With city zoning in and around Scott’s Addition recently updated to accommodate denser development, Richmond planners now are shifting their attention to another district along the bus rapid transit corridor that’s largely driving the changes.
The Richmond Planning Commission today is set to take action declaring the city’s intent to rezone several properties in Monroe Ward, the part of downtown between Belvidere and Ninth streets, and south of West Broad Street to the Downtown Expressway.
Existing zoning, which includes light industrial and auto-oriented commercial classifications, would be consolidated to create just two zoning districts: B-4, the business zoning that already covers much of the ward; and TOD-1, the “transit-oriented nodal district” that the city last year applied at Scott’s Addition, primarily along Broad Street and the Boulevard.
The changes would allow for taller building heights and encourage development that could replace the ward’s abundance of surface parking lots. The TOD-1 district generally would fill the ward’s southwest quarter, from Main Street southward and Third Street westward, while the rest of the neighborhood would be zoned B-4.
The recommendations, which have been months in the making, stem from the city’s Pulse Corridor Plan, which was adopted in conjunction with the redesign of Broad Street to accommodate the GRTC Pulse, the bus rapid transit line that started running this year. The same plan produced the recommendations that resulted in the Scott’s Addition-area zoning changes that City Council adopted last year.
Further driving the changes is building activity on both ends of Monroe Ward, in both the central business district and VCU’s Monroe Park campus, according to documents that planning staff submitted to the commission.
“While Monroe Ward is home to an array of historic structures, there are also a significant number of surface parking lots, several of which take up entire blocks,” a staff report states. “This proactive rezoning process is in order to ensure that new development is in keeping with the principles of the Pulse Plan.”
Focus on mixed-use development
Those principles call for dense, mixed-use development that blends housing, employment and entertainment in the area of each Pulse station, walking and cycling options, historic preservation and general connectivity. The plan also encourages urban design elements such as smaller setbacks between buildings and streets, variety in building facades and screened parking.
The changes would include the creation of an overlay zone specific to Monroe Ward that the city would use in reviewing development plans. While the existing B-4 zoning district has no height restrictions, the city is looking to remove the current four-to-one ratio, “inclined plane” method related to building design, which allows for a structure to go up 4 feet for every 1 foot in width.
TOD-1 restricts heights to 12 stories. There are 12 buildings in the neighborhood higher than six stories.
Neither zoning district allows surface parking lots as a principle use, meaning parking would need to be incorporated into developments beyond street parking availability. Parking decks are allowed with the required screening.
The focus on Monroe Ward adds to other efforts in the region to update zoning in conjunction with mass transit and transit-oriented development – a topic area administrators and developers discussed at a Richmond BizSense panel event last week.
In neighboring Henrico County, where GRTC bus service recently was expanded, county planners are reviewing zoning in an area just west of Scott’s Addition – an industrial corridor west of Westwood Avenue that administrators have referred to as “Scott’s Addition 2.0.”