Highwoods plans 34-acre mixed-use project at Innsbrook’s northern end

A conceptual rendering of the development site, facing westward. (Images courtesy of Highwoods Properties)

The reimagining of Innsbrook as a mixed-use mecca is now squarely focused on transforming the office park’s northern end.

Highwoods Properties, a developer and major landlord in Innsbrook, is planning a massive mixed-use development on about 34 acres at the park’s northern entrance at Nuckols Road and Interstate 295.

The largely undeveloped site includes the Innsbrook After Hours concert venue and the recently acquired Elks Lodge property, which Highwoods purchased last year, completing the assemblage.

Highwoods envisions filling the site with a mix of retail, office and multifamily residential development, as well as a potential hotel.

Jane DuFrane, market lead for Highwoods’ Richmond division, said the idea is to add amenities that would anchor the park’s northern end and give residents and workers more reasons to live and work there.

“At the front of the park, there are many hotels and lots of retail. But at this end of the park, not so much,” DuFrane said. “I would like to rebrand this as the new entrance to Innsbrook. 295 is right here; we have so many of our customers that use this as their entrance.”

Highwoods has submitted conceptual plans with Henrico County to start discussions toward an eventual rezoning request under the county’s urban mixed-use (UMU) designation.

A northward-facing view of the development envisioned at the intersection of Nuckols Road and Lake Brook Drive.

Conceptual renderings show a variety of new buildings with structured and surface parking beside the existing Highwoods V office building and other lake-frontage buildings across Lake Brook Drive. The development, tentatively named “The North End at Innsbrook,” would not involve the nearby Exxon gas station and café.

DuFrane said specific uses, including the potential for a hotel, would be determined as the rezoning and development review processes play out. She said the Innsbrook After Hours site would house an office pad site, though she said it wouldn’t be developed until a user is lined up.

“Anything’s up for grabs right now. We don’t have any solid plans, but we want to get the land rezoned so we’re poised for potential development,” DuFrane said.

“It’s what the market will bear. A year ago, when we were talking about this, the world was a very different place. I think it’s a perfect place for hospitality, and I think the market will turn and return and we’ll see interest there. But that probably won’t be the leader of the first phase.”

DuFrane said that initial phase could start as soon as next year, likely with retail and residential components. She said office space, a hotel and additional residential could follow over the course of the buildout, which she projected at 10 to 15 years.

Traditionally an office developer, Highwoods is working on its plans with national urban design firm LandDesign. Local attorney Preston Lloyd with Williams Mullen is representing Highwoods in its discussions with the county.

“Highwoods is in the place-making business, so we felt like moving forward with an urban mixed-use rezoning on this acreage is a natural progression,” DuFrane said.

A rendering shows the variety of uses envisioned in the 34-acre development.

“As we’ve moved forward throughout the years, and because of a lack of amenities and walkability at this end of the park, we thought, ‘Well, we’re office developers, but we’re also mixed-use developers, and we need to bring the amenities that the talent wants,’” she said. “Our goal is to create the best possible environment where talent can achieve its very best. If the talent will come here and wants to work here, then the companies will follow.”

Highwoods has owned most of the land involved since the late 1990s or early 2000s, with the Elks Lodge property being the last piece. DuFrane said the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 45 continues to lease the property and will remain through this year with plans to relocate to a new lodge in Goochland County.

As for Innsbrook After Hours, DuFrane said Highwoods is in talks with promoter EventMakers-USA about continuing the summer concert series this year, with plans for some form of music series to continue elsewhere in Innsbrook going forward.

Whether EventMakers puts on the series remains to be seen, DuFrane said, acknowledging that the group has been considering staging shows at other venues.

“We’re in talks with them right now to renew their contract for ’21,” DuFrane said. “COVID really obliterated their entire 2020 season. Because we’re not ready to move forward with development on the property, we feel like we could bring the concert series to Innsbrook during 2021. There will be some sort of concert series in 2021.”

The UMU zoning would not be the first for Highwoods, which in 2012 received the first approval for a UMU district in Innsbrook on 40 acres southwest of Cox Road and Sadler Place.

Since then, the county created an Innsbrook overlay district that allows for UMU zoning on parcels with a minimum of 4 acres, opening the doors to a wave of new infill developments that thus far have focused south of Nuckols Road. Previously, UMU was restricted to parcels 20 acres or larger, as it continues to be outside the Innsbrook overlay.

Henrico Planning Director Joe Emerson, who has been guiding those efforts, said Highwoods’ proposal, while preliminary, looks to be a viable continuation of the development interest that Innsbrook has been seeing in recent years.

