‘Best’-laid plans forming

A consulting firm is working to help Henrico County officials determine the best way to utilize the former Best Products headquarters building, located at Parham Road and I-95, which the county purchased last December for $6.2 million.

The county hired the Washington, D.C. office of architecture and design firm Gensler this summer to conduct a study of the 93-acre site and county agencies that could be relocated there. The firm expects to complete its study and make recommendations by April, Henrico General Services Director Chris Winstead told the Citizen last week.

County officials jumped at the chance to acquire the site, which was vacated by Best Products in 1998 and later used by Bank of America until 2010. It features 286,000 square feet of usable office space – more than what exists at the county’s western government center and annex on Parham Road.

“It’s exciting for us,” Winstead said of the possibilities for the building. “It’s a great opportunity. The reason we exist is to serve our citizens. Whatever happens at Best Plaza, it’s going to be something focused on, ‘How do we better serve our citizens in the years ahead?’”

Officials from Gensler and its local partner firm, BCWH, have been interviewing and surveying officials from each county agency viewed as a potential fit for the Best site – those whose needs are limited primarily to office space – Winstead said.

After receiving Gensler’s recommendation in the spring, county officials will hire an architectural firm to design the first phase of occupancy. (Officials intend to move agencies into the building in several phases rather than all at once, Winstead said.)

In addition to providing centralized space for a number of county agencies, the Best building will provide Henrico with relief from rental fees. The county currently leases about 141,000 square feet of office space at 12 different locations to house various departments, Winstead said.

“There would be a sizable reduction in the amount of leased space over time,” Winstead said. “Certainly, that is an opportunity for us, and we’re definitely sensitive to that. We see this as a very good opportunity to map out a plan for many, many years to come.”

Freeing up office space at the county’s western government center could provide opportunity for the expansion of the county’s courthouse, which is quickly outgrowing its space there. For nearly a decade, county officials have discussed the need for a new courthouse, but the price tag has been estimated at more than $80 million. Without a bond referendum, no funding for such a facility expense exists.

The Best Products building was built in three phases during an eight-year period, beginning in 1977. In addition to office space, the complex includes a cafeteria, jogging trails and a softball field.

The building itself features an open floor plan, Winstead said, with an atrium that is several stories in height. The facility is in relatively good shape, he said, but a number of improvements will be necessary before county employees move in.

Officials also intend to upgrade the site to make it more energy efficient, Winstead said.
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The Weinstein Jewish Community Center will present the 70th anniversary musical event “JCC Through the Decades” at 7 p.m. Patrons of the Arts will commemorate this anniversary with a celebration through song, theatre and dance with some of Richmond’s most accomplished Jewish artists. Dessert and coffee reception to follow. Admission is $18 for JCC members and $27 for nonmembers. Ages 13+. For details, visit http://www.weinsteinjcc.org/events. Full text

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