Igniting change: Petersburg’s flourishing development scene (Guest Commentary)

IMG 8060

A rendering of the Sycamore Grove project. (Submitted by Marcus Squires)

Petersburg, Virginia, a city with a rich history, is witnessing a rejuvenation set to reshape its destiny.

This revitalization is being driven by an array of diverse development ventures that are poised to redefine the city’s economic, cultural and social dynamics. As an engaged community member, I’m thrilled to shed some light on these transformative endeavors propelling Petersburg into a regional hub of growth and innovation in what is being called “The Petersburg Region” here in Southside Virginia.

Central to this revival is a resurgence in housing, injecting fresh vitality into neighborhoods across the city. From restoring once-abandoned and collapsing historic homes to erecting modern residences, this housing surge is drawing in both longtime residents and newcomers, weaving a tapestry of diverse community interactions.

A particularly noteworthy initiative encapsulating Petersburg’s commitment to advancement is aptly dubbed “The Project.” Buoyed by a substantial $34 million in bond funding, this ambitious endeavor seeks to reshape the city’s core, with a focal point on a new courthouse complex. However, its scope transcends the courthouse, extending to breathe life into the entire Olde Town Petersburg Courthouse District. By fostering amplified economic activity and opportunities, The Project positions Petersburg as a significant contender in the region’s growth narrative.

The preservation of heritage takes center stage at the iconic Hotel Petersburg, which is undergoing a lavish transformation into a boutique luxury retreat in Olde Town. This preservation not only pays homage to the city’s history but also introduces a modern experience, to be complete with an elevated bar boasting captivating views. This blending of Petersburg legacy and progress epitomizes Petersburg’s commitment to retaining its distinct identity while embracing the trajectory of modernization.

Petersburg Va Hotel Exterior Pic 1

The renovated Hotel Petersburg as it would appear from the outside. (Courtesy of Retro Hospitality)

Further enriching the city’s cultural fabric is the rejuvenation of the South Side Depot, which sits next to Croaker’s Spot restaurant and had been abandoned for over 30 years. It’s now poised to function as a visitor center under the National Park Service’s purview. This initiative is set to bring 30,000 to 40,000 additional visitors to Olde Town, according to the park service, and it will enhance the tourism experience, inviting visitors to engage with Petersburg’s compelling history and culture.

Among the most anticipated developments for many in the Petersburg community is the Sycamore Grove mixed-use project on the old hospital site on Sycamore Street. A highlight of this endeavor is the introduction of a much-needed downtown grocery store, addressing the area’s “food desert” status. With the potential involvement of notable retailers such as Aldi, Publix, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s or Lidl, this project pledges to offer fresh and wholesome food options to the community. Bolstered by state support with Gov. Glenn Younkin’s Partnership for Petersburg initiative, Sycamore Grove underscores Petersburg’s and the state’s resolve to tackle food insecurity while elevating local living with a culinary scene through amenities such as a planned Southern Kitchen restaurant and hundreds of new residential townhouses.

Another fascinating project is Dominion Energy’s High Voltage Laboratory, which shines as a beacon of innovation within Petersburg’s evolving landscape. By providing a testing ground for cutting-edge smart grid technologies, this facility on the border of Dinwiddie and Petersburg off Washington Street will extend beyond the energy sector’s frontiers, contributing to future grid dependability and sustainability. Coupled with a planned solar-powered microgrid, this laboratory paints a picture of a fortified energy future here in the commonwealth.

1.22R phlow main

The proposed $125 million pharmaceutical plant in Petersburg will total 120,000 square feet. (Courtesy of Phlow)

Additionally, Petersburg’s Bio Tech Park is poised to become a leading participant in the U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturing domain. Investments from industry leaders, namely Ampac Fine Chemicals, Phlow Corp. and Civica Rx, are propelling the city to the forefront of biotech, accentuating its potential to foster innovation and growth!

As these transformative ventures unfold, Petersburg emerges as an exemplar of visionary leadership, public-private collaboration and community engagement. The city’s storied past seamlessly intertwines with its forward-facing ventures, forming a mosaic that honors heritage while paving the way for a vibrant, sustainable future. This resurgence goes beyond the tangible; it encapsulates the spirit of a community steadfast in embracing progress without severing ties to its historic origins. As Petersburg embarks on this transformative voyage, it stands as a city celebrating its past, embracing the present and eagerly anticipating the promises of the future. I hope you will join us and continue to bring the world to Petersburg and Petersburg to the ever-transforming world!

