J.F. Williams III isn’t waiting around to find out the fate of The Diamond.
The local developer and retired commercial real estate broker has signed a deal to bring a Wawa location to 3100 N. Boulevard, on the razed site that once housed Bill’s Barbecue.
Williams said Wawa has agreed to a long-term lease for 1.44 acres at Ellen Road and North Boulevard. He owns an additional 1.5 acres at 3108 N. Boulevard, where Shenandoah Shutters’ facility once stood.
“It’s really the first new development north of the bridge (on North Boulevard), and I think it’s significant in that regard,” he said.
The Wawa is planned to be open before the end of the year and will be similar to the one on Staples Mill Road near Interstate 64, Williams said.
He bought the Bill’s Barbecue site in 2013 for $1.2 million. In 2014, he and a partner paid $1.3 million for four adjacent parcels, which are still available for lease.
Wawa has 25 locations already open in Richmond, according to its website. The Pennsylvania-based company could not be reached for comment.
Williams’ Wawa deal comes as the debate surrounding the future of North Boulevard and The Diamond ramps up. Mayor Dwight Jones’ office has scheduled six public meetings to get feedback from residents about how best to use the 60 acres of city-owned land around the aging baseball stadium.
Despite The Diamond being in limbo, North Boulevard has seen its share of activity in recent months. Local developer Ed Lacy bought the shuttered North Boulevard Car Pool property in December and is looking to lease it. Chris Tsui and his Eat Restaurant Partners recently opened a burger spot at 1300 N. Boulevard, and local ice cream maker Gelati Celesti announced it is opening a storefront at 1400 N. Bouelvard.
Williams said whatever happens, he believes in the potential of the area.
“It’s going to happen one way or the other,” he said. “We’re anxious to know what ‘mixed-use’ means and who the developers are.”