Westward expansion of Rocketts Landing continues with 3-acre riverfront rezoning approval

rocketts landing wvs rezoning Cropped scaled

The now-rezoned site includes a grassy area next to The Boathouse and a beach volleyball court. (Mike Platania photo)

The coast is now clear for the latest phase of Rocketts Landing. 

Richmond City Council voted Monday to approve a rezoning request for three acres of riverfront land at 4400 E. Main and 4500 Old Main streets, where owner WVS Cos. is pondering the next steps for the westward expansion of its long-running Rocketts development. 

The land had previously been zoned for industrial uses, but is now designated as TOD-1 Transit-Oriented Nodal District, which is designed to encourage dense, walkable development with a maximum building height of 12 stories and a mix of commercial and residential uses.

The parcels are currently occupied by a grassy area, sand volleyball court and an aging, 2,100-square-foot warehouse.

WVS Principal Richard Souter said the firm doesn’t know exactly what it’ll build on the site. He said everything from office, retail and restaurant uses to apartments and condos are on the table. 

richard souter

Richard Souter

“This is really the beginning of the planning process,” Souter said. “I can’t honestly tell you what it’s going to end up being. This rezoning just opens up our landscape of potential opportunities.”

One thing the development isn’t likely to be is particularly tall. WVS recently completed The Waterford at Rocketts Landing, a five-story, 204-unit apartment building across East Main Street, and it’s planning a second apartment tower next to it that could reach up to 14 stories. 

The recently rezoned land is at a lower elevation than The Waterford and Souter said the firm doesn’t expect to build something that could block Waterford’s views.

“I’m not sure we want to build a very tall barricade along the river. I don’t know what heights it’ll end up being, but it will be a lower height than the buildings on the other side,” Souter said. “I don’t know what ‘lower’ really means, but we have nice views on those buildings. We don’t really want to block them.”

The rezoning included a trio of proffered conditions: that each new structure is at least 30 feet apart; that WVS make streetscape improvements along East Main Street; and that at least one public access point to the nearby Virginia Capital Trail is part of the new development.

Souter said maintaining public access to the trail from Rocketts was important to WVS.  

“We view the Capital Trail as a real asset and we want that connectivity,” he said. “That was a proffer, but it was something we would have done anyway.”

WVS has a handful of other developments in the planning phase all over town, some of which it’s taking on with frequent collaborator Fountainhead Real Estate Development, run by Tom Papa. 

On the drawing board for the two firms are the final phase of the Locks development downtown with a set of 12- and six-story apartment buildings along the canal; South Falls II, a 14-story apartment tower in Manchester; and a seven-story mixed-use building on the now-demolished Plant Zero site on Hull Street. 

High interest rates and construction costs have put all those projects on hold. 

“We really don’t have a timeline for any apartment projects right now. It’s really hard to make the numbers work on apartments right now. We’re in a holding pattern waiting for the economy to decide where it wants to go,” Souter said. “This is not something that uniquely affects Richmond. It’s affecting all multifamily developers around the country.”

Council approves other projects

1401Hull rendering

A rendering of the proposed building at 1401-1407 Hull St. whose vote was delayed. (BizSense file photo)

City Council’s Monday agenda tackled a number of other developments, most of which were approved.

A special-use request from the owners of local dessert shop Shyndigz to build a four-story boutique hotel next to their new Fan bakery at 1912 W. Cary St. was approved, as was a rezoning request from Commonwealth Catholic Charities for 809 Oliver Hill Way, a 2-acre site the local nonprofit is teeing up for future redevelopment.

An infrastructure project was also on Monday’s agenda, as Council voted to accept $4 million from CSX Transportation to help fund the replacement of the bridge along North Arthur Ashe Boulevard that connects Scott’s Addition’s historic district to the Diamond District, which has been moving forward behind the scenes in recent days. 

Lastly, the developers planning a five-story income-restricted housing development at 1401-1407 Hull St. will have to wait at least two weeks for approval after Monday’s meeting, as Council delayed voting on that development’s special-use permit request until its Feb. 26 meeting. 

