A North Carolina real estate firm is targeting about 20 acres across from Rocketts Landing for its biggest-ever development in Virginia – and claims it has “only one shot” to make the project happen.
Wilmington, N.C.-based Zimmer Development Co. unveiled plans this week for “Fulton Yard,” a mix of 535 apartments, and 106,000 square feet of retail and office space, at the Richmond and Henrico County line.
The firm is under contract to purchase a collection of three properties totaling about 20 acres along Old Osborne Turnpike (Route 5), Orleans Street and Nicholson Street from railroad giant CSX.
“Given the activity in the area, we think this is the best and highest use for those sites,” said Landon Zimmer, Fulton Yard project manager.
A closing date for the properties is pending. Construction on the project could launch in the first half of 2020.
Orleans Street might be first
While market demand will dictate the phases of development at Fulton Yard, Zimmer said given the area’s demand for new apartments, the company could launch construction on the 5-acre Orleans Street site first, along with the train trestle that crosses the street above.
Plans call for a pair of five-story mixed-use buildings to rise along Orleans Street on the portion of the site that’s within city limits. Those would include 3,200 square feet of ground-level retail and 108 apartments in each. A third five-story building with 60 apartments, a pool, fitness center, leasing office and rooftop deck would be constructed on the Henrico County side of the Orleans site. An Uber and Lyft pickup area and electric car-charging stations also are planned for the apartment development.
As part of a proposed proffer agreement with Richmond, Zimmer plans to receive input from the city and neighborhood residents on how to improve the Orleans Street trestle, adding the firm wants to install new lighting, art and covered walkways for pedestrians and bikers.
“Right now, the trestle is pretty creepy-looking,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to address that during this first phase by adding some new lighting and sidewalks that will connect our project to the Capital Trail and the bus rapid transit station.”
Plans also call for the Orleans Street apartments to connect with the Capital Trail.
“We want this to be an intermodal destination that encourages walkability and biking,” Zimmer said.
Office building may move up
Depending on demand for office space, Zimmer said a planned five-story, 20,000-square-foot office building that includes about 4,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor fronting Nicholson Street in the city could potentially jump to the front of the pack for construction.
“If we’re able to secure a tenant for this building, then it will be constructed before the apartments,” Zimmer said.
As part of its Nicholson Street development, Zimmer is planning a “parking park” on the long and slim portion of the 1.4-acre site that will include lush landscaping and 68 parking spaces, according to site plans.
Part of the 68 spaces would be dedicated as free parking for patrons of the Capital Trail and Pulse BRT, Zimmer said. He added a bike repair station, an Uber and Lyft pickup area, and electric car-charging stations will be incorporated into its design.
“We think that would be a nice way of tying in our piece to the area,” Zimmer said.
The largest component of Fulton Yard’s mixed-use community would be on nearly 14 acres just over the county line along Route 5, with 259 apartments and about 80,000 square feet of office and retail space.
Those components would be incorporated into three five-story residential buildings. In addition, there will be a mixed-use building with 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and four levels of residences above, and a five-story, 65,000-square-foot office building near Bickerstaff Road and Route 5.
The buildings would roughly form a perimeter around the 14-acre site, with access to the development via Old Ohio Street and Bickerstaff Road, according to plans.
A canoe and bike shed for apartment residents, along with a 12,000-square foot amenity center equipped with a pool, fitness center and clubhouse also are planned.
Each of the three sites will undergo extensive environmental mitigation, Zimmer said, to accommodate its mix of residential and commercial projects.
While a general contractor for the project has not been secured, Richmond-based 3North is the architect and Timmons Group is the site engineer.
Zimmer has retained Robert Jones II of Icon Commercial and Connie Jordan Nielsen of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer to market and lease up the retail portion of development.
Each of the vacant properties is zoned for industrial uses in both Richmond and Henrico, a throwback to the days when the surrounding area was home to heavy industry along the James River.
But that has changed dramatically, as several of those users have moved out of the city and further east into Henrico County — opening up the area to renewed urban redevelopment.
With nearby Rocketts Landing leading the way, Fulton Yard would build on that growth.
Ann Neil Cosby, an attorney with Richmond-based McGuireWoods that’s representing Zimmer through its rezoning process, said the firm is seeking a combination of residential and commercial zoning designations for the three parcels.
For the largest of the three tracts — roughly 14 acres along Route 5 across from Rocketts Landing — Zimmer is seeking an urban mixed-use designation from Henrico County that would allow for a mix of residential and commercial development.
Cosby said the 5-acre tract at 201 Orleans St. would involve dual zoning from both the county and the city. She said Zimmer is looking to rezone about three acres of the Orleans site to B-5 Central Business District in Richmond; and to R-6, which allows for multifamily development, for roughly 2 acres in Henrico County.
The remaining 1.4-acre site at 25 Nicholson St. in Richmond near Stone Brewing Co.’s manufacturing and distribution facility is being targeted for B-7 zoning, which allows for a mix of commercial and residential uses in the city, Cosby said.
Overall, the rezoning would further transition the vicinity into an urban village equipped with pedestrian walkways, and connectivity to the Capital Trail and Pulse BRT — measures highlighted in parts of the city’s Pulse Corridor Plan and the county’s Route 5 study.
If both municipalities reject Zimmer’s rezoning request, the firm has been informed that the three parcels will remain industrial.
“The sellers are not going to sell the properties to have it go through another rezoning request,” Zimmer said. “We’ve been told that if it doesn’t get rezoned, it will be held as rail shipper property.
“We want to get this rezoned because they are great sites. … We only have one shot.”