The remnants of a shopping center from years gone by are setting the stage for new development at a busy Henrico crossroads.
Richmond developers Spy Rock Real Estate and Crescent Development are planning a multiuse development with 580 homes on the site of the former Henrico Plaza Shopping Center on Mechanicsville Turnpike just north of Laburnum Avenue.
Called Henrico Plaza, the 27-acre development would include 300 apartments, 115 townhomes, 165 age-restricted units and at least 13,000 square feet of commercial space. The buildings would fill the currently asphalt-covered site where the 1970s-era shopping center stood until it was razed in the mid-2000s, save for one remaining building that houses a Firestone service center and a restaurant.
The proposal went before the Henrico County Planning Commission last week, and it recommended rezoning and permit approvals to the Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to decide the requests Feb. 9.
The project is the latest collaboration between Spy Rock and Crescent, which have partnered in recent years on several residential developments in the city, as well as a mixed-use development underway at the Richmond Hardywood brewery location. Spy Rock also is developing several mixed-use buildings on the UMFS campus on West Broad Street.
The Henrico Plaza site consists of two parcels owned by National Realty & Development Corp., a New York-based firm that has controlled the property since the mid-’90s. The latest county assessment valued the parcels at $1.96 million.
Spy Rock and Crescent are under contract to purchase the site, said Hirschler attorney Jeff Geiger, who’s representing them in their rezoning and permit requests. Crescent principal Zac Frederick said negotiations on a sale have been underway since September.
“It’s been sitting vacant for many years,” Frederick said of the site. “I was driving by the street and said that would be a great opportunity to do a mixed-use project if we could get it for the right price. Fortunately, after negotiating, we came to a meeting of the minds.
“There’s not a lot of new workforce housing in that area, but there’s a strong demand,” he said. “It really fits a puzzle piece in, not only for rental but also there’ll be some for-sale townhomes as well.”
Frederick said rental rates and prices for the units have yet to be determined, and he said a development cost estimate would likewise depend on final plan approval.
As proposed, the apartments would be housed in eight three-story buildings in the middle of the development, flanking a 1-acre central greenspace with a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse, pool and playground.
The townhomes would be grouped on the west side of the site, bordering the adjacent Austin Heights subdivision. Two-story units with one-car garages would be grouped in clusters of five, while three-story units with two-car garages would be grouped in clusters of four to eight.
The age-restricted units for residents 55 and up would be housed in a four-story building fronting Mechanicsville Turnpike, alongside two commercial outparcels that would be closer to the neighboring Glen Lea Shopping Center.
Commercial uses would be restricted to one gas or service station and could include a restaurant with a drive-thru. Frederick said commercial users have yet to be determined but that he would like to see the Firestone and Anthony’s Italian Restaurant remain as tenants.
In addition to the central green and clubhouse, amenities would include smaller pocket parks, one of which would preserve an existing cemetery on the site. Additional amenities could include a bus stop, community garden, dog park, meditation garden and walking trails.
Sidewalks would run internally and along Mechanicsville Turnpike, and plans call for just over 1,000 parking spaces, which a county staff said would be “de-emphasized.” Access to the site would be restricted to two entrances off Mechanicsville Turnpike and a third off Ravenswood Road.
Poole & Poole Architects is designing Henrico Plaza, and StyleCraft Homes is signed on to build the townhome units. E.D. Lewis & Associates is the engineer. Cite Design is handling land planning.
A community meeting on the project was held in October, with attendees expressing concerns about traffic, parking, uses, residential quality, buffers and landscaping, amenities, and impacts to public services, according to the staff report. The developers also posted a website about the project that states it was modified to address those concerns.
The project follows recent investments that Henrico County has made along Laburnum Avenue east of the turnpike. Geiger described the project as a response to those public-sector investments, such as the new aquatics facility at the nearby Eastern Henrico Recreation Center and the new Fairfield Area Library on Laburnum.
“I personally think it’s good to see the private sector coming to invest in this area of the Fairfield District, following the lead of the investments the county has made,” Geiger said.
Should supervisors OK the project next month, Frederick said construction could start by the fourth quarter of this year, with development occurring in phases. He said the residential portions would take two years to complete, with the townhomes coming online sooner.
“We had a community meeting a couple weeks ago and people were like, ‘Yes, I love this, I’d actually like to buy one of the townhomes.’ That just shows there’s a lot of interest and a lot of demand there,” Frederick said.
Virginia Center Commons townhomes, Innsbrook infill endorsed
In other business at the meeting, the commission supported a rezoning and permit request from Stanley Martin Homes to build 75 townhomes on nearly 5 acres at 10101 Brook Road, an undeveloped outparcel at Virginia Center Commons mall. Geiger also represented Stanley Martin in its case.
The three-story townhomes, to be priced starting in the high $200,000s, would add to other homes Stanley Martin is building along Brook Road farther south, such as its 500-home ReTreat at One development south of Interstate 295 and its 130-unit Lakeside Landing condos and townhomes at Brook Run Shopping Center. They also would add to Virginia Center Commons’ planned transformation as an arena-anchored mixed-use development.
Dominion Realty Partners received two thumbs-up in its rezoning and permit requests for the 360 apartments and townhomes it’s planning at 5000 Dominion Boulevard in Innsbrook.
The commission endorsed two proposals for zero-lot-line residential developments on respective 33-acre tracts: one at the terminus of Opaca Lane near Wyndham Forest from Hundred Acre Woods Inc.; the other from MS Richmond Investor LLC for land between Belfast and Glasgow roads near Innsbrook.
Also supported were requests from Rebkee Co. and Thalhimer Realty Partners to rezone and permit certain uses for the JCPenney property at Regency mall, which also is undergoing a mixed-use transformation. The companies purchased the JCPenney property in November.
All of those cases should go to county supervisors at their Feb. 9 meeting.