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Urbanization of Innsbrook inches ahead with mixed-use plan

Jonathan Spiers February 6, 2017 6

The request could transform a 4-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Innslake Drive and Dominion Boulevard into a mixed-use development. (Kieran McQuilkin)

The request could transform a 4-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Innslake Drive and Dominion Boulevard into a mixed-use development. (Kieran McQuilkin)

The plan to transition Innsbrook from a suburban office park to an urban mixed-use community is gaining traction.

A rare rezoning request under Henrico County’s new urban mixed-use (UMU) zoning district is set to go before the planning commission at its meeting this Thursday. The request could transform a 4-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Innslake Drive and Dominion Boulevard from an individual office building into a mix of residential and office uses.

WAM Associates LLC, a group of investors led by developer and broker Joe Marchetti Jr., is seeking a UMU zoning and provisional-use permit to add two buildings totaling 350 apartments and a structured parking deck around an existing office building at 4235 Innslake Drive. The 28,400-square-foot building on the site currently houses Benchmark Mortgage Companies.

A rendering shows how the two apartment buildings and parking deck would be built around the existing building.

A rendering shows how the two apartment buildings and parking deck would be built around the existing office building.

While not the first request under the UMU designation – Highwoods Properties received approval for a UMU district on 40 acres southwest of Cox Road and Sadler Place in 2012 – the request is the first since the creation last June of an Innsbrook overlay district that allows for UMU zoning on parcels with a minimum of 4 acres. Previously, UMU was restricted to parcels 20 acres or larger, as it continues to be outside the Innsbrook overlay.

Marchetti said the project would follow suit with a 2010 study and urban design guidelines that have been in the works for Innsbrook over the past several years. Those guidelines are meant to help transition the 630-acre park east of Short Pump from primarily office buildings and surface parking lots to a mix of uses that include residential and retail.

“The workforce needs for our new, younger workers are changing dramatically. They’re more about living and working and playing in a tighter environment, so they put less emphasis on cars and more emphasis on walking and bikes,” Marchetti said.

“The new Innsbrook design guidelines along with the new UMU zoning allow for the residential densification of the Innsbrook office park,” he said. “This is just allowing Innsbrook to compete with the urban core for businesses, to keep the jobs in the park.”

WAM Associates LLC purchased the 4-acre parcel at Innslake and Dominion for $3.96 million in 2008. The existing building was constructed in 1984, according to county property records.

The 28,400-square-foot building on the site houses Benchmark Mortgage Companies. (Jonathan Spiers)

The 28,400-square-foot building on the site houses Benchmark Mortgage Companies. (Jonathan Spiers)

Plans call for two new five-story buildings containing 350 one- and two-bedroom apartments and a new three-level parking deck with 261 spaces. With existing parking, that would bring the total number of spaces on the property to 329.

One building planned along Dominion Boulevard would house about 105 apartments that would surround a courtyard above 68 underground parking spaces. The other building, along Innslake Drive, would total as much as 145 units.

The three-level parking deck would be built between that building and the Hyatt Place hotel to the north of the property. Two new access points from Innslake would be added, as well as a plaza at the site’s primary entrance.

WAM Associates is working with Virginia Beach-based Saunders + Crouse Architects and Jim Theobald with Richmond law firm Hirschler Fleischer. Marchetti said a developer has yet to be selected, and he said a cost estimate and timeline has not been determined.

“This is a rezoning of the land for a residential project to be built sometime in the future, but not yet determined,” Marchetti said.

A report from the county planning department says staff supports the proposed project and recommends the rezoning, citing goals it would achieve such as developing underutilized properties, incorporating structured parking, including a passive open space area and recreational amenities, and adding street trees and sidewalks. The related provisional-use permit would allow adjustments to building height, square footage and other guidelines.

Henrico planning director Joe Emerson said the proposal falls in line with what the county envisions for Innsbrook.

“It’s a goal we’ve been working toward: trying to introduce residential uses to support the office uses in Innsbrook, and also make use of the open space in Innsbrook,” Emerson said.

“There’s a great deal of underutilized parking area in Innsbrook, and of course with its age, we think we’re going to see some transition to newer office buildings in the future,” he said. “Making these allowances and seeing this development move forward confirms our belief that it is viable to turn it into a mixed-use community.”

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6 Comments »

  1. Gordon Laroussini February 6, 2017 at 10:05 am - Reply

    With 10,000 people a day turning 72 this year and for the next 15 years, what about condos? Innsbrook could be set up a mid-priced condo neighborhood. There is literally NOTHING in the Richmond area as there is in other parts of the country.

  2. Lilly MacKenzie February 6, 2017 at 11:50 am - Reply

    If this rezoning request is approved, there MUST be a mandatory requirement imposed on the developer (and the county) for improving the existing ingress and egress roads in Innsbrook. For those who work there now, adding a residential community such as this in an already traffic-choked area seems to be insanity. At rush hour, the trip from an office in Innsbrook to the traffic lights at the Broad Street and Nuckols Road intersections can often take 30 minutes — just to get out of the complex. Further, the “presumption” that new residents would be walking instead of driving is just that. Residents are going to require vehicles to access other areas of Richmond and will use the same existing roadways (and further increase the horrendous traffic volume) to get in and out of the complex.

    • David Humphreys February 8, 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply

      The people that live here would indeed have cars, but they would not likely not have a large impact (if any) on your commute. If they work in Innsbrook they could walk or bike to work as more and more people are doing. Yes, they would need their car for other times, but that would not necessarily be during rush hour. If they did work elsewhere they would be commuting in the opposite direction as you and therefore would not be adding to the traffic people commuting to work in Innsbrook are in.

  3. Dave Howard February 7, 2017 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Lilly, with all due respect, I have worked in Innsbrook on and off since 1989 in three different buildings and I can’t recall one time that it has taken me 30 minutes just to exit the park unless there was a major traffic accident. There are multiple alternative routes (Nuckols to Springfield, Nuckols to I-295, Nuckols to Twin Hickory) to access the west end. I understand there are road improvements scheduled for the stretch on Nuckols between Sadler and 295 in the coming year that will help alleviate the afternoon rush. Cox Road just needs a four lane bridge across I-64 to speed up that route. The park needs residential to turn it into a live/work/play environment and this site near the Shoppes at Innsbrook is a great place to try out mixed use which is thriving at West Broad Village.

  4. Bruce Milam February 7, 2017 at 10:55 am - Reply

    Its time to start the in-fill development process in Innsbrook with high density residential construction. Traffic patterns for residential are different from those of office,so the two uses will complement each other. Henrico has restrained its development of Class A apartments to about 300 units per year, whereas the market is roughly triple that forcing young workers to move closer to the city. Bob Atack told me a year before he died that Innsbrook was only 1/3 developed, and that the market for housing, not office, there was overwhelming. Workers need the opportunity to find housing near their jobs to cut back on the amount of traffic in the suburban arterial roads.

  5. Bruce Milam February 10, 2017 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Gordon, the condo market may rebound shortly with the relaxation of rules for financing them but its still a very risky business to do vertical condominiums. There’s really no evidence nationally that active adult condominiums have much of a market anywhere. The research shows that those 65+ prefer to live in mixed-age housing and fmore than ever prefer the lifestyle of the renter more so than the homeowner.

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