Behind-the-scenes steps continue to be taken in the lead-up to GreenCity, the massive mixed-use, arena-anchored development in the works in Henrico County.
At the same time, more about the project and its vision as a so-called “ecodistrict” village is being put into public view.
Developers behind the $2.3 billion plan have submitted their application for a rezoning of the land that includes the county-owned Best Products site at Interstate 95 and Parham Road.
The request, which was filed in mid-June and is under review by county planning staff, seeks to designate the entire 200-acre project site under Henrico’s Urban Mixed-Use district, which would accommodate the mix of commercial, residential and office uses that would make up GreenCity.
The application includes a master site plan and design pattern book, which details the development’s various components. It does not yet include a traffic impact analysis (TIA), a required document that remains in the works.
In recent days, developers launched a dedicated website for the project, with the master site plan and design pattern book included. The 134-page document, along with other project details, can be viewed on the site, GreenCityVA.com.
Joe Emerson, Henrico’s planning director, said his staff is in the process of reviewing the application, which has been distributed to various departments. He said the case could go before the Planning Commission as early as September, depending on when the TIA is provided.
Final zoning approval would come from the Board of Supervisors, which likewise would hold a public hearing before a vote. Roth Jackson attorney Andy Condlin is representing the developers in the process.
‘Living building’ development
Announced in December, GreenCity is planned to consist of 2.2 million square feet of office space, 280,000 square feet of retail, two 300-room hotels, green space, and up to 2,400 residential units.
The GreenCity arena, the first hotel and other initial development are targeted for completion in 2025, with full buildout anticipated in 2033.
Initial development would include repurposing the 300,000-square-foot former Best Products headquarters as a so-called “living building,” meaning it would generate more energy than it would use, among other environmental sustainability features.
Michael Hallmark, one of the developers behind GreenCity and a principal with Richmond-based Future Cities, has said he is planning to submit the Best Products project for consideration in the Living Building Challenge, a recognition program under the Seattle-based International Living Future Institute.
If successful, the project would be the largest commercial “living building” in the world, he said.
“That could influence other developments going forward. It could be very consequential,” Hallmark said this week.
Land purchases, CDA to follow
Next steps in the process include acquisition of the Best Products site, as well as the rest of the land to the north known as Scott Farm, which would be purchased from Bill Goodwin’s Riverstone Properties.
The purchase of the county-owned Best Products site is contingent on the rezoning, said Anthony Romanello, Henrico’s economic development director.
Earlier this year, county supervisors transferred the site’s ownership to the county’s economic development authority, which Romanello said has signed a purchase agreement with the development entity, GreenCity LLC.
The purchase agreement is based on a sale price of $6.2 million, the amount the county paid for the 92-acre property in 2011.
The remaining acreage would involve a separate transaction between Riverstone and GreenCity LLC. Riverstone bought its land in 2015 for more than $6.4 million.
Other steps include the establishment of a community development authority (CDA) for the project site that would generate tax revenue to support the development as it progresses. Romanello said the CDA would likewise follow the rezoning later this fall.
Henrico has used CDAs for other developments such as Short Pump Town Center, White Oak Village and Reynolds Crossing. Thirty-year bonds used to finance GreenCity would be paid off with tax revenue from the development’s initial phases, as well as from revenues generated from the arena.
The scenario is different than the former Navy Hill proposal, which hinged on taxpayer support through a proposed tax-increment financing district. That plan, which a majority of the Richmond City Council rejected last year, was centered on a new arena to replace the Coliseum.
Hallmark, who has designed multiple arenas across the country, was part of the development team behind Navy Hill along with GreenCity collaborator Susan Eastridge of Concord Eastridge, a Fairfax-based firm that focuses on public-private and mixed-use developments.
Downtown project site acquired
Hallmark and Eastridge also are leading the redevelopment of one of the downtown city blocks previously involved in Navy Hill: the former Public Safety Building site at 500 N. 10th St., where their Capital City Partners LLC is planning a 20-story, VCU Health-anchored tower and mixed-use office complex.