IMG 8060

A rendering of the Sycamore Grove project. (Submitted by Marcus Squires)

Petersburg, Virginia, a city with a rich history, is witnessing a rejuvenation set to reshape its destiny.

This revitalization is being driven by an array of diverse development ventures that are poised to redefine the city’s economic, cultural and social dynamics. As an engaged community member, I’m thrilled to shed some light on these transformative endeavors propelling Petersburg into a regional hub of growth and innovation in what is being called “The Petersburg Region” here in Southside Virginia.

Central to this revival is a resurgence in housing, injecting fresh vitality into neighborhoods across the city. From restoring once-abandoned and collapsing historic homes to erecting modern residences, this housing surge is drawing in both longtime residents and newcomers, weaving a tapestry of diverse community interactions.

A particularly noteworthy initiative encapsulating Petersburg’s commitment to advancement is aptly dubbed “The Project.” Buoyed by a substantial $34 million in bond funding, this ambitious endeavor seeks to reshape the city’s core, with a focal point on a new courthouse complex. However, its scope transcends the courthouse, extending to breathe life into the entire Olde Town Petersburg Courthouse District. By fostering amplified economic activity and opportunities, The Project positions Petersburg as a significant contender in the region’s growth narrative.

The preservation of heritage takes center stage at the iconic Hotel Petersburg, which is undergoing a lavish transformation into a boutique luxury retreat in Olde Town. This preservation not only pays homage to the city’s history but also introduces a modern experience, to be complete with an elevated bar boasting captivating views. This blending of Petersburg legacy and progress epitomizes Petersburg’s commitment to retaining its distinct identity while embracing the trajectory of modernization.

Petersburg Va Hotel Exterior Pic 1

The renovated Hotel Petersburg as it would appear from the outside. (Courtesy of Retro Hospitality)

Further enriching the city’s cultural fabric is the rejuvenation of the South Side Depot, which sits next to Croaker’s Spot restaurant and had been abandoned for over 30 years. It’s now poised to function as a visitor center under the National Park Service’s purview. This initiative is set to bring 30,000 to 40,000 additional visitors to Olde Town, according to the park service, and it will enhance the tourism experience, inviting visitors to engage with Petersburg’s compelling history and culture.

Among the most anticipated developments for many in the Petersburg community is the Sycamore Grove mixed-use project on the old hospital site on Sycamore Street. A highlight of this endeavor is the introduction of a much-needed downtown grocery store, addressing the area’s “food desert” status. With the potential involvement of notable retailers such as Aldi, Publix, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s or Lidl, this project pledges to offer fresh and wholesome food options to the community. Bolstered by state support with Gov. Glenn Younkin’s Partnership for Petersburg initiative, Sycamore Grove underscores Petersburg’s and the state’s resolve to tackle food insecurity while elevating local living with a culinary scene through amenities such as a planned Southern Kitchen restaurant and hundreds of new residential townhouses.

Another fascinating project is Dominion Energy’s High Voltage Laboratory, which shines as a beacon of innovation within Petersburg’s evolving landscape. By providing a testing ground for cutting-edge smart grid technologies, this facility on the border of Dinwiddie and Petersburg off Washington Street will extend beyond the energy sector’s frontiers, contributing to future grid dependability and sustainability. Coupled with a planned solar-powered microgrid, this laboratory paints a picture of a fortified energy future here in the commonwealth.

1.22R phlow main

The proposed $125 million pharmaceutical plant in Petersburg will total 120,000 square feet. (Courtesy of Phlow)

Additionally, Petersburg’s Bio Tech Park is poised to become a leading participant in the U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturing domain. Investments from industry leaders, namely Ampac Fine Chemicals, Phlow Corp. and Civica Rx, are propelling the city to the forefront of biotech, accentuating its potential to foster innovation and growth!

As these transformative ventures unfold, Petersburg emerges as an exemplar of visionary leadership, public-private collaboration and community engagement. The city’s storied past seamlessly intertwines with its forward-facing ventures, forming a mosaic that honors heritage while paving the way for a vibrant, sustainable future. This resurgence goes beyond the tangible; it encapsulates the spirit of a community steadfast in embracing progress without severing ties to its historic origins. As Petersburg embarks on this transformative voyage, it stands as a city celebrating its past, embracing the present and eagerly anticipating the promises of the future. I hope you will join us and continue to bring the world to Petersburg and Petersburg to the ever-transforming world!

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
8 months ago

That’s quite a pep talk and I hope he’s correct. I was pleased to be part of the sale of 600 West Wythe Street, a conversion of a 270,000 sf warehouse (and once one of the largest trunk manufacturing plants in the world) to Dave McCormick for a mixed use plan including about 250 apartments. Dave has done wonders to other properties in Petersburg and throughout the state.

