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A new look for Innsbrook?

Supervisors to consider urban mixed use proposal Dec. 11
Above, left, the Innsbrook site on which Highwoods Properties plans to build a mixed-use development, as it looks today. At right is the proposed redevelopment. (Courtesy Highwoods Properties)




A new era for the Innsbrook corporate center could begin officially this week, pending approval from Henrico County’s Board of Supervisors.

The board will hear a request Dec. 11 by Highwoods Properties to redevelop a 39.46-acre section of the 630-acre corporate center as an urban mixed-use tract, allowing for as much as 2.3 million square feet of commercial and residential development – including 1,230 residential units. The Planning Commission recommended the plan for approval at its Nov. 8 meeting.

Supervisors rezoned most of the site – 36 acres – to the then-new urban mixed use classification as part of a larger case in 2005 that sought to breathe new life into the Far West End community by allowing a variety of uses in close proximity to each other, similar to the communities of West Broad Village and Rocketts Landing. Highwoods’ current proposal would establish conditions on the entire 39.46-acre site, which is located generally between Cox Road, Sadler Road and Nuckols Road.

During a work session last month, the board heard its first formal presentation about the proposal for the project.

Planning Director Joe Emerson told supervisors that his staff generally supports the plan but objects to a proposed Highwoods proffer that would require the county to pay for right-of-way acquisition and permits related to road improvements for the project. (Highwoods must construct an additional eastbound lane on Nuckols Road between Sadler and Cox roads and an additional westbound lane on Nuckols from Lake Brook Drive to the I-295 northbound ramp as part of the project.)

“We don’t feel we should be obligated to absorb the cost of those items,” Emerson said.

Some neighbors of the site have expressed concerns about traffic, which already is snarled along Nuckols Road during morning and evening commutes, and the proposed height of some buildings, the tallest of which would be 250 feet, or about 16 stories.

But Emerson said that Highwoods’ proposal – which would limit buildings within 150 feet of existing residential development to 45 feet in height and those between 150 feet and 300 feet of such development to 80 feet in height – was consistent with recommendations of his department’s 2010 Innsbrook Area Study. That study set guidelines for a variety of future urban mixed use projects in the community, in order to establish consistency in building heights, landscaping, streetscaping, parking, signage and a variety of other features.

Still, “there is no doubt that you’re going to be able to see the tall buildings,” Emerson said.

Board Chairman Dick Glover (Brookland District) and Supervisor Pat O’Bannon (Tuckahoe District) both expressed some concerns about a proposed one-lane roundabout that would be constructed at the intersection of Sadler Road and Sadler Place, about 600 feet south of Nuckols Road.

“Drivers around here, I don’t think they’re used to this, and it bothers me a lot. . . that this is more an impediment,” O’Bannon said.

But Deputy County Manager Tim Foster told the board that the roundabout – which might cost about $200,000 and could be the first public roundabout built in the county – would be safer than a traffic signal, which would cost between $150,000 and $250,000. Traffic at the intersection wouldn’t yet warrant a signal, and locating an additional signal so close to Nuckols Road could create traffic flow challenges, he said – whereas a roundabout would be more effective in keeping vehicles moving.

Foster noted that roundabouts are different from traffic circles; the latter typically are larger, involve more lanes and more merging traffic and may present more opportunities for confusion or traffic accidents.

Roundabouts, he said, are smaller, typically involve just one lane of traffic and are used in less-congested areas to keep traffic flowing better than it would otherwise. On the rare occasions when accidents do occur at roundabouts, they’re usually less severe because vehicles are traveling at a lower rate of speed than they would be otherwise, he said.

Glover conceded that he would support the plan if it were deemed the safest option.

Some residents have expressed concerns that construction of the roundabout would eliminate direct access from Sadler Road to Nuckols Road, but Emerson said that wasn’t entirely accurate. The new roundabout would shift Sadler south into its old roadbed but still theoretically provide drivers the chance to connect to Nuckols without stopping.

Responding to residents’ concerns that more development would worsen traffic, Emerson agreed that the initial impact could boost traffic numbers. But he said that the ultimate outcome of urban mixed use development often is a reduction in traffic, because some residents also work and/or shop within the same community.

“The UMU district is intended to provide flexibility not otherwise available in the zoning ordinance to achieve a unique destination, conveying a “sense of place,” and providing a desirable destination to live, work, and recreate,” planners wrote in a report about the proposal.

Emerson told the board that as the project takes shape and residents move in, some benefits would become noticeable.

“You’ll have people coming and going over the whole day – not just at two peak times,” he 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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Calendar

The 2014 Summer Movie Express continues at Regal Virginia Center Stadium 20 and Regal Short Pump Stadium 14. The films this week are “The Croods” on July 29 and “Epic”… Full text

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