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Rezoning plans would increase building heights in Richmond

Posted at 4:41 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 18:33:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A group of civic associations situated along West Broad Street near the DMV are voicing opposition to a rezoning proposal that would increase the heights of buildings.

During their Monday meeting, City Council may vote to rezone certain properties in the areas surrounding the Science Museum of Virginia, Allison Street, and the Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Union University Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit station areas.

As first reported by Richmond Bizsense, most of the properties are proposed to be rezoned to the city’s B-4 Central Business District. In some cases, the plans would allow building heights of 20 stories or more.

Jonathan Marcus serves as president of the RVA Coalition of Concerned Civic Associations. The group sent a letter to the city administration urging council to delay a vote in rezoning after expressing concerns.

“We can favor increased density and growth on Broad Street and growth throughout the city without having high rise buildings that violate the historical, precious, fragile, architectural legacy we all have been promoting for generations,” Marcus explained.

Marcus feared high-rises would loom over historic neighborhoods with single family homes and apartments. The plans are tied to the city’s Pulse Corridor Plan, which runs from Willow Lawn to Rockett's Landing.

The changes are part of the city’s zoning district – TOD-1, or “transit-oriented nodal district” – which encourages Richmonders to ditch their cars in favor of public transportation like the Pulse bus system.

“Can you imagine the monoliths towering over The Fan, Jackson Ward, Carver, and Newtowne West? It doesn’t make any sense,” he explained. “We think density of 8 to 12 story buildings can spread out to much of Richmond and improve many neighborhoods without focusing on a sliver of a historic downtown area.”

In 2017, City Council approved rezoning to lessen building height restrictions in the city’s booming neighborhood of Scott’s Addition.

Trevor Dickerson, president of the neighborhood’s business association, has been a longtime proponent of higher density.

“Take redevelopment vertical - there have been great impacts and a lot of growth in our neighborhood in a positive way through these changes,” Dickerson said. “Having that mixed used potential in Scott’s addition has been big. It’s what keeps Scott’s Addition hot. It’s why everybody wants to be here.”

Owners of several large apartment complexes, like The Nest, have taken advantage of the rezoning changes in Scott’s Addition.

However, Dickerson said the taller buildings have exacerbated the area’s growing pains like parking issues.

He supported a measure that would create a scaled buffer zone located adjacent the neighborhoods of the current rezoning plans up for consideration.

The coalition is made up of members from Carver Area Civic Improvement League, The Fan District Association, Historic Jackson Ward Association, Historic West Grace Street Association, Monument Avenue Preservation Society, and Newtowne West Association.

City Council already approved constructions plans for a 12-story tower at the intersection of Lombardy and Broad Street.

The 240,800-square-foot structure would replace the Sunoco gas station and Fast Break convenience store on about a half-acre at 1600 W. Broad St., beside the Lowe’s and across Lombardy from the Dollar Tree store.