600-acre data center project in Henrico up for deciding vote tonight

HouriganDataCenters2

A sample image of the data centers planned to fill the site. (County documents)

Correction: Tonight’s board meeting starts at 6 p.m.

Two years after a previous rezoning attempt by another group fizzled out, local development firm Hourigan is one vote away from securing approval for a massive industrial development in Varina that’s planned to include multiple data centers.

Henrico supervisors are slated to vote tonight on Hourigan’s request to rezone 622 acres southeast of the Interstate 64-295 interchange from agricultural use to the county’s Light Industrial district. The change would allow more than half of the largely wooded site to be developed for manufacturing, office and production uses, including advanced manufacturing and data centers.

It’s unclear how many buildings would ultimately be built or how large they would be in terms of square footage, but plans call for development of 65 percent of the site, with the remainder to remain open space or greenspace. Development would occur in seven specified areas on each side of Williamsburg Road, which bisects the site.

The request from Hourigan, through an entity called HD CVA LLC, comes three years after a separate group applied to rezone 530 acres of the site for industrial uses including distribution centers.

That group included Hillwood Development, the Texas-based firm led by Ross Perot Jr. that developed the Amazon fulfillment center near Richmond Raceway in Henrico. The group, Atlantic Crossing LLC, ended up withdrawing its request in 2022.

Atlantic Crossing has since acquired more land that adds to the now-larger site, which it would sell to Hourigan’s LLC along with fellow property owners, including D.C.-based Vienna Finance Inc. Last November, Atlantic Crossing paid $1.2 million for 77 acres adjacent to the interchange that are included in the 622-acre site.

HouriganDataCenters1

A site plan shows the seven developable areas where an unspecified number of buildings would be developed.

The inclusion of that parcel, which includes portions of two Civil War battlefields, has drawn scrutiny from project opponents, who have also expressed concerns about potential environmental and noise impacts from data centers.

Hourigan has submitted more than two dozen proffers to address those concerns, including noise mitigation for testing of power generators, LEED Silver design standards for all buildings on the site, and visual buffers of 50 feet or more with existing vegetation, new plantings and building setbacks.

Building heights would be limited to 93 feet, below the 110-foot limit for the zoning district and within the nearby White Oak Technology Park. The new development would become part of White Oak, putting it under the regulations of the tech park’s design review board.

Also proffered is an archaeological and cultural resource study to search for any artifacts from the Savage Station and Seven Pines battlefields, which include parts of the northwest corner of the site. Land also would be dedicated to the county for a historical marker.

The proffers and other revisions to the case since it was filed with Henrico last year led county planning staff to support the rezoning, stating in a report that the changes “have addressed the major concerns previously noted by staff and would be in keeping with the development standards and best practices for other facilities elsewhere in Virginia.”

Community meetings were held in December and January, and after a public hearing last month in which about 20 people spoke mostly in opposition to the rezoning, the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommended approval, with Bob

Tyrone E Nelson

Tyrone Nelson

Shippee dissenting and Varina Supervisor Tyrone Nelson abstaining.

Nelson, the Board of Supervisors chairman and representative on the commission, declined Monday to speculate on how the board would vote at its regular meeting Tuesday.

“I know all my colleagues have been working hard. The activist community has definitely been very engaged in making sure that we have a lot of information individually,” Nelson said Monday.

“We looked at some other localities, some of the things that they’ve done, and talked to the applicant, seeing what can be moved to make this a better case for us to vote on tomorrow,” Nelson said. “I don’t really know what’s going to happen until we call for a vote.”

Hourigan principal Mark Hourigan said Monday that he’s hopeful for approval but likewise declined to predict an outcome.

Mark Hourigan

Mark Hourigan

“This has been a very thorough process, and we’ll find out when we go through the actual Board of Supervisors meeting whether we’ve done a good job in making our case or not,” he said. “We certainly believe we have, but you never know until you get there.”

Hourigan said he connected with the site’s owners through common contacts after the previous proposal was withdrawn.

“I’m not sure why they pulled the zoning before; that was before we got involved,” Hourigan said. “We were able to come to good business terms with them and take it from that to the approval process.”

Hourigan’s LLC is under contract to purchase the site, which consists of a dozen parcels. The land is assessed by the county at nearly $2.8 million.

Local attorney Andy Condlin with Roth Jackson Gibbons Condlin is representing Hourigan in its request. Timmons Group is handling engineering for the project.

Condlin said in the commission hearing last month that it’s unknown whether Hourigan would construct the buildings. He said the buildings’ users could decide to use Hourigan or another builder.

HouriganDataCenters3

Another sample image of the data centers envisioned for the site.

Henrico currently is home to 16 data centers that generate over $13 million in annual tax revenue, according to county officials. Where Atlantic Crossing’s plan for distribution centers anticipated a total real estate investment of nearly $2 billion, the multiple data centers in Hourigan’s plan would amount to a considerably larger investment that depends on final users and buildout.

The county has incentivized such development with reductions to its data center tax rate in recent years. At the same time, state legislators have voiced concerns about the uptick in data center development across Virginia, directing the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study the issue. A report from JLARC is expected later this year.

Henrico’s 2026 Comprehensive Plan designates the Varina site for office, office/service, commercial concentration and environmental protection uses, and the county has ID’d parts of the site as prime economic development sites.

In addition to distribution centers, which employ more people and generate more traffic, the land has been envisioned for office and commercial uses to support residential neighborhoods in the area. The site also was once eyed as a potential location for the state fair, Henrico Planning Director Joe Emerson said.

Noting the downturn in demand for office development since the pandemic, Emerson told the commission, “The current prevailing market trend in that area is more toward heavy industrial than office.”

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the boardroom at Henrico’s government center on Parham Road.

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Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
2 days ago

I really hope this includes new sidewalks or bike paths along Route 60 and Technology Drive and Old Williamsburg Road.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
16 hours ago

Good news it will have sidewalks or a bike path along these major roads.

Arnold Hager
Arnold Hager
2 days ago

With these data center announcements…is it any wonder utility stocks are seeing money inflows. XLU-utility ETF- is outperforming the S&P 500 and XLK- technology ETF- so far this year.

Last edited 2 days ago by Arnold Hager
Mike Lucas
Mike Lucas
2 days ago

These data centers are giant eye sores and the localities that allow them should force the developer to bury all the transmission lines

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
43 seconds ago
Reply to  Mike Lucas

Transmission lines are regulated by the state and the SCC. Not the localities.