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.
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.
“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.”