1,000-home development planned for 250 acres in Varina

A conceptual site plan for East West Communities’ Arcadia development, which would fill 250 acres east of Pocahontas Parkway and Route 5. (Henrico County documents)

The development firm behind Brandermill and Woodlake in Chesterfield County is eyeing eastern Henrico for its next large-scale residential community.

Midlothian-based East West Communities is planning a 1,000-home development on roughly 250 acres of farmland just east of Pocahontas Parkway where it crosses Route 5 in Varina.

The developer, whose other communities in the area include Hallsley, Hampton Park and River’s Bend on the James, is proposing a mix of houses, townhomes and potentially condominiums on the bulk of the Varina site, which straddles Willson Road north of its intersection with Route 5.

Called Arcadia, the development would be split into two sections: Arcadia West, between the parkway and Willson Road; and Arcadia East across Willson, which would connect the two. Arcadia West would include a clubhouse with pool and the bulk of the townhomes and condos, while Arcadia East would consist more of single-family houses with some townhomes surrounding a central park area.

The park is envisioned to potentially be used as an urban farm or community garden, and environmentally sensitive areas on the site would make up 80-plus acres of open and recreational space that would connect to the Virginia Capital Trail, the bike and pedestrian trail that runs along Route 5.

The project appears to be East West’s first in Henrico. Along with its aforementioned developments in Chesterfield County, the firm also developed Giles in Hanover County and Patriots Landing in New Kent. In 2019, it proposed a 250-home project in eastern Powhatan that was snubbed by that county’s Board of Supervisors.

A closer view of Arcadia West, which could include condos lining Pocahontas Parkway.

For Arcadia, East West is seeking Henrico County approval to rezone 11 parcels that make up the 253-acre site, referred to in documents as Nelson Farm. Existing homes on the parcels would be removed.

The parcels are owned by members or trustees of the Nelson and Gottwald families, property records show. They’re assessed by Henrico at just over $1.5 million collectively.

The rezoning would change the land’s use designation from agricultural to SMX-PD, or Suburban Residential Mixed Planned Development District, a newer zoning designation that Henrico introduced last year and functions similarly to its Urban Mixed-Use district.

In a staff report, county planners recommend approving the request, contingent on the Virginia Department of Transportation completing its review of a submitted traffic impact analysis.

That analysis, completed for East West by engineering firm Kimley-Horn, suggests various roadway improvements to support the project along Willson, which would provide primary access to both halves of the development. An additional access road for Arcadia East would connect with Route 5 across from St. James Baptist Church.

Connections to the Capital Trail are planned there, and at the westernmost edge of the site across from the Varina Area Library. East West’s application notes the trail would provide residents with access to downtown Richmond and other areas.

One of three proposed conceptual layouts for Arcadia East, which would consist of single-family homes and a cluster of townhomes around a central park area.

The application includes a pattern book that describes Arcadia and how it would be developed, as well as architectural styles, design approaches and aesthetics. The development is described as following an urban village approach, in which suburban neighborhoods are formed around denser development.

Arcadia would consist of 450 houses and 358 townhomes, with the remainder of the units made up of either condos or more townhomes or houses. No more than 190 condos would be allowed, and no apartments are proposed.

If built, the condo buildings would range from three to four stories and be positioned closest to Pocahontas Parkway, with two- to three-story townhomes providing a transition to the single-family homes in Arcadia East and surrounding the clubhouse.

Architectural styles for the houses would include Arts & Crafts, Classical, Contemporary and European Romantic.

Architectural styles for the houses would include Arts & Crafts, Classical, Contemporary and European Romantic, with floorplans ranging upwards from 900 square feet in size. The condos would range from 900 to 1,000 square feet and include one-, two- and three-bedroom floorplans. The townhomes would start at 1,200 square feet.

A 50-foot landscape buffer is planned around the development, along with a 500-foot setback off Route 5. Open and recreational space would make up one-third of the development and include pocket parks, landscaping and a greenbelt mews or walkway. Sidewalks and streetlights also are planned.

The documents do not indicate a development schedule or price points for the homes. Representatives for East West could not be reached for comment Monday.

According to its website, East West’s communities range in home prices from $200,000 for townhomes at Patriots Landing to over $1 million for the pricier houses in Hallsley.

Arcadia is one of the larger residential developments to be proposed in Henrico in recent years. In February, Markel | Eagle Partners received county approval for Avenlea, a 1,600-home development with a mixed-use commercial component on land near Short Pump, in Henrico’s western end.

East West’s proposal comes a year after another large-scale proposal in Varina was withdrawn. Homebuilder D.R. Horton withdrew a plan to build 770 homes on 420 acres about two miles east of the Route 5/Interstate 295 interchange.

The Arcadia property is across Pocahontas Parkway from the site of a planned industrial warehouse near Varina High School. New York-based Ashley Capital purchased the land for that project after securing approvals earlier this year.

The Henrico Planning Commission is scheduled to consider Arcadia at its Dec. 15 meeting, the agenda for which is almost solely dedicated to the case.

