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City Council approves zoning change to spur North Side development

Jeremy Lazarus | 10/27/2015, 1:40 p.m.
Richmond is rolling out the welcome mat for developers, investors and businesses willing to consider projects in centerpiece commercial districts ...

Richmond is rolling out the welcome mat for developers, investors and businesses willing to consider projects in centerpiece commercial districts in majority African-American areas of North Side.

In the latest effort to stimulate business growth, City Council just approved a zoning overhaul that largely eliminates parking requirements for the improving, but still struggling retail areas of Barton Heights and Highland Park.

The changes also make it easier to undertake mixed retail and apartment developments in the commercial areas.

The eased zoning impacts the commercial area around North Avenue and Brookland Park Boulevard, as well as business properties around Six Points, where Meadowbridge Road, Dill Avenue, Brookland Park Boulevard and Second Avenue intersect.

“We have people who have expressed interest in these areas, but have been frustrated by the zoning regulations, particularly the requirements for off-street parking,” Councilwoman Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, said after the Oct. 12 vote.




“Our hope is that the revamped zoning will make these areas more attractive for investment and the jobs that investment will create,” she said.

The unanimous council vote came just two days before the Oct. 14 groundbreaking for an $11 million apartment project at Six Points. The project includes more than $1 million in loans from the city aimed to restore 77 vacant apartment units in a former school building.

The developers of that project, a Washington-based nonprofit, already are eyeing additional work and have purchased four other nearby parcels.

Ms. Robertson credited officials from the nonprofit, Community Preservation and Development Corp. with giving the city the push to make the zoning changes. She said those officials began urging a fresh look at the zoning after discovering the impact that the existing rules might have on their plans.

In other business Oct. 12, council also:

• Gave Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ administration the green light to spend $300,000 to purchase a former homeless center in Shockoe Valley to create an employment and social services center for Eastview and other neighborhoods neighboring the Richmond Justice Center.

• Approved the $5,000 sale of a small piece of city property on Venable Street to the nonprofit Richmond Better Housing Coalition, clearing the way for the coalition to pursue development of a retail-apartment complex on the site of the former Citadel of Hope, a church-based social services center that closed after a fire.

• Cleared the way for the city to allow the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation to use an $88,715 grant to create a computer education program for middle school students.