While Richmond’s rapid bus line remains exclusively north of the river, city leaders are looking to encourage transit-oriented development growth to the Southside and even extend service there.
At its latest meeting, the City Council’s Land Use, Housing & Transportation Standing Committee endorsed a resolution that would amend the city’s zoning map to include TOD-1 designations along portions of Richmond Highway (U.S. Route 1), Midlothian Turnpike and Hull Street.
TOD-1, or Transit-Oriented Nodal District, encourages higher-density, mixed-use and pedestrian-oriented development along public transit corridors. The zoning classification was introduced in conjunction with the city’s Pulse Corridor Plan, which laid the groundwork for the GRTC Pulse rapid transit bus line.
While the Pulse line currently extends from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing north of the river, TOD zoning has been implemented in areas beyond the line’s route, including owner-initiated rezonings for properties south of the river in and around Manchester.
Extending TOD further along those three commercial corridors, each of which support standard GRTC bus lines, would mirror similar efforts north of the river, where the council earlier this year continued the zoning along more of the Pulse corridor westward along Broad Street.
Behind that effort was First District Councilmember Andreas Addison, who likewise is driving this latest proposal.
At the committee’s meeting in late July, Addison said of the resolution, “This is just meant to initiate an overdue focus on what we are going to do to really improve the future development and vitality of Southside.”
A companion paper introduced along with the resolution requests north-south extensions for bus rapid transit (BRT) and related infrastructure improvements, Addison noted. It also calls for a new “high-frequency bus route” in the Southside with the goal of providing all city residents with 15-minute access to jobs, schools and services.
“This of course requires strong infrastructure such as sidewalks, bike lanes, good roads that also support pedestrian crossing, but also more importantly high-frequency transit,” Addison said. “I believe that zoning and high-frequency transit as a design can create a lot of these vibrancies we want to see across the city.”
The proposal found favor with council colleagues Michael Jones, Stephanie Lynch and Kristen Nye, whose districts make up much of the Southside. They all signed on as resolution co-patrons.
“Anything we can do to encourage development in this area,” said Jones, who represents the Ninth South Central district. “We want to be able to bike, walk and use public transit efficiently.
“The prospect of being able to take a BRT from Chesterfield Towne Center into the city on Midlothian Turnpike is a gamechanger. That would be huge for my district, to be able to go out and work in the counties,” Jones said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to improve lives, give people access to jobs and truly be able to live, work and play and get around in this area.”
The proposal follows recommendations in the Richmond 300 master plan, which recommends higher-density and mixed land uses along the corridors. It also follows previous efforts to update zoning in the Southside and along the Hull Street Road corridor in Manchester.
Lynch, who has advocated for making the Hull Street corridor in Manchester a higher priority in terms of rolling out Richmond 300’s recommendations, said the TOD proposal for the Southside’s commercial corridors is overdue and represents the culmination of previous efforts such as the Southside Revitalization Task Force.
“That revitalization plan called for a rezoning of the corridor to really align with the community’s needs and not make it what some parts of that corridor are today, which is an anything-goes, said Lynch, who represents the Fifth District. “What that’s led to is probably not the best and highest use (of that land).
“All of those things around public transit, affordable housing, walkable/bikeable communities, that really are the types of features that you see in the more affluent neighborhoods north of the river, that’s what the communities south of the river need and deserve as well,” Lynch said. “It is a path to drive some equity into the planning of the south-of-the-river corridor.”