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Carytown Place is a step closer to reality

Al Harris February 8, 2011 9

Developers seeking to transform an office building on the edge of Carytown into a retail center cleared a major hurdle Monday as the planning commission voted in favor of their plan.

The proposal to convert the Verizon office building on Nansemond Street into a retail center called Carytown Place has generated a fervor over the past several months among residents, the developers and neighboring businesses. Both opponents and supports formed websites and organized campaigns to sway the undecided.

The developer, Baltimore-based Maryland Financial Realty, was thought to be in talks with Whole Foods as the anchor tenant of the project.

At Monday’s meeting, the developer’s attorney, Andy Condlin of Williams Mullen, revealed that the proposed tenant is actually Fresh Market. That North Carolina grocer also has stores on Huguenot Road in Chesterfield County and Parham Road in Henrico County.

Condlin said the developers changed several parts of their special use permit in light of concerns expressed by neighbors, including a limit that any one tenant cannot occupy more than 25,000 square feet of the proposed 45,000-square-foot finished space. The developers also changed their original plan to limit operating hours and eliminate a vehicle entrance on Nansemond Street.

“We were told to work with the Museum District Association, and we did. We made significant changes,” Condlin said.

Last week the Museum District Association issued a statement saying it supported the projects, a reversal from its previous position.

In his arguments before the commission, Condlin emphasized that the property was not economically viable as office or multifamily and that its proximity to Carytown lent itself to retail use.

“The redevelopment is for the benefit of the entire area,” Condlin said.

Several others also spoke in support of the project, including a Fan resident who was undecided until recently.

“I thought if they do it right it could be a really good thing,” said Beau Cribbs. “It’s not the big bad wolf everyone thinks it might be.”

Kay Adams, co-owner of Anthill Antiques in Carytown, said she believes the development of the property will help other businesses in the area.

“We are in major need of more foot traffic,” she said.

An even longer line of citizens lined up behind the podium to speak in opposition of the project.

Alexander MaCaulay, attorney for the Don’t Big Box Carytown group that formed last summer to oppose the development, said that they would rather see multifamily on the site and that a number of offers had been made to Verizon by experienced multifamily developers.

Scott Dickens, a Museum district resident and former owner of the Glass & Powder shop in Carytown, spoke strongly against approval.

After seven years in Carytown, Dickens said he decided to open a second store at Short Pump Town Center, which ended up closing.

“I thought the proximity to the big boys would help my business. I found out it doesn’t quite work that way,” Dickens said.

Dickens said his losses at Short Pump caused him to close the business entirely. He argued that opening the door for more national chains in Carytown will hurt the small shops that make up the bulk of the area.

After hours of listening to public comments, the board voted to approve the SUP, 7 to 1. One member was absent at the time of the vote.

“I do not believe its going to have the adverse impact that people legitimately fear,” said Melvin Law, committee chairman.

In addition to approving the SUP, the commission also voted to change the zoning  of the property from transitional office to community commercial.

Both proposals will move on to City Council for a final vote.

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  1. J Tompkins February 8, 2011 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Whether this is a good thing or not will largely depend on how the City integrates this type of development with the rest of the surrounding communities. Since we largely do not have a long term, integrated strategy for (re)development for the region, I expect this will be another one-off project that clogs already busy streets and limited parking areas with additional vehicle traffic that will potentially put off pedestrian traffic so vital to this particular neighborhood. Tying a development like this to other area improvements such as transit, street repairs and green spaces would go a long way toward making this project less objectionable. Whole Foods has its best success in urban areas on the West Coast inside mixed use communities where most shoppers and office workers walk to their stores or take public transportation – neither of which is likely to be the predominant case here. I understand that with the demise of Ukrops and the increased traffic in Short Pump, a local Whole Foods is very appealing, as is the redevelopment of this site. I would encourage City Council to take a hard look at infrastructure impacts to this area and demand more community investment by these out-of-state developers before considering any kind of approval.

  2. Andrew Moore February 8, 2011 at 8:32 am - Reply

    I generally agree with J Thomkins. Any development (and urban development in particular) has an obligation to have a civil relationship with its surroundings. In fact, one could argue strongly that a project’s civic presence – relationship to the street, relationship to the neighboring buildings, transportation connectivity (including pedestrians and bikes) and uses that mix well with existing needs – are far more important than the scrutiny of a project in isolation. Unfortunately, the planning approval process in Richmond is still largely focused on the contents of the subject’s property line.

  3. John B. February 8, 2011 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Very sad this will NOT be a Whole Foods. Fresh Market is not even in the same league and will not attract the same caliber of other stores (look at the Parham road location) for what could have been a great site. I was a supporter…no longer.

  4. Chris H February 8, 2011 at 9:52 am - Reply

    This idea that bringing in more full time residents won’t add traffic but adding a shopping destination for people who already live in the area has no merit. A multifamily development will by default create more traffic as more people go to and from their homes. What new people are going to drive into the area that aren’t already here shopping at Martin’s, Kroger, etc? As a resident in the area I for one would rather not increase the density of inhabitants but rather have more local shopping options that keep me from having to schlep out to Short Pump every time I need certain items. And sorry, I’ve really tried to support Ellwoods but they just don’t cut it for the typical family. Do we need another grocery store? I’m not sure about that but I guess they are the ones standing there with the money wanting to do the project. They certainly can decide if that is a good use of their capital. If you ask me it’s the shopping area at the old Ukrops now Martins that is the crappy development that should be bulldozed and redone. This is a positive step for Carytown. As for the opponents, I think they should raise some money and buy the property if they have a better use. Put your money where your mouth is.

  5. Brett February 8, 2011 at 10:10 am - Reply

    My prediction is that this is not going to affect the small shops of Carytown at all, positively or negatively. What is it going to do to them that Kroger, Ellwood and Martins are already capable of doing? Most of the stores thru Carytown are clothing, home stores, restaurants, and gifts. If anything it will probably only hurt the grocery stores that are already there. It’s not like they are putting in a Target or something that is one stop shopping for everything you need. Although two places that may get hit the hardest are Montana Bread and PT Hastings. The bottom line seems to be that people hate change. If the city decided to plant a money tree, people would spend two years arguing about what neighborhood would be the most appropriate location. Just plant the damn tree so we can start collecting already.

  6. joe February 8, 2011 at 10:51 am - Reply

    You really should not be living in the city if you are worried about traffic. Traffic is good in an urban environment. Some of these residents are as bad as the suburbanites that you should be glad to be away from. Stop the NIMBISM its hurting the great City of Richmond.

  7. JCB February 8, 2011 at 11:12 am - Reply

    If anyone is interested there is a great article about the community planning process in January’s issue of Architect and how it can quickly bog down, cost a ton of money, because of the need to “democratize the process”. In a nutshell, “you cannot confuse neighbors with the community as a whole.” I am glad that the neighborhood group, and the greater richmond community was able to negotiate this process relatively quickly and the developers can stop paying for attorney’s fees and get on with what they do best. This will be a great project for Carytown.

  8. Parkwood February 10, 2011 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Bring it on! I would love to see Fresh Market in the city. It will be a great addition.

  9. Frank Watson December 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Four words: Sixth. Street. Market. Place.

    Bright side? In a few years, the place should make a very fine indoor flea market.


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