A conceptual site plan for East West Communities’ Arcadia development, which would fill 250 acres east of Pocahontas Parkway and Route 5. (Henrico County documents)

The development firm behind Brandermill and Woodlake in Chesterfield County is eyeing eastern Henrico for its next large-scale residential community.

Midlothian-based East West Communities is planning a 1,000-home development on roughly 250 acres of farmland just east of Pocahontas Parkway where it crosses Route 5 in Varina.

The developer, whose other communities in the area include Hallsley, Hampton Park and River’s Bend on the James, is proposing a mix of houses, townhomes and potentially condominiums on the bulk of the Varina site, which straddles Willson Road north of its intersection with Route 5.

Called Arcadia, the development would be split into two sections: Arcadia West, between the parkway and Willson Road; and Arcadia East across Willson, which would connect the two. Arcadia West would include a clubhouse with pool and the bulk of the townhomes and condos, while Arcadia East would consist more of single-family houses with some townhomes surrounding a central park area.

The park is envisioned to potentially be used as an urban farm or community garden, and environmentally sensitive areas on the site would make up 80-plus acres of open and recreational space that would connect to the Virginia Capital Trail, the bike and pedestrian trail that runs along Route 5.

The project appears to be East West’s first in Henrico. Along with its aforementioned developments in Chesterfield County, the firm also developed Giles in Hanover County and Patriots Landing in New Kent. In 2019, it proposed a 250-home project in eastern Powhatan that was snubbed by that county’s Board of Supervisors.

A closer view of Arcadia West, which could include condos lining Pocahontas Parkway.

For Arcadia, East West is seeking Henrico County approval to rezone 11 parcels that make up the 253-acre site, referred to in documents as Nelson Farm. Existing homes on the parcels would be removed.

The parcels are owned by members or trustees of the Nelson and Gottwald families, property records show. They’re assessed by Henrico at just over $1.5 million collectively.

The rezoning would change the land’s use designation from agricultural to SMX-PD, or Suburban Residential Mixed Planned Development District, a newer zoning designation that Henrico introduced last year and functions similarly to its Urban Mixed-Use district.

In a staff report, county planners recommend approving the request, contingent on the Virginia Department of Transportation completing its review of a submitted traffic impact analysis.

That analysis, completed for East West by engineering firm Kimley-Horn, suggests various roadway improvements to support the project along Willson, which would provide primary access to both halves of the development. An additional access road for Arcadia East would connect with Route 5 across from St. James Baptist Church.

Connections to the Capital Trail are planned there, and at the westernmost edge of the site across from the Varina Area Library. East West’s application notes the trail would provide residents with access to downtown Richmond and other areas.

One of three proposed conceptual layouts for Arcadia East, which would consist of single-family homes and a cluster of townhomes around a central park area.

The application includes a pattern book that describes Arcadia and how it would be developed, as well as architectural styles, design approaches and aesthetics. The development is described as following an urban village approach, in which suburban neighborhoods are formed around denser development.

Arcadia would consist of 450 houses and 358 townhomes, with the remainder of the units made up of either condos or more townhomes or houses. No more than 190 condos would be allowed, and no apartments are proposed.

If built, the condo buildings would range from three to four stories and be positioned closest to Pocahontas Parkway, with two- to three-story townhomes providing a transition to the single-family homes in Arcadia East and surrounding the clubhouse.

Architectural styles for the houses would include Arts & Crafts, Classical, Contemporary and European Romantic.

Architectural styles for the houses would include Arts & Crafts, Classical, Contemporary and European Romantic, with floorplans ranging upwards from 900 square feet in size. The condos would range from 900 to 1,000 square feet and include one-, two- and three-bedroom floorplans. The townhomes would start at 1,200 square feet.

A 50-foot landscape buffer is planned around the development, along with a 500-foot setback off Route 5. Open and recreational space would make up one-third of the development and include pocket parks, landscaping and a greenbelt mews or walkway. Sidewalks and streetlights also are planned.

The documents do not indicate a development schedule or price points for the homes. Representatives for East West could not be reached for comment Monday.

According to its website, East West’s communities range in home prices from $200,000 for townhomes at Patriots Landing to over $1 million for the pricier houses in Hallsley.

Arcadia is one of the larger residential developments to be proposed in Henrico in recent years. In February, Markel | Eagle Partners received county approval for Avenlea, a 1,600-home development with a mixed-use commercial component on land near Short Pump, in Henrico’s western end.

East West’s proposal comes a year after another large-scale proposal in Varina was withdrawn. Homebuilder D.R. Horton withdrew a plan to build 770 homes on 420 acres about two miles east of the Route 5/Interstate 295 interchange.

The Arcadia property is across Pocahontas Parkway from the site of a planned industrial warehouse near Varina High School. New York-based Ashley Capital purchased the land for that project after securing approvals earlier this year.

