Six-story mixed-use building gets initial nod for Northside intersection

lombardy street overhead

The 1.6-acre site is along the west side of Lombardy Street, just west of Chamberlayne Avenue and northeast of Virginia Union University. (Image courtesy 510 Architects)

A sizable development that could drive further growth around a busy Northside crossroads has received the endorsement of the Richmond Planning Commission.

Commissioners voted Monday to recommend approval of a six-story mixed-use building in the works along the north side of Lombardy Street just west of its intersection with Chamberlayne Avenue.

A final vote on whether to approve a rezoning and special-use permit to allow the project would be made by Richmond City Council, which is scheduled to consider it at its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10 – a day later than its usual schedule due to the Columbus Day holiday.

An LLC tied to Fairfax-based development firm Sugar Mill Construction is behind the project, which would consist of an unspecified number of apartments and a corner commercial space that’s envisioned to be a café or convenience shop.

The top floor of the six-story building would be recessed by at least five feet, to lessen visual impacts from the street. While the rezoning from UB-2 Urban Business District to TOD-1 Transit Oriented Nodal District would allow the mix of uses, an SUP is needed to allow the building height, which exceeds the height allowable for that site based on an “inclined plane” methodology.

Jeff Geiger, a Hirschler attorney representing applicant One Parkwood LLC, told the commission that the building provides an opportunity to have more eyes on the street, with balconies overlooking what officials described as a corridor prone to illicit activities.

Ann-Frances Lambert, who represents the area on City Council, said in a hearing that the corridor has a history of opioid use and prostitution and “is in desperate need for some development.”

“This development will definitely change the dynamic of that corridor,” Lambert said.

Area neighborhood and civic associations did not oppose the project, and city planning staff recommended approval, describing it as in line with the Richmond 300 plan as part of its VUU/Chamberlayne neighborhood growth node, which calls for parking behind buildings that help activate streets.

lombardy street photo

Many of the buildings being eyed for redevelopment are vacant. (BizSense file photo)

The 1.6-acre site consists of seven parcels at 2500-2536 N. Lombardy St., on the west side of Lombardy between Chamberlayne and Overbrook Road. About eight buildings currently stand on the properties, many of them vacant.

Sugar Mill owns half of the seven parcels, having bought 2500, 2510 and 2516 N. Lombardy St. in a trio of deals between July and December 2022 for a combined $1.72 million. Geiger’s application states that Sugar Mill controls the remaining four properties, which are owned by the Massad family.

Plans for the project were filed with the city in January. 510 Architects is listed as the architect.

The proposal follows other developments in the area that have added density with apartments and other multifamily housing. A few blocks southwest, MVP Equities this year completed its Sphere Apartments, a 224-unit complex between the Brook Road post office and Spectrum Apartments.

Across Brook from Sphere are the Foundry apartments, a 200-unit complex from The Lawson Cos. And along Chamberlayne farther south, Crescent Development and Spy Rock Real Estate Group developed a 152-unit apartment building for seniors at Chamberlayne and School Street.

lombardy street overhead

The 1.6-acre site is along the west side of Lombardy Street, just west of Chamberlayne Avenue and northeast of Virginia Union University. (Image courtesy 510 Architects)

A sizable development that could drive further growth around a busy Northside crossroads has received the endorsement of the Richmond Planning Commission.

Commissioners voted Monday to recommend approval of a six-story mixed-use building in the works along the north side of Lombardy Street just west of its intersection with Chamberlayne Avenue.

A final vote on whether to approve a rezoning and special-use permit to allow the project would be made by Richmond City Council, which is scheduled to consider it at its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10 – a day later than its usual schedule due to the Columbus Day holiday.

An LLC tied to Fairfax-based development firm Sugar Mill Construction is behind the project, which would consist of an unspecified number of apartments and a corner commercial space that’s envisioned to be a café or convenience shop.

