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Henrico endorses proposed $2.3 billion GreenCity ‘ecodistrict’ development at Parham, I-95, I-295

The $2.3 billion ‘ecodistrict’ is planned around former Best Products headquarters; the project would generate nearly 2.3 million square feet of office and retail space, 2,400 housing units, 2 hotels, a 17,000-seat arena at no financial risk to taxpayers.

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Henrico County officials are endorsing a developer’s vision for GreenCity, a $2.3 billion private, mixed-use “ecodistrict” development that would promote economic development and environmental sustainability as well as include a 17,000-seat arena for major concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment.

Officials with Henrico and GreenCity LLC announced plans for the development today at the county-owned former headquarters of Best Products, which is northeast of East Parham Road’s interchange with Interstate 95 and where the 250-acre community would extend north to Interstate 295.

“We are thrilled to endorse this bold, visionary opportunity as it is in sync with everything that Henrico County stands for and has been working hard to achieve – inclusion, resiliency, mobility, innovation, and job growth,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “We’re talking about a new kind of community that is intricately planned, inclusive for all, and thoughtfully designed to be not only livable but also to set new standards for environmental sustainability. GreenCity will be a community that preserves, embraces, and showcases open space, and it will drive economic development and tourism in new and exciting ways while remaining respectful to county taxpayers. The arena will put this region back on the entertainment map. It also will provide tremendous benefits to our county while creating no financial risk to our taxpayers.”

Envisioned as an “ecodistrict,” GreenCity would be designed around principles that promote environmental sustainability, civic engagement, and inclusion. The development would integrate extensive parks, trails, and open spaces among about 2 million square feet of office space, 280,000 square feet of retail space, 2,400 housing units, two hotels, and a $250 million arena.

The arena is planned to be the greenest arena venue in North America and would accommodate up to 17,000 patrons in flexible seating configurations to accommodate touring concerts, family shows, and potentially new sports teams, including ECHL Hockey and G-League Basketball.

The former Best Products headquarters, including its iconic Art-Deco eagle statues, would be renovated and repurposed to Living Building Challenge standards, which features the world’s highest level of sustainability design and operations. “Living buildings” provide net-positive energy and water, and produce zero waste.

The developers anticipate a formal submission of plans and an application for rezoning to the UMU, or urban mixed-use, classification in early 2021.

In anticipation of those filings, the Board of Supervisors will consider at its Jan. 26 regular meeting a proposed transfer of the Best Products site to the county’s Economic Development Authority (EDA). The EDA anticipates entering into an agreement to convey the land to the developers pending approval of the rezoning. The developers would then finalize the purchase of the land at $6.2 million – the amount Henrico paid when it bought the property in 2011.

GreenCity would seek the creation of a community development authority, or CDA, to finance the construction of the arena through a sale of bonds. Under the financing model, certain taxes generated onsite by the GreenCity development would be used to make debt payments over a period of 30 years. Once the debt is retired, all taxes generated by the development – an annual amount estimated at more than $20 million – would go to the county’s general fund.

Henrico officials expect to conduct a detailed review of the financial projections as part of its due diligence of the proposal.

“In Henrico, we have extensive experience with CDAs and understand how they can help deliver large-scale development projects that are rich with amenities and potentially transformative for the community,” Vithoulkas said. “CDAs have been used successfully in the development of Short Pump Town Center, White Oak Village, and Reynolds Crossing. Each of these projects either met or exceeded its revenue targets and now makes significant tax contributions that help us fund schools, public safety, and other core services.”

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Veteran baker to open brick and mortar bakery operation in Lakeside

Up All Night Bakery, a new brick and mortar for 20-year baking veteran Jonathan Highfield, will take over the former Pulp RVA space at 5411 Lakeside Avenue.

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From Richmond BizSense:

Jonathan Highfield has kneaded dough for about 20 years, both in the employment of and instruction of others. This year, he’s baking a venture entirely of his own creation.

He recently signed a lease on 5411 Lakeside Ave., where he plans to open a production facility for his Up All Night Bakery by March.

Up All Night was launched as a part-time gig in late 2019, making croissants, breads, cookies and other baked goods that are sold at farmers markets and to a few wholesale customers around town.

Highfield currently bakes in the kitchen of the Early Bird Biscuit Co.’s Bellevue Avenue location during the business’s off-hours. He said he decided to move Up All Night elsewhere because he had outgrown the Early Bird space.

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Family of local freight and transportation company makes $2 million donation to children’s hospital construction project

The Children’s Hospital Foundation’s matching campaign effectively will double the gift to $4 million.

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A local freight and transportation provider has made a major gift towards the construction of the forthcoming Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU expansion. In addition to the company’s gift of $150,000, Estes family members committed $1.85 million to support the Wonder Tower, the new home for Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s inpatient, emergency, and trauma services.

The two donations from Estes Express Lines and the Estes family were matched by the Children’s Hospital Foundation, maximizing the total investment in the Wonder Tower to $4 million. As part of the capital campaign to raise $100 million, the foundation is matching the first $25 million in gifts from the community.

“The support of Estes Express Lines and the Estes family is extremely meaningful. We’re grateful they’ve added their voice and support to our mission to build a world-class pediatric hospital in Richmond,” said Lauren Moore, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital Foundation. “They’re truly a values-focused company and family, and their gifts reflect the importance they place on protecting children and their childhoods.”

“We are a family-owned business that’s had the honor of working with thousands of Richmond-area families for nearly 90 years,” said Rob Estes, president and CEO of Estes Express Lines. “Children deserve the best possible medical care when they need it, and we’re proud to support Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, as a company, and as a family.”

As part of the donation, some areas of the Wonder Tower will be named in honor of Estes, including the hospital’s loading dock, a nod to their work as a freight carrier business. The gift includes additional recognition of the family’s generosity throughout the building.

Once complete in spring 2023, the Wonder Tower will bring world-class pediatric facilities to Central Virginia. Located in downtown Richmond, the 16-story tower will be home to CHoR’s Level 1 pediatric trauma center, emergency room, inpatient units, new operating rooms, increased imaging capacity, and family amenities — all in an environment created just for kids and their loved ones.

“The children’s tower is being built for and by our community thanks to generous friends like the Estes,” said Elias Neujahr, CEO of CHoR. “It will be a beacon of hope for kids and families across the Commonwealth while helping us attract and retain top talent so our children have access to be the best care, close to home.”

In 2021, Estes Express Lines will celebrate its 90th anniversary as CHoR finishes its centennial year. “Let’s all come together to support the Wonder Tower, a special place where all families and children can receive exceptional pediatric care, right here in Richmond,” said Estes.

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New Publix supermarket opens its doors in Carytown

The new grocery store at Carytown Exchange is the fourth within a two-block radius and joins Kroger, The Fresh Market, and Ellwood Thompson’s.

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From WTVR:

After years of anticipation, Publix supermarket will open its doors in Carytown Wednesday morning.

The 48,000 square feet grocery store, located at 3535 Ellwood Avenue, will celebrate its grand opening at 7 a.m.

The supermarket will anchor the new Carytown Exchange shopping center which will also feature free parking in a new two-story parking deck.

In December 2018, Publix signed a lease to anchor the Carytown Exchange shopping center, replacing the former Martin’s in the Richmond Shopping Center.

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