‘Scott’s Addition 2.0’: Henrico zeroes in on Westwood Avenue corridor

A map of the Westwood study area, totaling 530 acres. (Courtesy of Henrico County)

As development in Scott’s Addition continues to surge, planners in neighboring Henrico County are making preparations to capture expected spillover from the city’s hottest neighborhood.

Henrico officials are looking to update existing zoning and infrastructure in the so-called “Westwood area” – the primarily industrial corridor west of Scott’s Addition from Westwood Avenue to Staples Mill Road – for what County Manager John Vithoulkas said could be a continuation of the rapidly transforming city district.

Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas

“It’s 500 acres directly adjacent to Scott’s Addition. Internally, we’re thinking of it as ‘Scott’s Addition 2.0,’” Vithoulkas said.

County planners have completed a study of the area that they plan to present to the Board of Supervisors next week. The study comes with recommendations and action items that administrators expect to add to the agenda for the board’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

Those include designating the corridor as a “special focus area” in the county’s 2026 Comprehensive Plan, establishing an overlay district that would provide flexibility with existing zoning requirements, revise the county’s parking rules to allow for shared parking, and amend the zoning ordinance to allow residential development in areas of the corridor zoned for industrial or business use.

Vithoulkas said developers are knocking on the county’s door with interest in the corridor, which already has drawn a planned TopGolf venue and investment from local firms such as Rebkee Co. and Lynx Ventures, which purchased the land for that site and adjacent property last year in a $6.5 million deal.

topgolf colorado

An example of a Topgolf tee line and outfield in Centennial, CO. (Courtesy of PRNewsFoto/Topgolf)

The county’s efforts will determine what uses could be allowed in the corridor, which, at 530 acres, is more than three times the size of Scott’s Addition.

“There has been a lot of interest in the development community as to what can be put on parcels within the Westwood Avenue study area,” Vithoulkas said. “What I’m sensing from the Board of Supervisors is a lot of flexibility.”

County staff envisions a mix of uses along the same lines as those allowed in Scott’s Addition, including restaurants, breweries, offices and entertainment venues such as TopGolf, said Randy Silber, Henrico’s deputy county manager for community development.

“Certainly an opportunity where there are multiple venues where people might want to visit the area, either through employment, through actual residency, or to eat or enjoy other entertainment opportunities,” Silber said.

“We really want to create opportunity for younger people to be able to find a place that’s close to downtown and has all of the amenities that they may want, including good transportation in close proximity.”

A Pulse bus pulling up to a station platform. (Jonathan Spiers)

Just this week, the county and GRTC rolled out enhanced bus service and routes that add to the recently launched Pulse bus rapid transit line, which runs along Broad and includes two pickup stations beside the corridor. Vithoulkas expects the enhancements to attract infill and transit-oriented development along much of Broad Street, particularly in the Westwood area.

Last year, the City of Richmond revised its zoning in and around Scott’s Addition, including the addition of a transit-oriented nodal district that allows for taller, mid-rise development along Broad Street and the Boulevard.

The Westwood area, already home to Strangeways Brewing and newer arrivals such as Nick’s Produce & International Food Market, which relocated to Westwood Avenue from downtown this year, the corridor is largely defined by dozens of distribution centers and warehouses. It also contains Anthem’s corporate campus at Broad and Staples Mill, and the Virginia Department of Health’s Vital Records complex.

The majority of the corridor is zoned for industrial use with varying intensity levels, while properties closer to Broad and Staples Mill are zoned for business or office use. Silber said revisions would aim to capture the energy and mix of uses seen not only in Scott’s Addition but also at Willow Lawn and Libbie Mill-Midtown, Gumenick Properties’ mixed-use development on the other side of Staples Mill.

“There’s already a fair amount of redevelopment occurring around this area,” Silber said.

Beyond zoning updates, Silber said efforts also would include adding streets and sidewalks to give the corridor more of a grid block pattern, with smaller blocks and pedestrian connectivity to the bus lines.

