Virginia State University might be on the verge of a building spree.
With dirt already moving on the school’s $84 million arena, two VSU nonprofit organizations have formed a venture to develop an 86,000-square-foot retail, restaurant and residential building in the 1200 block of Chesterfield Avenue. The project, which was approved in December by the Chesterfield County planning commission, will be just west of the school’s 236-acre campus in Ettrick and include 62 apartments and about 24,000 square feet of commercial space.
Robert Turner, head of the Virginia State University Foundation, said the housing portion would be marketed toward graduate students, new professors and the general public. He said he hopes the commercial section will attract tenants that will support the campus and the surrounding community.
“We want a campus bookstore. We will be looking for white-tablecloth restaurants,” Turner said. “Of course every campus has to have fast food, a pizza place there.”
The project will be built on land owned by VSU and will be funded by the VSU Foundation and the VSU Real Estate Foundation, two nonprofit organizations that support the college.
Turner would not say how much the development is expected to cost because Virginia State University Trojan Development LLC, the entity formed by the two nonprofits and named for the school’s mascot, has yet to choose a contractor for the job. The project will be sent out to bid in January. Norfolk-based Livas Group is the project’s architect.
Turner hopes to break ground by spring or summer and said the four-story building should take about a year to build. The development needs a green light from the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors before work can begin.
The planning commission’s approval of the mixed-use project came just four days after VSU broke ground on a new multipurpose center. The $84 million, 165,000-square-foot stadium facility will go up two blocks east of the planned mixed-use development.
VSU might not be finished with development once those two projects are complete, Turner said. He sees them as a jumping-off point for a planned revitalization on VSU’s western boundary. The historically black public university is west of Colonial Heights and north of Petersburg and has about 5,300 students.
“We would probably like to do another one, another mixed-use building,” Robertson said. “[Chesterfield Avenue] is the main corridor between the county and the City of Petersburg, and it was just there. It was just waiting to happen.”