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Henrico County reflects on “bold action” at State of the County address

By building two high schools simultaneously, acquiring 1,200 acres on the James River and pursuing an indoor sports complex, Henrico County shows it’s willing to make bold moves to ensure the community’s success, County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said during his State of the County address for 2019.

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By building two high schools simultaneously, acquiring 1,200 acres on the James River and pursuing an indoor sports complex, Henrico County shows it’s willing to make bold moves to ensure the community’s success, County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said during his State of the County address for 2019.

Speaking Wednesday to about 300 business and community leaders at the Short Pump Hilton, Vithoulkas highlighted a series of “moon shots” — projects, initiatives, and other accomplishments — from the past year.

He recalled President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 challenge to the nation to put a man on the moon — “not because it was easy — but because it was hard.”

“What President Kennedy said — and what our Board [of Supervisors] has focused on — is the simple notion of a moment in time,” Vithoulkas said. “What will we do with our moment in time? That is all we have and all that matters. What will we do?

“The thought can be exhilarating or terrifying,” he added. “In Henrico, we choose to be unafraid. In a figurative sense, we choose to go to the moon.”

With that mindset and a commitment to collaboration and engagement that extends from elected officials and employees to the community, anything is possible, Vithoulkas said. Accomplishments cited from the past year include:

  • The start of construction on a new J.R. Tucker High School and a new Highland Springs High School and a plan to expand Holladay Elementary School;
  • The acquisition of 1,200 acres at Wilton Farm for future uses, such as recreation, schools, economic development and a history museum;
  • A thriving tourism program, with sports tourism at county facilities generating more than $66 million in visitor spending during the year — a 23% increase from 2018;
  • Development of an indoor sports and convocation center at Virginia Center Commons for tournaments and other events, including high school graduations;
  • A commitment to fiscal discipline that has allowed the county to maintain its triple AAA bond ratings and healthy cash reserves and to reduce — but not increase — the real estate tax rate for 41 consecutive years;
  • The installation of solar panels atop the Henrico Area Mental Health & Development Services East Center and the Libbie Mill Library at no cost to taxpayers — an effort being extended to four additional buildings;
  • A strategy to promote growth and investment by reducing BPOL (business, professional and occupational license) taxes. As a result, 14,000 businesses — 75% of all licensable businesses — will be exempt from BPOL taxes, beginning next year;
  • Private investment at White Oak Technology Park, where Facebook is building a $1.5 billion data center and QTS has submitted plans for a project on a similar scale;
  • Development and redevelopment throughout the county, including at Westwood, Libbie Mill, Regency, Rocketts Landing, Fulton Yard and Innsbrook;
  • Partnerships with community groups to develop two swimming facilities, on North Laburnum Avenue and at Regency;
  • Economic development announcements representing capital investments of more than $131 million and about 500,000 square feet of space as well as more than 1,800 jobs with annual wages of $115 million;
  • Strong public support for education, including for school operations and facilities as well as teachers and staff;
  • A focus on housing and neighborhood revitalization that has secured improvements to about 1,000 subsidized apartment units at no cost to county taxpayers; and
  • A thriving Richmond International Airport with nearly 4.3 million passengers — an all-time high.

Vithoulkas credited the Board of Supervisors for being able to advocate for their districts and the county overall and for unifying “behind a goal of absolute excellence and service for our residents and businesses.”

He cited the county’s diversity as a strength and noted how officials joined the Henrico branch of the NAACP in condemning KKK flyers that were distributed to homes in late summer.

“A welcoming community is a thriving community,” he said. “It attracts a great workforce and great companies. It teaches a love of our fellow man that can guide everything we do — if we open our hearts to it. Our employees are in public service for a reason. They are wired to be givers.”

He highlighted Police Officer Brendan Kelly, who noticed a Sandston resident and stroke survivor was struggling to maintain her property. After working an overnight shift, Kelly “took it upon himself to cut down small trees, pull weeds and mow overgrown grass,” Vithoulkas said. “He’s still doing it.”

As a community, Henrico has plenty of work ahead of it, Vithoulkas said, “but knowing the human capital — the heart — that we have at our disposal, we could not be in a stronger position to succeed.”

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Arts & Entertainment

Axe-throwing chain set to open near The Circuit Arcade Bar in Scott’s Addition

The venue will open in the former Nicholson Sprinkler Corp. building at 3100 W. Leigh Street in the heart of the neighborhood.

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From Richmond BizSense:

After its first attempt to get into the Richmond market fell flat, a Canadian axe-throwing bar is back with a location coming to Scott’s Addition.

Bad Axe Throwing is preparing to open at 3100 W. Leigh St. in a 5,000-square-foot space in the old Nicholson Sprinkler Corp. building.

Based in Ontario, Bad Axe has nearly 50 locations throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. In 2018, it began planning a Richmond location on West Broad Street, across from the forthcoming Whole Foods in Sauer Center.

But those plans fell through last spring. Bad Axe owner Mario Zelaya said there was an issue about the amount of parking available at that location, which caused them to scrap the plans.

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Business

Nine-acre Elks Lodge property near Innsbrook slated to be transformed into mixed use development

Highwoods Properties paid $3.3 million for the nine-acre Elks Lodge near Innsbrook After Hours and plans to mull over mixed-use, high density options for the site.

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From Richmond BizSense:

One of the biggest landlords in Innsbrook has amassed more land in the area, this time snagging a block of acreage next to the site where the Innsbrook After Hours concert series is held.

Highwoods Properties last month bought the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 45 property at 10022 Elks Pass Lane in Henrico. It paid $3.3 million for the 9-acre assemblage, which adds to another 12 adjacent and largely undeveloped acres the company already owns.

Jane DuFrane, Highwoods’ vice president and local market lead, said the company still is mulling options for the Elks land and adjacent sites, including developing a “walkable community with a mix of uses.”

“The Elks Lodge property’s contiguous proximity to our other land holdings and existing office buildings made it a natural fit for our portfolio,” DuFrane said in an email.

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Business

Container Store, Chase Bank taking over two adjacent properties at Short Pump Town Center

The former hhgregg appliances and electronics store and neighboring Matchbox restaurant are being transformed into two new-to-Richmond brands.

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Two neighboring properties at the entrance of Short Pump Town Center are set to be transformed into homes for two new-to-Richmond brands – both as reported by Richmond BizSense.

The former Matchbox Restaurant on W. Broad Street is currently being eyed for a new Chase Bank, BizSense says. Plans have been filed to transform the two-story building into a bank and drive-thru. Read more about the plans here.

Across the road, the former hhgregg appliance and electronics store – originally built as a Circuit City – is being rehabbed into a new location for The Container Store, which sells home organization and storage solutions. Check out progress of the transformation here.

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