Henrico County VA
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‘Best’-laid plans forming

Consultant analyzing uses for building
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.


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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