Aging office parks embrace multifamily
A weekday lunch hour is relatively quiet on the grounds of the Boulders office park, south of Richmond, except for a few people chatting during a walk around a lake and the honking of two geese skimming the water.
Overlooking that lake are gray and white apartments recently built from scratch on vacant land — 250 units at 50% occupancy. A phase-two build of 215 units will start in the spring, says Michael Campbell, president of Dominion Realty Partners, developer of Boulders Lakeside Apartments.
Built in the 1980s, the Boulders is one of Chesterfield County’s more mature mixed-use office parks. Woodsy but close to plenty of retail and traffic, it’s a 15-minute drive from the Virginia State Capitol.
Residential development has been a part of the mixed-use suburban office park since its beginning. But even as the Boulders settles into its fourth decade, it’s getting new multifamily life. This residential boom is happening across the region near older office parks, with developers hoping for a better return on investments, following shifting trends of where people choose to live and work by building new apartment buildings on empty parcels.
Boyd Homes is preparing a 245-unit apartment complex in the county’s Gateway Centre office park. At neighboring Henrico County’s Innsbrook, which is more than 40 years old and had apartments for some time, new developments in the works include Highwoods Properties’ plan to construct a 34-acre mixed-use project with office and residential space.
With more people working remotely now, Anthony J. Romanello, executive director of the Henrico Economic Development Authority, says that people have greater freedom to live where they like.
“What that means is that place is more important than ever,” he says. “That’s what’s at the heart of these developments and redevelopments.”
In addition to the Boulders, Dominion Realty Partners also has plans for Innsbrook, where it bought a partly wooded 12.5-acre tract from Dominion Energy Inc. that previously held surface parking for the utility. Campbell anticipates breaking ground this year on 300 units for rent and 58 town homes around the corner from Markel Corp. and Hamilton Beach Brands Holding Co.
His company has pursued similar projects in other markets, he says, because older suburban parks are sites with employment, amenities and accessibility.
“I think the counties are a little more open to multifamily development than they have been in years past.”