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

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

New Henrico biscuit shop thrives with grandmother’s recipe

Tim Laxton rises at 4:30 a.m. every day for a biscuit. But he’s not rushing out to any restaurant to get his favorite Southern comfort food; he’s baking his own from scratch and serving them up from his bakery on Lakeside Avenue.

Laxton opened Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery in early July and since then biscuits have been flying out of there.

The self-taught baker draws hungry crowds in with a biscuit of the day like the Old Bay Cheddar, but the buttermilk biscuits are the staple.

“On a Saturday I generally make about 400 biscuits with my two hands,” Laxton said. “I’m constantly making biscuits all day long.” > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

CAT Theatre announces cast of Sherlock Holmes play

CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run from Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Adapted by Steven Dietz, it is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The plot follows what seems to be the end of the career of the world’s greatest detective as he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer Irene Adler, Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. As Holmes says, “The game is afoot Watson, and it is a dangerous one!” > Read more.

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Registration ends today for the Henrico NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner on Sept. 27 at Quioccasin Baptist Church, 9011 Quioccasin Rd. The speaker will be Ms. Clayola Brown, president of A.… Full text

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