Sunday, December 4, 2022

City Council unanimously approves redevelopment of Williamsburg Shopping Center

Broad Street Realty is proposing four five-story residential buildings as part of the redevelopment plan. (Courtesy Broad Street Realty)
Broad Street Realty is proposing four five-story residential buildings with a public plaza as part of the redevelopment plan. (Courtesy Broad Street Realty)

City Council voted 5-0 Thursday to approve the redevelopment of the Williamsburg Shopping Center into a retail and residential development called Midtown Row.

“I think this proposal is a bold prediction for Williamsburg’s future,” said Councilman Benny Zhang. “This is something that the city has needed to act on for a long time.”

Applicant Broad Street Realty submitted two options with their proposal. The preferred plan for the 58-year-old shopping center on the corner of Richmond Road and Monticello Avenue calls for buildings as tall as 66 feet, a 140-room hotel, 624 beds in 240 residential units, and 380,000 square feet of residential and retail space, according to city documents.

The second plan also contains four new five-story mixed-use buildings, although the fourth building is smaller than in option one. There is also no hotel and a larger portion of existing buildings will remain. Both proposals will include the parking garage, although option two will contain nearly 100 fewer residential beds overall.

Both plans were approved, and Broad Street will have the ability to pursue either option.

Broad Street CEO Michael Joacoby said he was pleased by the decision, and the flexibility to be able to implement either plan is critical for the company.

“Midtown Row will change over time,” Jacoby said. “The road infrastructure is designed such that we can continue to improve that site for a generation.”

In conjunction with the construction of Midtown Row, the city will also redesign Monticello Avenue streetscape.

Jacoby added that Midtown Row is a project designed for all the constituents of the Williamsburg community, rather than just one component such as college students.

As it stands today, the Williamsburg Shopping Center is largely vacant, and Broad Street plans to remove approximately 100,000 square feet of retail space. The buildings that contain Sal’s by Victor and Food Lion will remain, while some of the businesses will change.

“This is an extremely important gateway into the city and we need to look into repurposing a 1950’s shopping center,” Leigh Houghland— a regional executive at Chesapeake Bank, who was born and raised in Williamsburg— said during the meeting’s public hearing.

Legal Counsel Vernon Geddy III also stated that Nawab Indian Cuisine will remain in the Monticello Shopping Center, and a FedEx and pet supply store will join the center as well. Broad Street is also in negotiations with a microbrewery to lease the former theater space.

The redevelopment plans also call for a public plaza, landscaped pedestrian boulevards, wide sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, as well as a two-story parking garage, according to city documents. The developer has made it clear it plans to host student renters and young professionals at the new shopping center.

“As long as I’ve been on council we’ve been talking about how we can redevelop the Williamsburg Shopping Center,” said Mayor Paul Freiling. “The opportunity now to do something is tremendous.”

Council approved requests from Broad Street— one to change the text of the Urban Business District B-3 to allow the development of Midtown Row, and a Special Use Permit to develop the center in accordance with the master plan submitted by the developer.

The text changes to the zoning ordinance for the B-3 district include increasing the percentage of gross floor area dedicated to multifamily use from 67 to 80, reduce yard and screening requirements, increase the maximum height of buildings from to 66 feet, and to allow up to four unrelated individuals to live in the same residential unit, according to meeting documents.

The redevelopment of Midtown has long been a priority for city staff and officials, some of whom expressed optimism that Midtown Row would become an economic driver for the city.

The city’s biennial Goals, Initiatives and Outcomes call for city staff to pursue the development of Midtown into a shopping and entertainment hub, with a focus on the rejuvenation of the Williamsburg Shopping Center through partnerships with the property owners.

“As a young person, this is a net positive for this community,” said Councilor Scott Foster. “We often scratch our heads and ask, ‘Why don’t more people stay here? What is missing?’ This is missing.”

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