The Henrico Planning Commission is scheduled to consider Arcadia at its Dec. 15 meeting, the agenda for which is almost solely dedicated to the case.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
2 months ago

I’ve been waiting for something big to occur in residential for a long time in Varina but something always trips it up. The Reynolds property never materialized as the housing boom went bust in 2009. Wilton, HHHunts big planned community dissolved shortly thereafter when Henrico pulled the rug out on a tax financed concept they had planned. Greyco has had TreeHill Farm on the books for years, but that firm is very deliberate. Then DR Horton inexplicably dropped the Atack property (Bob had a better plan for it, anyway, before his death.) East West is a proven entity. They will… Read more »

Daryl Dungee
Daryl Dungee
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

I don’t see anything slowing down this tremendous growth spurt Metro Richmond is seeing. I feel In 10 yrs the city will be just as busy as DC. It’s already predicted based on numbers that chesterfields population with surpass the entire Virginia Beach area.

Flora Valdes-Dapena
Flora Valdes-Dapena
2 months ago

As nice as it looks, it’s still a shame to see valuable rural farms being used for inefficient, sprawling suburban development.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
2 months ago

I once worked on a science fiction idea were alien socity would live in a big 400 story skyscraper while it would be located on hundreds of thousands of acres of farm land.They oddly find human suburbia and cities a waste of space with how everyone sits in traffic or has to drive 20 miles though stoplights to go somewhere. But for this project I would love to see a 50 story building or 20 story building on the same amount of land with a parking deck so it only takes up 5 to 10 acres out of this 250… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago

most people prefer single family dwellings. It is a well known fact.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
2 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

But it’s a horrible wast of space epsically when a lot of people still live five feet from their neighor. Also I don’t think it’s healthy long term.

Ron Mexico
Ron Mexico
2 months ago

lol here comes the Build Nothing Anywhere Ever brigade with the latest ad-hoc excuse for inflating their own property values: we’re running out of farmland!!

Bob Wilkus
Bob Wilkus
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron Mexico

Think of the trees!!!!!

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron Mexico
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago

Farm land is abundant in Virgina, and not only superabundant, but also a lot more productive per acre in the midwest — they got whole Virginias of the stuff out there.

All this “losing farmland” stuff is nonsense. As far as productivity goes, check out how much food the tiny NETHERLANDS is producing with Green houses — since we are increasingly interested in more conservation of NATURE (as opposed to farms), Greenhousing is the future. It’s even the now.

Tammy Varga
Tammy Varga
2 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Soybean, Corn, Tobacco, Cotton & peanuts grow well in the area. Some grow better here than the middle of the state. Using greenhouses for large scale growth of those crops simply would not be feasible. Even the Netherlands still needs farmland for wheat production. Greenhouses are great for vegetables, flowers, some fruits, which the Netherlands do use greenhouses for production. However, large scale staple crops like peanuts, soybean & corn requires large tracts of farmland, direct sunlight and water.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
2 months ago

Here’s a question for Henrico County’s Planning Department. How will this development affect Varina High School, Rolfe Middle School and the elementary school on Messer Road?

Bryan Wilkins
Bryan Wilkins
2 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

My hope is with all that tax revenue, they would dump it into the schools. As in tear down and rebuild like they did Highland Springs and J.R. Tucker

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
2 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Wilkins

So far I have never seen any of that what really ends up happening is now the project will demand more road and tax funding to extend services to it.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Wilkins

Looks like from the drawings, and the types of houses they have built before, there WILL be a lot of tax revenue — counties like to approve TWO things — expensive single family and density — that is why so few young people can afford a single family home.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
2 months ago

Now that they want to build a 1,000 homes in this area are they ready to fund the widening Route 5 from here into the city to a four lane highway? And build a exit at Route 5 for Route 895 for the traffic from this place.

Also are they going to add trails and sidewalks to all the streets with in 3 miles of this place?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago

Why should they? people will be driving from there.

Ryan O’Hallahan
Ryan O’Hallahan
2 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Correct, and the majority will drive into Richmond along Route 5. There’s already going to be massive choke point at Rocket’s and Henrico needs to work with Richmond to widen Rt 5 to 4 lanes to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic. Nobody wants an extra 10 minutes added on to their drive and go forbid there’s a wreck; Route 5 is basically the only way into town from that direction.

Dave Howard
Dave Howard
1 month ago

There is an ingress/egress to 895 at Laburnum. The Capital Trail is already in place. Widening of Rt 5 may be needed at some point for downtown traffic. Eastern Henrico will be developed, its only a matter of time.

Jeremy Rowan
Jeremy Rowan
1 month ago

I can’t believe that there are so many people who want more development in Varina. Do they actually live here? Because our 2 lane Rt. 5 is already very conjested during rush hours. Our schools are also already very dated & over crowded. So that will require adding lanes to Rt. 5 & building new / more schools to accommodate the builder, who walks away making his money, while we the taxpayers flip the bill for all the necessary improvements. The people of Varina have said for decades that we don’t want to become another Short Pump or Brandermill. Ever… Read more »