“It’s got great potential,” Emerson said of Highwoods’ proposal. “Of course, it’s right there at 295 and Nuckols, it’s got good visibility from 295, and it’s one of the few undeveloped areas in Innsbrook.

“What I’ve seen thus far is a very nice effort at meeting the goals, objectives and policies of the overlay and of the Innsbrook area study, which envisioned this style of development,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity based on the amount of land that Highwoods has amassed right there.”

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Fred Squire
Fred Squire
12 days ago

Pre Covid that 295 nuckols intersection was a joke. Curious how Henrico can plan on even more cars stopped on 295 because the ramps are so backed up.

Clearly that area can’t handle the volume
Of traffic now. But I guess it remains to be seen if traditional office space in that area ever fills back up even if the pandemic is cleared out. Maybe traffic is a non concern

Last edited 12 days ago by Fred Squire
Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
11 days ago

Funny in planning school car-centric developments of buildings surrounding by a “sea of pavement” parking lots was always considered suburban no matter how high the building or dense it was developed. When you built a street grid pattern with some on-street parking with retail ground level and apartments/office over it that is urban. Think Rosslyn, VA Beach Town Center.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
11 days ago

Hard to imagine more office building in Innsbrook with the high volume of vacancies, even pre-COVID. A police officer was needed in that already for rush hour evening traffic and now they want to add more there? I don’t see how that is viable without a complete rework of the traffic patterns. That office park on that side of the road was completely backed up and took 2-3 cycles to get through starting at 430.

Evangeline Lopez
Evangeline Lopez
11 days ago

I may not be an expert in Urban planning but being that I literally live right here and walk the trails around Innsbrook only to see empty office spaces for lease and more than adequate hotels …this proposal perplexes me. I think we need to reimagine what is already built . The only thing I can agree with is the need for crosswalks on Nuckols and Cox . Help! I think the community needs to give some insight to developers on what we want to see . Their best marketing research is the community already established .

samuel nelson
samuel nelson
10 days ago

Wow! The volume of negative comments surprises me. I think the new urban project for Innsbrook should please most people. Why? First, it matches the changing work/home life patterns escalated by the Pandemic; that is, less office, less retail, and core-urban work and living (i.e., live where you work = less car travel); this project serves to meet consumer demand. Interestingly, many of the people seeking a move away from core-urban lives do not seek the suburban sprawl built-up since post-WWII. This Innsbrook project meets this demand segment. Second, RVA will grow as people seek the convenience and employment of… Read more »

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
10 days ago
Reply to  samuel nelson

Samuel, Not to be rude but you have to be joking? You are proposing increased development which will stress already overloaded roadways, no mention of that by the developer and you are then saying the burden should fall on the local tax payer to petition VDOT as a resident to shift funds to create better roads. I work with colleges and courts on the construction and have heard some pretty “our there things” in my time from their staff, but this takes the cake. Either you work for highwoods and want help pushing the project or you are trolling. I… Read more »

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
8 days ago
Reply to  Fred Squire

Fred, I-295 is a state road, not a county road. It is designed, built and maintained by state and Federal money. Henrico will indeed have to handle the roads beyond the ramps, but I’m sure there will be requirements of the developer to design and build those improvements, assuming they want to have their plans approved.

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
8 days ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

Henrico and Arlington are the only 2 counties in VA in which they,(drum roll….) maintain their own highways. I stand by my comments….Henrico County government is certainly the proper party to communicate with VDOT over highway conditions, needs and on ramp design in their own county. It is never up to the resident to petition VDOT for highway changes, where the county says “do what you want, just put a longer on-ramp anywhere.” Take Henrico out of the equation, Hanover absolutely talks to VDOT about new highway design and exit ramp development. VDOT does not rely on Mr and Mrs… Read more »

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
8 days ago
Reply to  Fred Squire

The problem with that interchange now is that all of the traffic is arriving for a single use, offices, and this single use has the same schedule causing the large backups inbound in the morning and then outbound in the evening. While one direction is backed up the other is nearly empty. By adding residential, there will be the option for some of those commuters to live by the offices, thus reducing the need to commute and relieving some of that traffic. Meanwhile, those that work elsewhere will be mostly filling the opposite, underutilized traffic patterns. The other uses, retail… Read more »

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
8 days ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

I agree with that thought about some residents now living next the office, I was just curious if they had done any studies. Certainly Covid levels of office occupancy throw it off, but found it odd to not mention the traffic at all. Traffic increases may never pan out. Who knows. But I have learned now from the other posters, it’s up to me. I am going to channel my inner Kramer and paint 2 new extra wide lines on that section of 295. Wider lanes for more comfortable driving. It should fix it all since Henrico has no say… Read more »