The Hull Street development would include 60 units and replace a trio of empty buildings in Manchester. The city Planning Commission recommended approving the development last week. 

rocketts landing wvs rezoning Cropped scaled

The now-rezoned site includes a grassy area next to The Boathouse and a beach volleyball court. (Mike Platania photo)

The coast is now clear for the latest phase of Rocketts Landing. 

Richmond City Council voted Monday to approve a rezoning request for three acres of riverfront land at 4400 E. Main and 4500 Old Main streets, where owner WVS Cos. is pondering the next steps for the westward expansion of its long-running Rocketts development. 

The land had previously been zoned for industrial uses, but is now designated as TOD-1 Transit-Oriented Nodal District, which is designed to encourage dense, walkable development with a maximum building height of 12 stories and a mix of commercial and residential uses.

The parcels are currently occupied by a grassy area, sand volleyball court and an aging, 2,100-square-foot warehouse.

WVS Principal Richard Souter said the firm doesn’t know exactly what it’ll build on the site. He said everything from office, retail and restaurant uses to apartments and condos are on the table. 

richard souter

Richard Souter

“This is really the beginning of the planning process,” Souter said. “I can’t honestly tell you what it’s going to end up being. This rezoning just opens up our landscape of potential opportunities.”

One thing the development isn’t likely to be is particularly tall. WVS recently completed The Waterford at Rocketts Landing, a five-story, 204-unit apartment building across East Main Street, and it’s planning a second apartment tower next to it that could reach up to 14 stories. 

The recently rezoned land is at a lower elevation than The Waterford and Souter said the firm doesn’t expect to build something that could block Waterford’s views.

“I’m not sure we want to build a very tall barricade along the river. I don’t know what heights it’ll end up being, but it will be a lower height than the buildings on the other side,” Souter said. “I don’t know what ‘lower’ really means, but we have nice views on those buildings. We don’t really want to block them.”

The rezoning included a trio of proffered conditions: that each new structure is at least 30 feet apart; that WVS make streetscape improvements along East Main Street; and that at least one public access point to the nearby Virginia Capital Trail is part of the new development.

Souter said maintaining public access to the trail from Rocketts was important to WVS.  

“We view the Capital Trail as a real asset and we want that connectivity,” he said. “That was a proffer, but it was something we would have done anyway.”

WVS has a handful of other developments in the planning phase all over town, some of which it’s taking on with frequent collaborator Fountainhead Real Estate Development, run by Tom Papa. 

On the drawing board for the two firms are the final phase of the Locks development downtown with a set of 12- and six-story apartment buildings along the canal; South Falls II, a 14-story apartment tower in Manchester; and a seven-story mixed-use building on the now-demolished Plant Zero site on Hull Street. 

High interest rates and construction costs have put all those projects on hold. 

“We really don’t have a timeline for any apartment projects right now. It’s really hard to make the numbers work on apartments right now. We’re in a holding pattern waiting for the economy to decide where it wants to go,” Souter said. “This is not something that uniquely affects Richmond. It’s affecting all multifamily developers around the country.”

Council approves other projects

1401Hull rendering

A rendering of the proposed building at 1401-1407 Hull St. whose vote was delayed. (BizSense file photo)

City Council’s Monday agenda tackled a number of other developments, most of which were approved.

A special-use request from the owners of local dessert shop Shyndigz to build a four-story boutique hotel next to their new Fan bakery at 1912 W. Cary St. was approved, as was a rezoning request from Commonwealth Catholic Charities for 809 Oliver Hill Way, a 2-acre site the local nonprofit is teeing up for future redevelopment.

An infrastructure project was also on Monday’s agenda, as Council voted to accept $4 million from CSX Transportation to help fund the replacement of the bridge along North Arthur Ashe Boulevard that connects Scott’s Addition’s historic district to the Diamond District, which has been moving forward behind the scenes in recent days. 

