ECONOMIC ANALYSIS AND REVITALIZATION PLAN
SUMMARY OF DRAFT PLAN FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
PURPOSE OF THE PLAN
The Nine Mile Road Plan was undertaken as a joint effort of the County and local business leaders. Business people in the area are concerned about the current economic conditions of the corridor such as slow business growth and the quality of new businesses coming to the area. In early meetings with the County, the cost of development, stringent building standards, perceptions about public safety were seen as deterrents to new growth. From these early meetings, the County established a task force of County staff and area business people to look further into the issues. Hammer, Siler, George Associates and CHK Architects and Planners were retained to provide the economic, land use and design expertise.
This study was undertaken to examine some of the perceptions in the community, to identify real market barriers and opportunities and to suggest means of encouraging quality business development in the corridor.
Perception: Some in the business community believe that the expenditure potential for the Nine Mile Road trade areas is not sufficient. There is also a public perception that the area is not safe.
Housing growth constrained: Many lots are too small to accommodate market priced homes. Some areas lack central water/sewer. There is a lack of convenience retail. Noise from the airport makes some areas less desirable for residential use.
Regulatory barriers: Zoning limits uses to office and retail. A mix of industrial or residential may be more responsive to market demands. Current zoning standards may increase development costs and limit innovative use of existing sites.
Infrastructure: Roads are well within capacity limits but lack landscaping and amenities. Parking in Highland Springs is inadequate to accommodate growth. Sewer/water service is lacking near I-64 (west) and around the Eastern Government Center. Without strong market demand, lack of utilities is a growth deterrent.
Commercial space demands: There is a demand in the area for additional floor area for several types of businesses as illustrated by the following list:
Personal services: 25,000 square feet.
General merchandise: 37,000 square feet.
Apparel: 14,800 square feet.
Family entertainment: 77,000 square feet.
Housing: Housing is increasing in value and new projects are offering homes at increasing values. There continues to be a need for additional homes in the $120 – $150,000 range (market rate homes).
Flex space/ light industry: Employment uses are seen as the best potential use of excess retail space due to White Oak and other industrial projects planned in eastern Henrico. Industrial development generates a need for retail shops, restaurants and other commercial development.
Increase employment base by introducing industrial uses to the area. This will relieve the businesses from relying solely on the expenditure capital of residents by introducing a new consumer group.
Increase housing base and household incomes. Area businesses will continue to be linked to the surrounding neighborhoods. Therefore increasing household incomes is important.
Increase family entertainment, restaurants, shopping. Successful, high-traffic retail areas provide a range of services such as family restaurants, theaters, entertainment and convenience goods. Such businesses draw people to an area to the benefit of other retailers. There is already a demand for such businesses in the area.
Restructure the Fairfield Commons Mall site. This is the business focal point of the corridor and needs to be revitalized. Because it cannot compete directly with newer larger shopping centers, other types of businesses are needed to fill the available space and to bring people back to the Mall.
Provide the necessary infrastructure to facilitate development in the high potential areas. Until market demand improves, the cost of providing infrastructure will be a deterrent to new growth.
Reduce the financial risk to investors. Until market demand improves, private investment will face a higher risk than other areas of the County such as Innsbrook and Virginia Center Commons. Deferring some costs associated with investment in the corridor may serve to level the playing field.
HIGH POTENTIAL SITES
Almost any growth activity in the corridor will be positive; however, the following sites have the potential to serve as catalysts to influence the type and quality of new development.
Fairfield Commons Mall: Continue retail uses and introduce entertainment uses (restaurants, theater) and low-impact, light industry in a portion of the mall.
Dabbs House Road: Encourage residential or mixed use residential- office/light industrial uses to complement the new residences in the area.
Eastern Government Center: Build on the existing office uses by encouraging new office development.
New Bridge: Expand the single family, residential potential.
Highland Springs: Encourage specialty retail uses and provide public parking.
Comprehensive Plan amendment to designate the Nine Mile Road study area as a Special Strategy Area (link below). This designation will allow the County to adopt zoning standards and Design Guidelines (link below) specifically for the corridor. Because of the length of the corridor subareas may be established with different standards for each.
Comprehensive Plan amendment to revise the planned land use in the corridor and to apply design guidelines to new development in the corridor. Certain areas designated for office development near the Government center may be designated for residential development while Fairfield Commons Mall may be designated for mixed use or light industrial development.
Rezoning of the Fairfield Commons Mall to permit a combination of flex warehouse space and retail uses on the same site. M-1 zoning would permit both uses but assurances from the owner will be needed to maintain quality and protect nearby residences.
Zoning Ordinance amendments to update the permitted uses in the B-2 Business District to provide opportunities for low impact, technology-related businesses to move into the area. Such uses could include data processing services, communications systems, sales and service, educational facilities, etc.
Zoning Ordinance amendments to permit shared parking for uses on contiguous lots (as opposed to uses on the same lot) and to include flex space, office and certain light industrial uses as part of the eligible mix of uses. This should help reduce parking requirements in the area where we have entertainment and employment uses close to each other (Fairfield Commons Mall).
Zoning Ordinance amendment to reduce the transitional buffer requirements and other yard requirements between business and light industrial uses. This would include reduction of the front and rear yards except when the use abuts residential development. This will be particularly important in Highland Springs where small front yard setbacks will be needed to maintain the current streetscape.
Enterprise Zone designation would allow the County to implement a number of local and State cost abatement tools such as exemption from taxes due to rehabilitation, reduced application fees and user fees, etc.
Local Technology Zones permitted by State Code, permit a locality to reduce permit or user fees, and reduce any type of gross receipts tax.
Partial tax deferrals can be granted for up to 15 years on buildings more than 20 years old. The partial exemption applies only to the increased assessment resulting from rehabilitation. If the building is in an enterprise zone, it need be only 15 years old.