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Hotspots

Mixed-use rules the day in some of Virginia’s hottest areas for new developments

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Print this page by M.J. McAteer
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In Richmond, Spy Rock Development has converted a former
Coca-Cola bottling plant into apartments. Photo by Rick DeBerry

Development these days is all about mixed use. Planners mingle offices, retail, restaurants and residential projects in a single area, usually in an attempt to create a village or mini-city where people can live, work and play.

This mixed-use philosophy shines at four of some of the hottest development spots in Virginia.

At Scott’s Addition in Richmond, the waterfront in Alexandria, and The Bridges in Roanoke, walkability, connectivity and green space all figure large in the discussion. At Harbour View in Suffolk, mixed use also is the buzz, but within the parameters of traditional suburban development where the car is still king.

Of the four spots, Harbour View also is the only area that is not a part of another development trend: the repurposing of buildings that have outlived their original use. At Scott’s Addition, the Alexandria waterfront, and The Bridges, mostly blue-collar commercial buildings are being reborn as everything from white-collar offices to apartments and coffee shops, and their conversion is a cornerstone of the character of the developments.

Scott’s Addition, Richmond
“Most people didn’t even know it existed,” says Roger Bouchard, president of the Scott’s Addition Business Association (SABA).  “The area was zoned industrial, and I never saw people walk north of Broad.”

No more. Scott’s Addition is emerging as a more affordable downtown neighborhood than Shockoe Slip or the Fan District, and its industrial character is being transformed by a huge influx of residents and the amenities that are beginning to follow them. 

In 2005, Scott’s Addition — bordered by railroad tracks on the north, Broad Street on the south, North Boulevard on the east, and I-95 on the west — was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. That attracted developers who could apply for tax credits on rehab projects. A slew of apartment projects are now in the pipeline:  Some of the larger ones include:

Main Street Realty’s recently completed projects, one on Norfolk Street and the other on Summit Avenue and Norfolk, for a total of 132 units.

Jerry Peters’ 94 apartments that are going into the Seaboard Bag Co. factory at Moore and Belleville streets. 

Spy Rock Development’s 70 apartments housed in a 73,000-square-foot former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Roseneath Road. Historic tax credits “were a significant factor” in undertaking the $27 million project, says developer Andrew Basham. The units in the old bottling plant are scheduled to be available this month while 124 more units in a new 126,000-square-foot building on the same site should deliver in the second quarter.

“Richmond was lacking a midtown area between Broad and I-64/I-95, Basham says. “People are coming back to the city, and Scott’s Addition was primed for redevelopment.”

Restaurants and retailers have been trickling in to serve the burgeoning population, which ranges in age from the mid-20s to the mid-40s. Lamplighters Coffee Roasting Co. recently relocated to larger quarters, and a couple of breweries have opened.

“They [the new residents] want cool, convenient and kitschy,” says Charlie Diradour, president of Lion’s Paw Development, which converted a defunct pornographic bookstore on North Boulevard into a funky restaurant, En Su Boca. Diradour also demolished a gas station next door. A drive-through Starbucks should open in its place this month, with the coffee shop sharing the building with Growlers to Go, a craft beer store.

North Boulevard is technically not a part of the neighborhood, but that is going to change. Bouchard says Scott’s Addition will nearly double in size when it is expands its boundaries to include the Boulevard. The acronym of his organization, the SABA, won’t change, but the letters will stand for Scott’s Addition Boulevard (instead of Business) Association.

The Alexandria waterfront
“It’s such a unique aspect to have a waterfront,” says Stephanie Landrum, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Alexandria Economic Development partnership. “But ours has been underutilized for the past century.”
Just like at Scott’s Addition, that lack of use is going to fade into history. When the Dominion Boat Club agreed to accept $5 million for its half-acre site at the foot of King Street last year, that removed a major and long-standing impediment to the city’s goal of “continuous public access” for the Old Town waterfront.

In addition to the cash settlement, the deal allows for the relocation of the boat club on city-owned property just a block away, at the foot of Prince Street. Its old Beachcomber building will be razed to make way for a three-story clubhouse, 45 parking spaces, a dock, piers and slips.

That clears the way for the city’s plan for $120 million in mostly open-space improvements along the waterfront, Landrum says. The old boat club site will become Fitzgerald Square, a park that will feature interactive water elements and a skating rink in the winter. An art walk with themes based on history will run the length of the waterfront. “It will be almost like a curated walk,” Landrum says.

Two other parcels crucial to the city’s vision became available in 2013, when The Washington Post sold the Robinson Terminals, which bookend the waterfront.  The city made approval for development at the sites contingent on public access.

