An industrial warehouse to be built on spec is in the works in eastern Henrico, along a stretch of Pocahontas Parkway near Varina High School.
Ashley Capital, a New York-based real estate investment firm with a focus on industrial properties, is looking to develop a 584,000-square-foot warehouse between the parkway and Laburnum Avenue, southeast of the high school and adjacent to John Rolfe Middle School.
A rezoning for the project received the support of the county’s Planning Commission in mid-January. It now heads to the Board of Supervisors for a deciding vote Feb. 8.
Referred to in plans as Richmond Logistics Center, the building would house multiple users that have yet to be lined up.
Tim Schneider, a senior vice president with Ashley, said Friday that it plans to start marketing the property in the next few months.
If approved by the county, Schneider said site work could start this summer with completion targeted for spring 2023.
The project would be Ashley’s second in the region. In Prince George County, the company renovated the 800,000-square-foot Virginia Gateway Logistics Center, previously an Ace Hardware facility, after purchasing it in 2019 for $21.7 million.
“We have had plans to expand our presence in the Richmond market since our acquisition of the former Ace Hardware facility in Prince George,” Schneider said, adding that Evan Magrill with Thalhimer alerted them to the Varina site.
“We liked the location and proximity to the airport and interstate system, so we pursued the potential purchase,” he said.
The building would fill part of an 89-acre site. Consisting of woods and farmland, the site is currently owned by Pruitt Properties, part of Henrico-based Pruitt Cos., which acquired the land in 2000.
The site consists of a 26-acre parcel at 7001 S. Laburnum Ave., and part of a larger adjoining parcel totaling 87 acres. Henrico has assessed the parcels at $11,700 and $86,300, respectively.
Schneider said pricing for the project has not been finalized. He said the building would be similar in design to the company’s other recent Class A speculative developments.
County planning staff said the project would be comparable to other industrial properties nearby. The six-building Airport Distribution Center, developed incrementally over the past two decades, is northeast of the site at Laburnum and Darbytown Road.
Staff noted the site is part of a designated economic development area and included in a reinvestment and redevelopment area for the South Laburnum Avenue corridor. Planners also pointed to commitments that Ashley has proffered to provide compatibility with neighboring properties.
Plans show the building would be closer to the parkway with the woods along Laburnum providing a 400-foot buffer. An access road off Laburnum would be aligned with Michael Robinson Way, and an additional 100-foot buffer is planned along the property’s southern boundary, said Andy Condlin, a local Roth Jackson attorney representing Ashley in the case.
“This backs up to Pocahontas Parkway, so there’s no real (buffer) concern there, and there are a lot of wetlands in the area as well,” Condlin said. “We will preserve all of that, and that just acts as a natural buffer.”
He added, “The idea is there would be two or three users of the building. They don’t expect to have one user take up the entirety, which is not unusual. That’s the current market up and down Laburnum Avenue right now.”
Each of the longer sides of the building would include about 1,000 feet of loading docks, and employee parking areas would bookend the shorter sides. Four stormwater ponds also are planned.
Ashley is working on the project with Atlanta-based Arco Design/Build. Ashley has an office in Norfolk and has developed properties primarily in the eastern half of the country, with greatest concentrations in Michigan and Georgia, according to its website. In Virginia, the company also developed the 700,000-square-foot Bridgeway Business Center in Suffolk.
Schneider said response to the company’s efforts in Prince George boosted its confidence in the region’s market for speculative warehouse space.
“We were optimistic about the Richmond industrial market when we purchased the Ace Hardware building empty. We started renovations on that building and it was 100-percent leased before we finished the renovations,” Schneider said.
“We were very confident in the market fundamentals then, and the leasing activity over the last several years has only made us more confident that this will be a successful project.”
The Varina project would add to other industrial development interest in that part of Henrico. Farther north, Texas-based Hillwood Development is looking to rezone 530 acres near White Oak Technology Park for industrial and distribution uses.
Condlin also is representing Hillwood in that request, which was slated to go before supervisors last week but was deferred to the board’s March 8 meeting. Condlin said the deferral was requested based on an evaluation of revisions to potential user requirements.