Lastly, the developers planning a five-story income-restricted housing development at 1401-1407 Hull St. will have to wait at least two weeks for approval after Monday’s meeting, as Council delayed voting on that development’s special-use permit request until its Feb. 26 meeting. 

The Hull Street development would include 60 units and replace a trio of empty buildings in Manchester. The city Planning Commission recommended approving the development last week. 

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Roger Turner
Roger Turner
2 months ago

I am not doubting their math as all developers are saying the same thing but it’s amazing to me with all time high apartment rents that nobody can “make the numbers work” at 7% interest rates any longer. That’s more in line with historical “normal” rates as opposed to the last five or six years. I guess it’s just proof how expensive it is to build anything now.

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Turner

Right, I think that it’s the interest rate in combination with increased material and labor cost that when put together make it a less attractive time to start projects. 7% on millions rolls out of control much faster than 7% on hundreds of thousands.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Turner

I think you nailed it. I did not see the Single Family Home price spike coming, but as it started becoming clear that it WAS happening I started doing retrospective analysis and it seemed that some bldg trades magazine writers WERE predicting it … to an extent. And what were they talking about? Shortages. Shortages in the “L” of homebuilding. Starting with Land, available, affordable, worth building on land. Labor. Every non-academic genius being convinced to get some kind of Anthropology degree and not learn a needed skill, etc, means the welder makes much more than the PhD in most… Read more »

Barry Greene Jr.
Barry Greene Jr.
2 months ago

Preferably residential on top, just please market and lure-in retail, cafe. Current spaces seem to be vacant, holding spaces for ICON. Not much for residents to interact with if you don’t golf or want to eat seafood for another night.

Anita Heiney
Anita Heiney
2 months ago

What about parking? Traffic? Area is already very congested.

Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
2 months ago
Reply to  Anita Heiney

This development has always been part of the Rocketts Landing master plan and it’s one of few parcels of the master plan in the city (most of Rocketts is in Henrico). The congestion in the area comes from people traveling to/from Henrico into the City, so why/how would Richmond address the traffic when it’s caused by development decisions Henrico made? If only we didn’t have an independent city/county structure we may be better equipped to handle situations of this nature.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago

Maybe…. If the counties were incorporated, they would vastly outnumber the city in proportionsal representation, though of course there would be more co-ordination.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago
Reply to  Anita Heiney

PARKING is back!

Gregory Scholla
Gregory Scholla
2 months ago

Good to see progress being made on that parcel, and good on Souter for the willingness to provide Capital Trail Access regardless of a proffer and a move away from 5 on 1’s to help keep the view.

Would love to see retail, restaurant, Market/Grocery use, and continued use of the red brick façade from the historic Rocketts redevelopment.

Bill Cooper
Bill Cooper
2 months ago

I certainly hope that any future development in Rocketts addresses adequate parking & not just parking that “meets the code.” It’s almost impossible to plan for guests to visit without fear of a $200 tow. The code doesn’t live there…

Stephen Weisensale
Stephen Weisensale
2 months ago
Reply to  Bill Cooper

For the parcels located in the city there is no parking required. So any amount of parking provided will exceed the code requirements.

Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
2 months ago

Correct, and this property is entirely in the City.

Albert Williams
Albert Williams
2 months ago

Both these parcels fall with the 100-YR floodplain which have stringent laws governing what can be built, including first floor elevation. If you look at grade elevations relative to the flood elevations it will give some sense how far the first floor will be above grade. When then considering the viewshed protections for how tall, how many floors can you fit between the max and min elevations? Probably not many. And also keep in mind that the flood risk information is being formally updated in April of this year which is likely going to lead to further restrictions. Furthermore, it… Read more »

Justin Griggs
Justin Griggs
2 months ago

Lets not destroy the only sand volleyball courts in Richmond, please.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 month ago
Reply to  Justin Griggs

Are you seriously suggesting stopping this development because of sand volleyball courts? Now I have heard it all.