Henrico enlists developer for 800-unit Glenwood Farms transformation

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The apartment community spans 32 acres southeast of Mechanicsville Turnpike and Laburnum Avenue. (Jonathan Spiers photo)

Capping a yearslong effort to address “deplorable” living conditions at Glenwood Farms, Henrico County is partnering with a private development group to redevelop the blighted apartment community – and re-home its residents – in what officials describe as a first-of-its-kind approach.

Henrico has tapped Spy Rock Real Estate and Crescent Development, the local duo behind the nearby Springdale Park redevelopment of the former Henrico Plaza Shopping Center, to do something similar with the 32-acre, nearly 300-unit Glenwood Farms, which has been riddled with building code violations and safety concerns since its latest owner acquired it in 2018.

Spy Rock and Crescent plan to replace the apartments with nearly 800 units in a mixed-income, mixed-use development to include apartments, for-sale homes, senior housing and commercial spaces.

The project would receive financial support from the county, which plans to provide $11 million in loans and incentives via its Economic Development Authority. County Manager John Vithoulkas said the approach would be a first for Henrico.

John Vithoulkas

John Vithoulkas

“We’ve had a team internally working on this project for a number of years, and where we’re ending up is using the EDA in a way we’ve never used the EDA before,” Vithoulkas said. “We’ve never had the EDA involved in affordable housing.”

The county is framing the approach as a “residential economic development project,” in which the EDA would provide a $9 million bridge loan that the developers would pay back with interest upon the closing of the construction loan for the first building, anticipated about a year into the project.

An additional $2 million, likewise to be paid back with interest, would be provided for a second phase to assist with the project’s components for lower-income housing, the bulk of which would be for households making 60 percent of the area median income, with some units targeted for lower incomes.

Further support would be provided via a demolition grant, through water and sewer connection fees, tax-increment financing for up to 15 years, and reimbursement of building permit fees.

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About 150 families and individuals remain in the nearly 300 apartments at Glenwood Farms. (Photos courtesy Henrico County)

The arrangement follows eight years of building code enforcement and legal wrangling by Henrico to address Glenwood Farms, which was built in 1948 and has been riddled with violations since 2008, when it was purchased for $8.5 million.

Since then, the county has issued over 1,800 violations through last summer to the owner, an LLC tied to Aron Puretz, an executive with New Jersey-based Apex Equity Group. More than 100 court hearings followed and led to an injunction that was issued last July, and in November the property was put into receivership, a process in which the court appoints a custodian to take over an asset for a lender.

Henrico has worked with the receiver, national firm Trigild, to position the property to be sold, following unsuccessful attempts by Apex’s lender to line up a buyer agreeable to the county. Trigild hired a property manager, locally based Artcraft Management, to manage Glenwood Farms, and a court order is anticipated next month that would transfer its ownership via a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

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The buildings at Glenwood Farms date to the late 1940s.

That would give Spy Rock and Crescent the green light to redevelop Glenwood Farms, replacing its 294 apartments – many of them now unoccupied – with what’s planned to be similar to Springdale Park.

The housing would consist of both market-rate and income-based units, including so-called “workforce housing” and some “deeply affordable” units, meaning the lowest level of housing affordability. Spy Rock and Crescent also would work with Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, a regional nonprofit, to make some of the homes perpetually affordable.

Spy Rock’s Andrew Basham, who leads the firm with co-founder Taylor Williams, said the development would be identical to Springdale Park, but with more of an emphasis on income-based housing. Spy Rock partnered on that project with Crescent, a frequent collaborator led by Zac Frederick, and Basham said they’d again work with StyleCraft Homes, their builder on Springdale.

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The Springdale Park development, which the Glenwood Farms replacement would replicate. (Image courtesy Spy Rock)

“There will be no distinction between the two, even though that one is more market-rate and this will be affordable for families making 60 percent of the median area income,” Basham said.

Andrew Basham

Andrew Basham

“This is very different from a typical development deal. We have somewhere between 135 and 150 families and folks living in this community right now who have been mistreated, they’ve been lied to, and it’s important that we restore some confidence and trust.”

