Westhampton Theater project gets council go-ahead

A rendering of the changes proposed for the Westhampton Theater.

A rendering of the changes proposed for the Westhampton Theater.

The planned redevelopment of the former Westhampton Theater and a neighboring building was given the unanimous thumbs up by the Richmond City Council on Monday night, despite a vocal, organized audience of detractors.

The council voted to grant a special use permit to Westhampton LLC to build a 12-unit, three-story apartment building at 5702 and 5706 Grove Ave., where the shuttered Westhampton Theater sits. The project is dubbed the Westhampton on Grove.

Jason Guillot and Stefan Cametas are the developers behind Westhampton LLC. Guillot said in a statement late Monday he and his partner were pleased with city council’s vote to approve the plans.

“Westhampton on Grove is the result of eighteen months of thoughtful design and community engagement,” Guillot said. “The numerous comments we received from the surrounding community made this a better project overall. We are excited to begin the next phase of this development to bring Taste Unlimited and other high quality businesses to Westhampton.”

A rendering of the eastern end of the development.

A rendering of the eastern end of the development.

The plans approved Monday are a scaled-back version of what Guillot and Cametas initially proposed after buying the theater building in 2014. They tweaked the design from four stories to three; dropped the height from 60 feet to below 40 feet; decreased the total size from 85,000 square feet to 49,800 square feet; and switched from nine condos to 12 apartments. Restaurant chains Taste Unlimited and Tazza Kitchen will be tenants, as well as Mango Salon and Long & Foster.

As was the case at the July 19 meeting of the Richmond Planning Commission, Monday’s council meeting generated lengthy, impassioned pleas to deny and approve the developers’ plans. Concerns raised by those opposed to the plans included traffic congestion, parking, pedestrian safety and the loss of the neighborhood’s character as development increases.

“Other developers are just waiting and watching in the wings,” said one of 11 people that spoke in opposition on Monday. “Short Pump here we come. The city is handing out special use permits left and right like candy at Halloween.”

The eight people who spoke in favor of the Westhampton on Grove said they thought the development makes Libbie-Grove more appealing, brings in more tax revenue and called the closed Westhampton Theater an eyesore.

“They’re the ones that have a plan to save Libbie and Grove,” said a supporter of Westhampton on Grove, referring to the developers.

Citing concerns over congestion and traffic, city council member Charles Samuels said he was voting in favor of Westhampton LLC’s special use permit “reluctantly and with great trepidation.”

“The ripple effect of this might not be felt immediately,” Samuels said. “This development is beautiful. It won’t blight the physical image of the neighborhood. It may destroy the quaintness of the neighborhood.”

City Council member Jon Baliles represents the 1st District where Westhampton on Grove will sit. He said the Westhampton LLC’s application met all of the city’s requirements. He said it was a hard decision and that he knew it may cost him some friends.

“I didn’t make a decision until about five and a half hours ago,” Baliles said, adding he has kept an open mind.

Two other developments on last night’s city council agenda were continued until Sept. 12: a special use permit for developers Louis Salomonsky and David White’s plans to convert a warehouse at 1650 Overbrook Road into apartments; and a special use permit for Dominion Resources’ tower planned for 701 E. Cary St.

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9 Comments on "Westhampton Theater project gets council go-ahead"

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Randy Reynolds

This is a great project that will help clean up this part of town! Very nice new amenities!

rudolph Tickle

Yeah, needs to be cleaned up so it looks more like reynolds’ crossing! Such a beautiful and timeless development over there, lol

Brian Ezzelle

I remember when the Reynolds folks held their first meeting with the Charles Glen neighborhood at Crestview Elementary about their planned development, their initial lawyer said over and over “there is no Walmart coming to this development”…….

ron virgin

Finally, Richmond has given approval to “clean up” the eyesore that is Libbie & Grove. Be careful what you wish for, change advocates. You’re not poised to get it.

Brian Ezzelle

I wasn’t aware that this part of town needed cleaning up.

William Muse

As a long-time resident in neighboring 23221, I’ve never once thought of Grove & Libbie as an area that needed “cleaning up” – in fact, some of the priciest shops in Richmond are in this area.

I agree the area could use some modern development, but let’s hope this project is properly capitalized and managed – so it doesn’t become the eyesore that the Tiber has become…

Leon Wilkeson

“They’re the ones that have a plan to save Libbie and Grove,” said a supporter of Westhampton on Grove, referring to the developers.
I started to write, “with all due respect”, but since the person in question is anonymous, i’ll save it and offer then very little respect. Libbie and Grove doesn’t need saving. It’s fine. You want to save something, get a hammer and nails, some paint, and a bullet proof vest; and go volunteer at Gilpin Court.
Thanks for the Caddyshack 2 treatment of the near west end, Rodney Dangerfield.

Charles Frankenhoff

Cleaning up is obviously silly, and we have a straw man thing going here. I think it will be good for Libble and Grove. One of those things the objecting neighbors will probably forget they object to in 5 years.

Some people just have a knee jerk fear of change, but change is not always bad. That theater was doomed, the only hope was for a good project to replace it.

From what I’ve seen, and I’ll grant I haven’t looked too closely, this seems like a good project

Tom Bowers

Clean up?? Just profiteering at its finest at the expense of all who live and shop in the area. Poor folks in Glenburnie already deal with speeding cars and “walk-in” crime….this will triple in the upcoming years. Just mimics national level politics where lobbyists always seem to sway opinion and buy their way inot wrong decisions that profit the few and leave the rest of us holding the door. Of course in this case, Baliles was ELECTED by the neighborhood…..so Grove/Libbie gets what it asks for.