HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Excitement continues to build surrounding the transformation of West End mall Regency Square as people have moved into new apartments built where the old Sears department store once stood. But along with anticipation for the mall's future, some people have also expressed concern about the high cost of living in the area.
"I've been here 37 years, and I've seen the new changes in development, and I'm really excited about it, especially the outdoor restaurants," Henrico resident Yvonne Rogers said.
Rogers still visits Regency Square occasionally to get her hair done but described the inside of the mall as bleak and empty.
She said she remembered Regency during its golden era when it was the spot where everyone wanted to hang out and have fun.
Her connection to the mall runs even deeper as she once worked there.
"When I first moved here, I was working at Sears, but they tore that down," Rogers said.
Regency's owners Rebkee Co. and Thalhimer Realty Partners have plans to transform all 50 acres into a mixed-use community, according to Henrico County's Manager for Administration Brandon Hinton.
“They’re turning this into a small city if you will," Hinton said.
The redevelopment includes apartments, restaurants, shops, and a healthcare facility.
Hinton said an adult education center, childcare center, and food hall similar to the one that just opened in Richmond's Manchester neighborhood are also on the way.
"You're creating a community," Hinton said. "You're creating assets and entertainment destinations."
When asked what the transformation will mean economically for the surrounding area, Hinton posed a question of his own.
"What if we didn’t do anything with Regency Mall?" Hinton responded. "It was a lot of empty stores. It was vacant parking lots. It was just not the Regency people were nostalgic about 20, 30 years ago."
Hinton explained the initiatives have also snowballed into public investments in nearby roads and schools.
"We have a $14 million intersection improvement at Parham and Patterson," Hinton said. "We have a brand new $100-plus million high school down the street with Tucker High School."
However, when CBS 6 shared an update on Facebook that residents started moving into the new "Rise at Regency" apartments, several viewers complained about the cost of rent.
Rent starts at about $1,400 per month for a one-bedroom unit and goes up to about $2,900 for a three-bedroom unit.
“Who’s going to be able to afford that?" Rogers asked.
“Affordable housing is becoming more and more of a problem," Hinton said.
The concerns come as rent skyrockets across the country amid record-breaking inflation levels.
While Hinton said the county can't control the market, he said officials have made investments to ease the burden of housing costs including:
- The Board of Supervisors directing $3.6 million to affordable housing efforts
- Partnering with the non-profit community
- Capping rent for 6,000 units countywide
Hinton said he recognized the gap between those who qualify for public housing and those who can afford luxury living is shrinking. He said the county remained committed to searching for solutions.
“There are more investments to come in that area," Hinton said. "There are a number of programs that we can connect our residents with to find affordable housing.”
For those having trouble finding affordable housing in Henrico, Hinton recommended reaching out to the Community Revitalization Department for resources that could help.
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