To that end, Basham said they plan to work with the county and Artcraft Management to engage residents and coordinate temporary relocations as the project gets going. He said the first phase would start in 2025, with buildout targeted within 10 years.

“We hope to have the support of folks like Virginia Housing to do (the relocations). It’s an expensive thing to move people around and take apartments that have not been habitable and make them habitable again,” Basham said.

“Ultimately over the next eight or 10 years, there will be a new dynamic neighborhood here that will have both for-sale and for-rent components, and a dedicated senior housing component which is sorely needed. That is one of the populations that we really are not housing at the pace that we need to be housing.”

Vithoulkas said Spy Rock and Crescent were selected not only for their work at Springdale Park but for their business terms and shared vision for Glenwood Farms.

Basham said the project falls in line with the duo’s work, which he said includes an affordable housing arm. He said they’ve built 450 income-based units in Richmond, and in Henrico, they’re currently developing 186 more at the former Days Inn of Richmond property off Chamberlayne Road.

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Springdale Park filled the site of the former Henrico Plaza Shopping Center on Mechanicsville Turnpike near Laburnum. (BizSense file)

“This will be our sixth affordable housing project since 2020. It’s needed, and we are enthusiastic about partnering with the county,” Basham said, describing Glenwood Farms as a potential model for future public-private collaborations.

“We feel like this could be a pilot opportunity,” he said, “to maybe use this elsewhere in the county or elsewhere in the state.”

Henrico Supervisor Roscoe Cooper, whose Fairfield District includes Glenwood Farms, said residents there are excited about the plan after having dealt with the conditions at Glenwood Farms for too long.

Roscoe Cooper

Roscoe Cooper

Describing floors that move and floors and ceilings that are open to the elements and collecting mold, Cooper said, “It’s deplorable conditions. Unfit, unsafe for any person.

“For a lot of the residents, the only reason they’re there is because that’s all they can afford,” he said. “We have to figure out a way, as we rebuild this community, to make sure it’s affordable for folk.”

Noting some of the residents are members of his church, Cooper said he has a vested interest in seeing the project through. Referring to Basham, Cooper said, “I feel that he has the same commitment that we do. That’s why we picked him and his group, because he gets it.

“We’re going to make sure the product is first-class, from the exterior components to the countertops to the appliances, to give people what they deserve,” he said. “Everybody deserves to live in a good, clean, nice house. I don’t care what your income level is.”

Glenwood Farms is the latest initiative by Henrico to prioritize housing affordability and availability in the county. An announcement about a plan to address the broader affordability gap is scheduled for later today.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
8 days ago

Spyrock and Stylecraft have done a beautiful job at Springdale Park transforming a decrepit shopping center into a wonderful livable community. The county has made an excellent selection in this team plus Crescent and Artcraft Management.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
7 days ago

Once again Henrico County is taking the lead. The County is not just talking about creating affordable housing, it’s doing something about it in a public/private venture.

I have known Artcraft Management since its founding by Earl Ferguson. Earl has since passed away, but he would be delighted that his firm is involved in this project.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
7 days ago

This is good in that it will bring in more tax revenue and add density while not cutting down anymore trees or paving over any new farmland. I really like how it will add 500 units of new housing. But this development is a good way for Henrico County to get out of the ponzi scheme of the low density car based suburbs that require tons of taxes to keep the water lines extended out to the single family homes and streets repaved. Henrico is saving big by reusing the existing water and wastewater lines and roads in this area.… Read more »

Tom Hogg
Tom Hogg
7 days ago

As a former business owner in East End Highland Springs (Hogwash), I have seen the tremendous infrastructure Henrico County has brought to this part of town (Social Services Center, New High School, Rec Center and pool, Library, etc.). Substantive additions to housing stock in this area is long overdue – and what a great team to perform for residents here! Rock on SpyRock & Crescent!

Drew White
Drew White
3 days ago

Our Berkadia team helped facilitate this sale for Trigild. John and the County’s team pulled together an impressive structure and delivered on everything they promised to the Spy Rock/Crescent teams in a really quick time frame. The buyers also moved at lightening speed to assemble all the different parts in what is going to be an incredible project for the community. Commend Henrico County for their efforts and Spy Rock/Crescent for giving back to the community.