The top floor of the six-story building would be recessed by at least five feet, to lessen visual impacts from the street. While the rezoning from UB-2 Urban Business District to TOD-1 Transit Oriented Nodal District would allow the mix of uses, an SUP is needed to allow the building height, which exceeds the height allowable for that site based on an “inclined plane” methodology.

Jeff Geiger, a Hirschler attorney representing applicant One Parkwood LLC, told the commission that the building provides an opportunity to have more eyes on the street, with balconies overlooking what officials described as a corridor prone to illicit activities.

Ann-Frances Lambert, who represents the area on City Council, said in a hearing that the corridor has a history of opioid use and prostitution and “is in desperate need for some development.”

“This development will definitely change the dynamic of that corridor,” Lambert said.

Area neighborhood and civic associations did not oppose the project, and city planning staff recommended approval, describing it as in line with the Richmond 300 plan as part of its VUU/Chamberlayne neighborhood growth node, which calls for parking behind buildings that help activate streets.

lombardy street photo

Many of the buildings being eyed for redevelopment are vacant. (BizSense file photo)

The 1.6-acre site consists of seven parcels at 2500-2536 N. Lombardy St., on the west side of Lombardy between Chamberlayne and Overbrook Road. About eight buildings currently stand on the properties, many of them vacant.

Sugar Mill owns half of the seven parcels, having bought 2500, 2510 and 2516 N. Lombardy St. in a trio of deals between July and December 2022 for a combined $1.72 million. Geiger’s application states that Sugar Mill controls the remaining four properties, which are owned by the Massad family.

Plans for the project were filed with the city in January. 510 Architects is listed as the architect.

The proposal follows other developments in the area that have added density with apartments and other multifamily housing. A few blocks southwest, MVP Equities this year completed its Sphere Apartments, a 224-unit complex between the Brook Road post office and Spectrum Apartments.

Across Brook from Sphere are the Foundry apartments, a 200-unit complex from The Lawson Cos. And along Chamberlayne farther south, Crescent Development and Spy Rock Real Estate Group developed a 152-unit apartment building for seniors at Chamberlayne and School Street.

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Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
6 months ago

Balconies will reduce crime??? Funny the James has been around for decade and I do not think its balconies have done a lot for their Chamberlayne Avenue intersection in regards to crime reduction. Is the setback so it too can be fully fenced in??? And are we talking a large surface parking lot behind a narrow stretch of building??? Will this be all student housing???

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
6 months ago

The top floor wouldn’t be a place for a fence, would it?

Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
6 months ago

The article doesn’t say balconies reduce crime—it says having more residents in the area will add to eyes on the street. There already is a lot of surface parking on these lots so even if it’s just shifted to the rear that’s still an improvement, no?

John Lindner
John Lindner
6 months ago

Glad to see investment in this area. Developments Iike this could represent turning a corner in a very real sense. Let’s hope other development follows. And yes, it’s not hard to believe that the presence of more people and more eyeballs on the street can reduce crime.

CLARK CHESSER
CLARK CHESSER
6 months ago

I am also glad to see development in that area, it’s going to be a tough sell for residential space. It’s next to the sketch Richmond Motel, and that section of Chamberlayne has a lot of issues. Hopefully with the Diamond District redevelopment, the Sauer Center, and all the work happening in Scotts Addition make the Chamberlayne corridor more attractive to investment.

Michael Boyer
Michael Boyer
6 months ago

A convenience shop,really?

Summer Gentry
Summer Gentry
6 months ago

I hope they have plans for parking! Nothing is worse than there not being enough parking. Two spots per apartment

Rachel Rice
Rachel Rice
6 months ago

I would love a cafe that is walkable from my home! True this area is in need of some repair but there are great neighborhoods surrounding it and all we need is a couple decent places to visit to really liven up the area! I know my neighbors and I would love this as there are constantly new young families moving in and having a couple cafes or even a decent restaurant to walk to would be absolutely magical!!!