$2.3 billion ‘ecodistrict’ is planned around former Best Products headquarters; Project would generate nearly 2.3 million square feet of office and retail space, 2,400 housing units, 2 hotels, 17,000-seat arena at no financial risk to taxpayers
Henrico County officials are endorsing a developer’s vision for GreenCity, a $2.3 billion private, mixed-use “ecodistrict” development that would promote economic development and environmental sustainability as well as include a 17,000-seat arena for major concerts, sporting events and other entertainment.
Officials with Henrico and GreenCity LLC announced plans for the development today at the county-owned former headquarters of Best Products, which is northeast of East Parham Road’s interchange with Interstate 95 and where the 204-acre community would extend north to Interstate 295.
“We are thrilled to endorse this bold, visionary opportunity as it is in sync with everything that Henrico County stands for and has been working hard to achieve – inclusion, resiliency, mobility, innovation and job growth,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “We’re talking about a new kind of community that is intricately planned, inclusive for all and thoughtfully designed to be not only livable but also to set new standards for environmental sustainability. GreenCity will be a community that preserves, embraces and showcases open space, and it will drive economic development and tourism in new and exciting ways while remaining respectful to county taxpayers. The arena will put this region back on the entertainment map. It also will provide tremendous benefits to our county while creating no financial risk to our taxpayers.”
Envisioned as an “ecodistrict,” GreenCity would be designed around principles that promote environmental sustainability, civic engagement and inclusion. The development would integrate extensive parks, trails and open spaces among about 2 million square feet of office space, 280,000 square feet of retail space, 2,400 housing units, two hotels and a $250 million arena.
The arena is planned to be the greenest arena venue in North America and would accommodate up to 17,000 patrons in flexible seating configurations to accommodate touring concerts, family shows and potentially new sports teams, including ECHL Hockey and G-League Basketball.
The former Best Products headquarters, including its iconic Art-Deco eagle statues, would be renovated and repurposed to Living Building Challenge standards, which features the world’s highest level of sustainability design and operations. “Living buildings” provide net-positive energy and water, and produce zero waste.
The developers anticipate a formal submission of plans and an application for rezoning to the UMU, or urban mixed-use, classification in early 2021.
In anticipation of those filings, the Board of Supervisors will consider at its Jan. 26 regular meeting a proposed transfer of the Best Products site to the county’s Economic Development Authority (EDA). The EDA anticipates entering into an agreement to convey the land to the developers pending approval of the rezoning. The developers would then finalize the purchase of the land at $6.2 million – the amount Henrico paid when it bought the property in 2011.
GreenCity would seek the creation of a community development authority, or CDA, to finance the construction of the arena through a sale of bonds. Under the financing model, certain taxes generated onsite by the GreenCity development would be used to make debt payments over a period of 30 years. Once the debt is retired, all taxes generated by the development – an annual amount estimated at more than $20 million – would go to the county’s general fund.
Henrico officials expect to conduct a detailed review of the financial projections as part of its due diligence of the proposal.
“In Henrico, we have extensive experience with CDAs and understand how they can help deliver large-scale development projects that are rich with amenities and potentially transformative for the community,” Vithoulkas said. “CDAs have been used successfully in the development of Short Pump Town Center, White Oak Village and Reynolds Crossing. Each of these projects either met or exceeded its revenue targets and now makes significant tax contributions that help us fund schools, public safety and other core services.”