As development interest continues to pick up along Richmond’s bus rapid transit line, city planners are looking to keep their finger on the pulse with another round of zoning changes, this time in the area across Broad Street from the Fan.
Planners are pursuing a third phase of rezonings recommended in the city’s Pulse Corridor Plan, a document adopted in 2017 that is meant to guide development in the area of the GRTC Pulse BRT line. This latest round focuses on land primarily north of Broad Street in and around the Carver and Newtowne West neighborhoods.
Where previous rounds targeted the Scott’s Addition area to the west and the Monroe Ward section of downtown to the east, this phase focuses on mainly manufacturing-zoned properties located generally between Belvidere Street and the DMV headquarters building, as well as parcels across Leigh Street from the Redskins Training Camp and south of the railroad tracks to Lombardy Street.
Most of the properties would be rezoned to B-7 or B-4 business designations, while others along Lombardy and in Carver would change to multifamily residential zonings that allow for higher densities and more variety of uses.
The area includes the fast-developing Sauer Center, the Whole Foods-anchored mixed-use project taking shape around the C.F. Sauer Co. building at Broad and Meadow streets. Other Sauer Properties holdings along Hermitage and Leigh streets are involved in the changes as well, as is the site of a 90-unit condo development that Stanley Martin Homes is planning along Lombardy Street.
Also part of the proposal is the site of a 12-story tower planned at Lombardy and Broad streets. That project, by Minnesota-based Opus Group, was proposed and approved based in large part on the expectation that zoning allowing the height was on its way along the corridor.
While Opus referred in its application to the city’s TOD-1 “transit-oriented development” zoning specifically, the proposed zoning for the location is B-4 Central Business District, which allows for the use and has no height restriction.
In relation to the Pulse Corridor Plan, the area to be rezoned is defined by the BRT line’s Science Museum, Allison Street and VCU & VUU stations. The plan calls for dense, mixed-use development in the area of each Pulse station that blends housing, employment and entertainment, 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 proposed zoning changes would create an overlay district for the area and designate certain streets as street-oriented commercial and priority streets. Other properties within the overlay district not slated for rezoning would retain their current zoning for the time being, according to a memo from city planning staff, which considers those zonings as fitting in with the city’s master land use plan.
The changes include a small cluster of properties south of Broad Street, all in the block north of Grace Street between Ryland and Harrison streets. Properties fronting Broad in that block would be zoned B-4, bringing them in line with other properties to the east and removing them from an overlay district that requires off-street parking spaces.
VCU’s 500 Academic Centre building at Ryland and Grace, currently zoned residential, likewise would change to B-4. The VCU dorm building at Grace and Harrison is not involved in the changes.
Broad Street-facing properties from Ryland to Arthur Ashe Boulevard had been eyed for rezoning to TOD-1, but concerns from the West Grace Street Association prompted staff to hold off on those changes at this time, according to the memo to the Richmond Planning Commission.
The memo noted that planning staff held public meetings on the proposal late last year and sent letters to all affected property owners. It says representatives of VCU and Sauer Properties have expressed support for the changes, which also drew a letter from the Historic Richmond Foundation expressing general support but noting the prevalence of properties in the area considered to be historic.
The city expects the rezonings associated with the Pulse Corridor Plan ultimately will create $1 billion in new assessed value in the next 20 years.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal at its regular meeting on Monday. The proposal would go on to City Council for final approval.