for $2.413 million, according to the city’s online real estate records. (For comparison, the half-acre property at the northwest corner of Broad and Lombardy streets partially in front of the Lowe’s store — where a former gas station had been and now a 12-story residential tower is under construction — sold for $2.9 million in October 2020.)
“We have a few parties that are seriously interested. Hopefully we will know something in the next couple of weeks,” Ross said. “I am personally sad to sell the post office. That place is special, but in order for Mobelux to become a better company, it is time to shed that skin and jump into the next era.”
For instance, Mobelux hired an employee who lives in Arizona — the first person to work for the company who lives and works outside Virginia. Having a fully remote workforce allows Mobelux to broaden its talent pool across the country, Ross said.
The company now employs about 22 people, he said, down from about 35 workers when it moved into the building. Mobelux went through a “little bit of downsizing” before COVID, he said, but recently has been adding employees.
The deteriorating building underwent extensive renovations before Mobelux moved in, aiming to maintain the original character of the building, which opened in 1937 as a post office.
For instance, the post office boxes are part of a lighted display. The postmaster’s office, adjacent to the lobby, is now a conference room.
The lobby area also is home to a re-creation of a planned mural by acclaimed Powhatan County artist Julien Binford that never came to fruition. The mural on the wall is a re-creation of Binford’s original sketch, which depicted the burning of Richmond near the end of the Civil War.
In 2017, the building received a Golden Hammer award for being the best adaptive reuse for large projects. The Golden Hammer awards recognize efforts in historic preservation, blight reduction and neighborhood revitalization in the Richmond region.