In addition to Rebkee and Lynx, which haven’t announced development plans for the property that includes the nearly 200,000-square-foot Sears outlet building, another developer investing in the area is Spy Rock Real Estate, which has been active in Scott’s Addition and recently reached across the expressway for a mixed-use project on the United Methodist Family Services campus.

The Sears outlet building and other property along Westwood Avenue were purchased by local developers last year. (J. Elias O’Neal)

Spy Rock principal Andrew Basham said he was unaware of the Westwood area study but applauds the county’s moves.

“I think it’s really smart for Henrico County to look at adopting a more flexible zoning category for infill locations, infill meaning the entirety of the Broad Street corridor,” Basham said. “There’s so much surface parking along that corridor that really isn’t revenue-generating for the county, and none of that development is in keeping with best land-use practices that we subscribe to today.

“I think that whole area could be a lot like Scott’s Addition, although I don’t believe there’s a historic district there, so that’s something to be considered,” he said, noting much of the district’s development has been driven by projects involving historic preservation tax credits.

Silber said half of the buildings in the corridor were built before 1970, and Basham said he suspects several could qualify for historic designation. But Basham said the main issue is allowed density in the county’s current zoning code.

“Largely the reason we haven’t worked in the county is because they don’t have a zoning category that works with the kind of projects that we develop,” Basham said. “A lot of the developers who are working almost exclusively in the city now are not doing things in Henrico for the same reason. It’s a great place to do business, but a progressive zoning approach like the city has taken would greatly benefit Henrico and its tax base.”

Silber said the county is making the corridor a priority, hence the board presentation and action items next week, to make sure it can capture the current boom in development and move back toward the city and urban areas.

“We want to move fast. We want to create those opportunities before they dissipate or the market changes,” he said.

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
3 years ago

Basham makes many valid points. Henrico could also look to Chesterfield and the moves they made in their rezonings to allow higher densities on in -fill parcels adjacent to retail and office properties. the days of R-5 and R-6 restrictions need to be reconsidered. Loosen up Henrico!

Now, Hanover . . . is that a lost cause?

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
3 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Henrico now has Urban Mixed Use (UMU) zoning. Henrico staff have had a difficult time seeing the urban idea, however. The years of suburban planning is tough to overcome. The apartment project in Innsbrook (https://richmondbizsense.com/2017/12/12/rocketts-landing-developer-joins-effort-urbanize-innsbrook/ ) will break ground within days, but the process has been a long one. Henrico needs to accept the ideas approved with UMU and let the process work as intended.

Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
3 years ago

As a planner this stuff area seems large and odd. Most of the buildings in the rear are 1980s/1990s cheaply built office/warehouse flex space. They want to forces those out to that developers can build lots of what mid-rise apartments because outside of a few building on Westwood no one is going to convert the buildings to anything (again Sears and old Dixie Sports yes, Dabney Road no). And the Pulse stop is near Staples Mills at one end and the other is in the middle of Scotts Addition. Neither stop serves the neighborhood. It would need a new stop… Read more »

charles Frankenhoff
charles Frankenhoff
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

There are very few buildings around there worth keeping.

Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
3 years ago

Don’t disagree what I am saying is take out Anthem site, Broad Street retail (cars dealerships, new Lidl, fast food, etc), the breweries and sports centers (that hipsters love) and the building sites left are only a small percentage of the land in the area. I just do not see the building worth adaptive reuse of Westwood nor do I see them being demolished for 3-4 story row home complexes. Up zoning creating demand for a 10 story apartment buildings, do you??

William Willis
William Willis
3 years ago

If this where to happen and take off that would mean huge developments over the next 20 years from Lombardy St. to Staplesmill and 64-95 to Broad St. Scott’s addition, ABC headquarters becoming the new baseball stadium site, New Whole Foods, Science Museum in the process of a master plan, the Boulevard development after the Diamond is gone, West Wood Avenue, the development going on in and around the orphanage, then throw in Libbie Mills and Willow Lawn. That is a huge area that will be turned around from just 10 years ago where this area offered very little. Here… Read more »