Marcus Squires
Marcus Squires
8 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Thanks for the update regarding that additional project in the works. Do you know if Dave has a set date to begin the conversion? I saw a few weeks ago that they were still moving items out of the building.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago

Kudos to you for finding this avenue to inform Richmonders about the potentials in Petersburg (sounds like a slogan that Richmond City Hall would pay consultants $200k for.) I have long felt that getting newcomers to Richmond to consider investing in Petersburg has been like getting people from NoVa and DC to invest in RIchmond, both low hanging fruit, and a matter of time. I admire your energy. I was preparing to comment about the news this morning about the old train co. HQ getting ready to open after a big infusion of money from the Feds, but I see… Read more »

Marcus Squires
Marcus Squires
8 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Well said, hopefully many more will venture out to Petersburg. We also have the new mental health hospital (central state) in the pipe line, but I didn’t include it in the article as the department of general services has not yet given a public comment on its funding / future.

Bruce D Anderson
Bruce D Anderson
8 months ago

It’s great to see more good news coming out of Petersburg. We look forward to doing our part to add to the resurgence.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago

I have long thought that Petersburg should try harder to get Richmonders to take day trips to Petersburg. Doesn’t matter where people live, they like to get out of town every now and then just because — before Fredericksburg became part of NoVa, people loved to go either down there from NoVa or up there from Richmond — Petersburg is worth the trip if they just could figure out how to market it to OUTSIDERS instead of trying to convince their own residents that it is a worthwhile place (exhibit: Their terribly stupid I am Petersburg marketing campaign that seemed… Read more »

Marcus Squires
Marcus Squires
8 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Petersburg actually hired the individual that claimed they were the individual who turned Staunton around. In my opinion, they were a delegator, and not so much a doer. Hopefully with the newly hired and much more qualified staffing at City Hall more will be done.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Squires

Interesting color. The outfit that the Johnson admn hired was also named Johnson…. but that IS a common name….

All I know is that I’ve seen too much in my life and one of the Councilmembers from that time has been in the news again and graft and tax funded slush funds are still a thing.

Kathleen Morgan
Kathleen Morgan
7 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

When I worked in Petersburg (for the City), I brought friends into town for “Pencil in Petersburg”. We did a walking tour and stopped at a number of restaurants. It can be as easy as that!

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
7 months ago

I used to bring people down too. Even a few potential business owners, just so more people knew what was down in Petersburg.

But now, Petersburg is being discovered, not because of any marketing campaign, but often by necessity.

Jeff Wells
Jeff Wells
8 months ago

This is all great information thank you Marcus!

Marcus Squires
Marcus Squires
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Wells

You’re most welcome!

Jeneatta 301Crestfall Jackson
Jeneatta 301Crestfall Jackson
8 months ago

As a Petersburg resident for over thirty years, I have seen many changes in this city. Some good, some not so good.
I’m hoping all good efforts will outshine the negatively that has taken root in this historic city. I’m watch, waiting, and enjoying the view. Thanks for the imaginary binoculars
Mr. Squires
Jeneatta Jackson

Marcus squires
Marcus squires
8 months ago

I’m not sure why you mean by imaginary? Many of these projects have already started. The bonds have been approved for the project and sycamore grove is set to break ground in September? All of the other projects are well underway. The one project I left out was the updated central state as I am not confident that state will be funding it.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus squires

I think she means “figurative” binoculars Marcus; I don’t think she is being doubtful.

Malcolm Schweizer
Malcolm Schweizer
8 months ago

When the need arose to move to the Richmond area, I started scouting places to move my woodworking business. Expanding my search area, I discovered Petersburg. I flew in and spent a day scouting the city. I saw a city ready to rejuvenate, and a city with beautiful historic homes and buildings at affordable prices. It seemed a perfect spot. I purchased a historic home for a third of what it would have cost in Richmond, on beautiful Poplar Lawn Park. I found a warehouse space with a wonderful landlord who worked with us on buildout and supported us by… Read more »

Marcus squires
Marcus squires
8 months ago

We are glad you found Petersburg!

