Henrico sells Best Products site to GreenCity developer, buys athletic center next door

The former Best Products headquarters building, which is to be repurposed as part of the GreenCity development. (Images courtesy Henrico County)

The land for the first phase of Henrico’s GreenCity development is now in the hands of the developer of the arena-anchored project, while an adjacent athletic center used by a local college prep school is now in the county’s.

As scheduled, the 93-acre former Best Products property sold to an LLC tied to Green City Partners in a transaction recorded Feb. 28 – the first of three annual payments to be made according to a purchase agreement between the developer and Henrico’s Economic Development Authority.

A week earlier, the EDA bought the nearby Saint Gertrude High School Outdoor Athletic Center, a 16-acre property at 490 Scott Road that’s adjacent to the northern half of the 200-acre GreenCity site.

The 16-acre facility includes two multipurpose fields, a softball field, six tennis courts and a field house. (Image courtesy Saint Gertrude High School)

The EDA paid $4.5 million for the property, which it then gifted to the nascent Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority. The S&E Authority plans to work the athletic center into its sports tourism programming while allowing Saint Gertrude to continue to use it.

Dennis Bickmeier

Dennis Bickmeier, the S&E Authority’s executive director, said Saint Gertrude would continue to have first access to the center for the next several years while new facilities are built at Benedictine College Preparatory’s campus, where Saint Gertrude moved in 2021. Both schools make up Benedictine Schools of Richmond, which was the seller in the deal with Henrico.

“We’ll have oversight of the property, but we’ll work very closely with Saint Gertrude on their games and their practices that they have scheduled,” Bickmeier said. “During that time, if there are some open dates that they don’t have anything going and we have a need, we could potentially use those (fields). But priority No. 1 is Saint Gertrude and their use.”

Built in 2014, the facility includes two fields, one grass and one turf, that can be used for field hockey, soccer and lacrosse. It also includes a softball field, six tennis courts, a walking path and a field house.

Bickmeier said the facility in the long term would supplement the county’s sports tourism programming, as well as the adjacent GreenCity development, which is planned to take shape over the next decade. He said the center was listed for sale when the EDA made its offer. The county had assessed the property at $3.4 million.

The athletic center was built in 2014. (Henrico County property record)

“As we look down the road, it’s a great property to have in our sports portfolio,” Bickmeier said. “The proximity to GreenCity is something that I think will be beneficial as that development comes out of the ground. We have this other 16 acres that we’ll continue to program and take advantage of having the multipurpose fields there, the softball field, the tennis courts.”

EDA director Anthony Romanello called the property “a critical piece to the overall development of GreenCity.”

“With Saint Gertrude moving out to Goochland, we thought it was a really good long-term acquisition for the county to have,” he said. “In the near term, it’s a beautiful facility, with rectangular and diamond fields. It really made sense for Dennis and his team to own and operate it until the northern portion of GreenCity is built out.”

The sale came just weeks after Saint Gertude’s former campus in Richmond’s Museum District was sold to a developer for $10.5 million. The seller in that deal was Saint Gertrude monastery and Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, based in Bristow. SNP Properties plans to convert the campus into apartments.

Saint Gertrude, an all-girls Catholic school, moved to its male counterpart’s River Road campus after nearly a century in Richmond. The combination created Benedictine Schools of Richmond as a new corporation in early 2020.

Best Products site sale sets up GreenCity

The Best Products building anchors the largely wooded 93-acre site beside Interstate 95.

The Best Products property’s transfer sets the stage for work to start on the first phase of GreenCity, the massive mixed-use development slated to fill 200 acres along the Interstate 95 corridor.

While the developer has two more payments to make, the property transferred with the initial $500,000 payment via a deed that was recorded with the county. The transfer was not reflected on the county’s online property records.

The payment was made in accordance with the purchase agreement between the EDA and Green City Partners. The agreement, which was amended in November, called for an initial installment of $500,000, another $500,000 one year after that, and the remaining balance – $5.2 million – the year after that, by Feb. 28, 2025. The $6.2 million total is the amount the county paid for the property in 2011.

Recorded with the deed was a memorandum of a repurchase option for the EDA. The memorandum gives the EDA the option to repurchase any undeveloped portion of the 93-acre property, if the developer fails to pay an installment or otherwise defaults on the parties’ development agreement.

Such a scenario is also covered in the purchase agreement, which states that, should the developer default, the EDA can repurchase undeveloped parts of property at the same price per acre and terminate the agreement.

The property, at 1400 Best Plaza Drive, is assessed by the county at $265,500. It is located northeast of the Parham Road interchange and includes the 300,000-square-foot former Best Products headquarters building, which is to be repurposed.

The property also would house the planned 17,000-seat arena that would anchor GreenCity, which at build-out would fill 200 acres along the I-95 corridor. The rest of the land is owned by Bill Goodwin’s Riverstone Properties, which has yet to sell that property and recently filed a conceptual layout for residential development of the land.

The 200-acre GreenCity site includes the Scott Farm property owned by Riverstone Properties. The Saint Gertrude athletic center is visible at top right.

In addition to the arena, which is projected to cost $250 million, GreenCity is approved for 2.2 million square feet of office space, 280,000 square feet of retail, two 300-room hotels, 2,400 residential units and green space.

Green City Partners has said it plans to break ground this year on the project’s first phase, which would include the arena, the first of the two hotels and other initial development.

The Best Products building rehab is slated for completion in 2025, while the arena is targeted for 2026. Full build-out of the entire GreenCity project is anticipated in 2033.

Last month, ASM Global was announced as the arena’s developer and operator. The venue management company, whose 350-plus venues include Richmond’s Altria Theater and Dominion Energy Center, is also investing in other parts of GreenCity, including retail and hospitality uses planned to support the arena.

Green City Partners is led by Susan Eastridge and Michael Hallmark. Eastridge is CEO of Concord Eastridge, a Fairfax-based firm that focuses on public-private and mixed-use developments. Hallmark is a principal with Richmond-based Future Cities and has designed several arenas across the country.

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Brian Glass
Brian Glass
13 days ago

Unless major corporations relocate their headquarters to Green City I don’t believe that there would be a demand for 2.2 million square feet of office space. Many companies are re-evaluating their office needs post pandemic. It appears that there will be a percentage of employee time that will be home based. That will reduce the square footage needed for traditional office space. Have considerations been made for a possible County school, or school campus, within Green City or can the surrounding schools handle the projected increase from the residential development? The addition of the Saint Gertrude property fits like a… Read more »

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
13 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

You also have to add that alot of companies are saving ALOT of money by not having to lease or own alot of that office space. I feel like switching alot of office space to more residential and light industrial would be a smarter decision. Why not bring some small plant or small factory jobs into that area too.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
12 days ago
Reply to  Zach Rugar

Small plant or small factory jobs would be great, but to keep the “green city” name/image, there is very little manufacturing that would be able to conform with the green regulations/DEQ regs in that location – and be able to make a profit. All manufacturing has some “non-green” ingredients, processes, or byproducts.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
12 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Yeah, I thought the same thing – office space is getting smaller. I certainly hope the county doesn’t put more non-tax revenue government buildings in this development.

Ron Kaplan
Ron Kaplan
13 days ago

I’m sure developers will pivot and make adjustments as the market dictates. This is a multi year project so it’s only obvious that not everything is set in stone.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
12 days ago
Reply to  Ron Kaplan

Agreed Ron, I thought I read somewhere that this developer was open to the possibility that a professional sports team could be lured to this development?