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The City of Williamsburg is looking for the next steps to bring new life to a midtown retail center.
The city is enlisting the services of RLC Co. to complete a market analysis of the Williamsburg Shopping Center with an eye toward redeveloping the declining mall.
The cost of the $30,000 study will be evenly divided between the city and the Economic Development Authority.
Economic Development Director Michele DeWitt said the study will help determine potential new commercial uses for the shopping center, including the possibility of a mixed-use development.
“It’ll give us a reality of the market. What can it handle?” she said.
The redevelopment of the shopping center, located at the intersection of Monticello Avenue and Richmond Road and dates to the 1950s, has been a hot topic among city leaders since it was sold at a foreclosure auction for $14.1 million in August 2014.
The property’s current owner – the lender for the previous owner – had hoped to resell the property by March, but no sale has been announced.
The Williamsburg City Council approved a plan to rezone the property from general commercial to urban commercial in 2013, opening it to the possibility of a mixed-use development, similar to High Street or New Town in James City County.
After the foreclosure auction, the Williamsburg EDA approved a resolution recommending the city take steps to control the future of the shopping center.
“What can we do as an EDA to put together a package that will incentivize redevelopment, not incentivize a simple buying of the keys?” EDA Chairman Tom Gillman said at the body’s August meeting.
DeWitt reiterated that sentiment to WYDaily after Thursday’s EDA meeting.
“We want to signal to the private sector what the city would like to see,” she said. “If we can be really clear about that vision, the private sector will know what we’re looking for.”
DeWitt said there were several tools the city could use to encourage certain kinds of development on the property, including zoning, tax increment financing – also known as a TIF – and strategic use of infrastructure upgrades.
“In conjunction with a private developer that was doing something there that the city might like, the city might step up to make some road enhancements,” DeWitt said.
City Manager Jack Tuttle has previously pointed to the widening of Monticello Avenue from Richmond Road to Treyburn Drive near the William & Mary School of Education as a potential project that could be linked to the redevelopment of the shopping center.
The EDA unanimously supported funding the study.
EDA member Adam Steely said the shopping center study could turn into a larger assessment of Williamsburg’s business climate, and help the city nurture economic growth in places like the Prince George Street corridor, Second Street and the Northeast Triangle.
“With a new city manager coming on line soon, and a new Colonial Williamsburg president in place, things are going to change anyway,” Steely said. “It’s the ideal moment to get expert advice on how the city can become more competitive.”