A prominent local real estate firm and Henrico are weighing a plan to potentially package their neighboring holdings collectively as a 200-acre economic development site, half of which consists of the county-owned former Best Products headquarters property.
Bill Goodwin’s Riverstone Properties, which since 2015 has amassed more than 100 acres southeast of the Interstate 95 and 295 interchange, is in discussions with the county to market the land jointly with the adjacent 93-acre Best site, which the county purchased in 2011.
County supervisors were told of the proposal during their annual board retreat Friday. Anthony Romanello, director of the Henrico County Economic Development Authority, described the effort as a joint venture with Riverstone, which would work with the county to draft and issue a request for proposals from developers, potentially in the next few months if the board gives its approval.
Noting Riverstone has acquired 111 acres immediately north of the county-owned site, Romanello told the board: “This leaves us with a 205-acre assemblage, which is a prime economic development site right on the corner of Interstate 95 and Parham Road, very near Route 1.”
Romanello said he would seek board authorization soon to move forward with the RFP, which he said would solicit proposals to develop all or parts of the combined site for such uses as light retail, office, advanced manufacturing and data centers.
“Given the size of the property, just over 200 acres, we would welcome concepts for the entire property or a portion of the property,” Romanello said, adding that proposals to develop the site in phases also would be considered.
Describing the effort as a public-private partnership, Romanello said the project would require demolition of the Best building, which the county purchased for $6.22 million and has spent $350,000 annually to maintain.
The county had considered using the building, which previously housed Bank of America offices, as a new government center complex. Those plans never materialized, due in part to renovation costs that Romanello said have likewise deterred potential commercial users.
The county has since been marketing the 286,000-square-foot building for commercial development, to no avail. The property is located along East Parham Road, northeast of its interchange with I-95.
“The building, while it’s a wonderful structure, it’s functionally obsolete for any modern office or commercial use,” Romanello told the board. “We have had a number of business owners and developers who have looked at it, even with the possibility of retrofitting it, and the cost is incredibly prohibitive.”
Other costs to prep the 205-acre site would include $3.8 million in water and sewer improvements, and as much as $7.5 million to add a north-south road that would run through the site, connecting East Parham with a planned extension of Magellan Parkway, which will run east-west.
With a demolition cost of $1.9 million, the overall cost to prep the site is projected to total between $10.7 million and $13.2 million.
The Magellan Parkway extension, a $28 million VDOT SmartScale project scheduled this fiscal year, would run along part of Scott Road and cross I-95 via a new bridge, connecting the area to Route 1 near the Brook Road DMV office. Romanello said a portion of the extension will be built by the private sector as part of Stanley Martin Homes’ recently approved ReTreat at One, a 500-home development planned between Brook and 95.
The extension would run beside Scott Farm, which Riverstone purchased along with three other parcels in early 2015. County property records show Riverstone paid more than $6.41 million combined for the four parcels, which were most recently assessed in excess of $1.64 million collectively.
With the Best property assessed at $8.54 million, the overall assessed value of the combined 205-acre site is about $10.19 million.
Romanello said the plan to market the sites collectively resulted from mutual conversations between Riverstone and County Manager John Vithoulkas. An email to Riverstone principal Jeff Galanti was not returned over the weekend.
The county’s focus on the area predates the Best site purchase. In the early 2000s, it initiated a land use study of the Scott Road area that produced recommendations including the Magellan Parkway extension.
In addition to several residences, the area is home to Park Central Business Park, Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing, a Dominion Energy facility and Saint Gertrude High School’s Outdoor Athletic Center, which borders Riverstone’s Scott Farm property.
The Catholic school in Richmond’s Museum District announced earlier this month that it will move next schoolyear to the Benedictine College Preparatory School campus in Goochland County. The announcement said Saint Gertrude would share Benedictine’s athletic facilities there but did not specify plans for the Scott Road facility.
Henrico and Riverstone’s RFP plan follows other efforts in the area to market sites for economic development, fueled in part by an influx of data centers.
Chesterfield County last year approved a data center and solar farm on land its EDA previously marketed as a so-called industrial “megasite,” totaling 1,700 acres. The megasite proposal was withdrawn amid opposition from citizens.
Meanwhile, Henrico’s own White Oak Technology Park in Varina continues to add data center space. Late last year, QTS Data Centers filed plans to expand its 1.3 million-square-foot campus with an additional 1.2 million square feet of data center space, to be built between its current complex and the under-construction Facebook data center next door.