Girard Gurgick
Girard Gurgick
8 months ago

Last Tuesday I presented to the SoVA Chamber of Commerce the C-PACE opportunity made available to these developments through the Petersburg C-PACE ordinance. Passed by Petersburg in 2019 C-PACE makes the capital available to these projects that can reward them to be as green as possible. 2020 VA SRECS are supplementing solar investments so that solar is cash flow positive to all businesses and most non-profits when combined with the Federal 2022 IRA tax credit. This is after netting out the C-PACE assessment. Likewise better insulation, energy controls, wind, geothermal HVAC and hot water (the most carbon reducing technology) car… Read more »

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
8 months ago

Petersburg has, and will have, some success especially with housing and Old Town but come on a Whole Foods???? That is about as possible than the Ikea talk at the Diamond District. The Save-A-Lot in Petersburg closed it doors earlier this month. The City has under 35k residents and a 25% poverty rate. In a challenging retail market, I just don’t see many national stores opening a new locations in this very, very small City.

Last edited 8 months ago by Michael Morgan-Dodson
Marcus Squires
Marcus Squires
8 months ago

This could be very true, the presentation said the state would help support the store. They also said a target was on the radar. But I found that to be the most unlikely so I didn’t even list it. Time will tell what happens with the Sycamore Grove development, Tim Kane was touring the site earlier this week and the city has been inspecting and surveying all of the infrastructure on the site. The anticipated announcement should be taking place this fall.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago

I agree with this, Petersburg has long held unrealistic views about supermarkets in general, and a look at a map shows where WF, TJs are willing to go. I don’t think an Aldis would go there — they have one in Colonial Heights and everyone I know in Petersburg goes there — esp since they can hit it on a trip to Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes. MAYBE, with the right incentives, and with some promising data in their hands, a Publix would go there since the nearest one to Petersburg is JUST a bit of a trip. Does Kroger… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Further, where I grew up, there was not even a grocery store that we could bike to, and the nearest bus stop was at least a half hour walk if not more —and there was ONE supermarket in town, which was twice the size of Petersburg. The Price Chopper sucked too — even Food Lion is much nicer.

Leon Phoenix
Leon Phoenix
7 months ago

They’ll need to get tough on crime. Petersburg has a reputation for being a high crime area, and this drives away investors, businesses, grocery stores, etc.

Marcus Squires
Marcus Squires
7 months ago
Reply to  Leon Phoenix

In the last five years the city has tackled crime with operations like operation clean streets and others that took almost 100 criminals off the streets. They also have new car tracking systems which have been installed in the last few months to monitor cars based off of their plate numbers entering the city and moving around the city. The city is much safer now compared to just a few years ago.

Leon Phoenix
Leon Phoenix
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Squires

Not a fan of surveillance and targeting. And if it worked, why does Petersburg have a murder rate 7 times the national average? This has to be fixed before businesses and families feel secure enough to move in.

Marcus Squires
Marcus Squires
7 months ago
Reply to  Leon Phoenix

Those demographics place Petersburg into the same ranks as cities with over 100,000 individuals. Virginia is an oddity in regards to the city county structure, our state being one of the few states where independent cities exist. I believe outside of Virginia there are only three independent cities.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Squires

Good point. Petersburg’s murder rates are abyssmal — for Virginia, kinda like Pueblo’s is abyssmal for Colorado. I am not sure what the rank is but Virginia as a whole is one of the lower murder States in the USA — but Richmond a Petersburg (and a few other independent cites look bad compared to a lot of more famous places for crime even, perhaps because of what you have pointed out. Almost all the murders here are “the company you keep” murders, and then there are some “where you live killings” where people are killed merely because they occupied… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
7 months ago
Reply to  Leon Phoenix

Well, one could say that about Richmond too — and the entire West Coast of the USA and NYC…. But Petersburg has had a funding problem and some chicken-egg problems for a long time — police not paid as well as in neighboring counties —> less applicants—> poorly quality of police hires. New police have more stress and frustrations, but certainly get EXPERIENCE — and then the best policemen often get hired away. Recently, the State Police has helped a LOT with policing in Petersburg. Also all the new residents fixing up homes will add to the tax revenues and… Read more »

Debra GravesBranch
Debra GravesBranch
7 months ago

Make these renovated homes affordable

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
7 months ago

?

Chris Young
Chris Young
7 months ago

The revival of Petersburg not only benefits Petersburg residents, but also people in the surrounding areas when it comes to entertainment, food options, and commerce. Bringing in more economic development will only improve the quality of life for those living in Petersburg

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Young

That’s true. A long time ago, a guy who turned a bunch of old buildings into loft apts told me the most surprising thing that helped him fill them was that there were a lot of people that lived in southside that wanted a more urban (as in nightlife, coffeeshops, more choices, etc) place to live without having to move all the way up to Richmond (like maybe they worked somewhere in southside) I also heard a long time ago that the people who run Colonial Heights coveted Old Town Petersburg’s downtown, since they have nothing like it. As much… Read more »