At Robinson Terminal North, developers CityInterests and Rooney Properties plan a series of buildings: a four-story residential and commercial building, a six-story building with two residential towers and a hotel sandwiched in-between and a two-story glass building facing the river.

Robinson North will offer views of neighboring parks and will have new green space fronting a pier. Construction is expected to be done by 2016.

At the other end of the Old Town waterfront, at Robinson Terminal South, developer EYA is teaming with JGB Cos. to put up eight new buildings totaling 280,000 square feet. “There are not that many waterfront development opportunities in Alexandria,” says A.J. Jackson, EYA’s senior vice president of land acquisition.

The Robinson South project, under study now by the city’s architectural review panel, will feature condos, townhouses, retail and restaurants on 3.2 acres. Most of the existing buildings, Jackson says, are corrugated metal and not worth saving. EYA will repurpose a two-story brick warehouse as a commercial space. Like CityInterests, it promises a new pier will be part of its $120 million investment. Plans are to break ground this summer with the first occupants of the residential units moving in by the second half of 2017.

Finally, Carr City Centers is building a five-story, 121-room boutique hotel at the site of a former warehouse on South Union Street. The project, which will include an 80-seat restaurant, is expected to cost less than $50 million and should open late this year or early next year.

The Bridges in Roanoke
As in Alexandria, WVS Cos., the Richmond-based developer of The Bridges, is trying to transform a neglected riverfront into a dynamic mix of uses. It plans apartments, restaurants, retail and green space, including a river walk.  Already under its belt is a similar project WVS did near downtown Richmond on the James River called Rocketts Landing.

The name for the 22-acre site in Roanoke, which stretches along South Jefferson Street adjacent to the downtown, derives not only from the two distinctive bridges that bisect the property but also from the developer’s hope of being a bridge to downtown. The location of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute directly across the street should be a catalyst for that connection.

Although The Bridges site is on the National Register of Historic Places, it had been considered a brownfield because of the residue from heavy industrial use, which included ironworks, lumberyards, a mill and a scrapyard. Now, the area will be part of the new 47-acre Roanoke River & Railroad Historic District, which will give developers access to federal and state historic tax credits.

Marc Nelson, special projects coordinator for Roanoke’s Department of Economic Development, says The Bridges will be developed in five phases. The first phase is a 157-unit apartment building, which should be fully opened this spring. A Starbucks and two restaurants will be housed in a converted stable. The investment will be about $15 million.

The $4.8 million Phase II, also in progress, focuses on the conversion of a trolley barn into offices for the technology company JDSU. The developer anticipates that JDSU will be able to move in next month. So far the city has provided a $2 million grant toward public infrastructure, which could rise to as much as $10 million over the arc of development.

“Full build out of the site is projected to take 20 years with the total investment estimated at approximately $100 million,” Nelson says.

Harbour View, Suffolk
Up until a decade ago, this northern Suffolk area was largely residential. But after the housing crash in 2008, which it weathered better than most because it didn’t have a lot of inventory, the area’s relatively modest prices and convenient location have fueled what F. Greshman Wall III, vice president of sales and leasing for CBRE, calls “an explosion” in residential growth. That growth, in turn, is spurring commercial and retail development.

Hampton Roads Crossing, for example, is a mixed-use development at the edge of Harbour View. Developer John Peterson III says it covers 150 acres and includes retail and office space and 1,000 units of both rental and owner housing that should be built out by 2017.

A 123,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace, the centerpiece of the retail quotient of the project, opened last December. Fenton Childers with Kroger Real Estate said the chain was attracted by the area’s dense population and a strong daytime workforce of military and government workers.

The area’s workforce had looked to face tough times in 2011 when the U.S. Joint Forces Command was disestablished. But in 2012, the Navy Cyber Command (soon to be called the Information Dominance Command) moved into the 200,000 square feet of vacated space. Its 1,500 employees are big contributors to the Harbour View economy, says Kevin Hughes, director of the Suffolk Department of Economic Development.

The presence of Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View — an outpatient facility — also “has created a lot of medical tenant and government contracting interest,” Wall says. For example, a 25,000-square-foot medical office building across from the hospital will deliver this summer.

Other projects in the pipeline include the development of 55 acres into an office park near Interstate 664. Plus, the Tidewater Community College Real Estate Foundation plans another mixed-use development for 400 acres on the James River near the Monitor-Merrimac tunnel. 
“It’s all about location,” Hughes says. To drive home that idea, his organization has come up with a new slogan for the community: “Destination Harbour View, the center of it all.”




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