CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — From the air, Spring Rock Green doesn’t look like much yet – it’s currently the site of a dilapidated mall- its storefronts half-empty, fronted by a massive parking lot and screened from Midlothian Turnpike by a string of newer fast-casual restaurants.
Formerly known as the Beaufont Mall, the shopping center is now home to a tactical supply shop, a discount appliance store and a dollar tree – a far cry from the mall’s heyday.
Now, the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority (EDA) is spearheading an effort to reinvent the aging plot as a new, mixed-use development.
The EDA purchased the property last year and is nearing final approval of an ambitious zoning proposal that now only needs the “OK” of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors.
In anticipation of approval from the board, the EDA has announced a developer for the first block of mixed-use buildings that will form the development’s core.
Collins Enterprises, a Connecticut-based firm, was chosen for the project after the success of their Freemason Harbor development in Norfolk. The first phase of Spring Rock Green, according to zoning proffers, will feature 300 apartment units, marked with a 5 on the conceptual map below.
The mixed-use complex, which will feature apartments built over ground-floor shops and restaurants, will be built along a pedestrian thoroughfare tentatively named “Celebration Street,” though an EDA official said they were still work-shopping the name.
During the first phase of construction, anticipated to be complete by Summer of 2024, parking will be shared between dedicated structures and repurposed, pre-existing parking lots. During later phases, most parking needs will be met with streetside parking and “structured, secured parking” – in parking structures built to allow residents to walk right from the structure into their apartment’s back door.
Parking phases. (Courtesy of Chesterfield EDA)
Another feature of the first phase will be a “state-of-the-art ice tournament facility” or iceplex to serve the greater Richmond region.
Garrett Hart, Director of Economic Development, said demand for ice hockey facilities has soared, driven mostly by youth leagues – but there’s no facility to serve the teams in the Central Virginia region.
“We do not have a facility in the region where we can have a home game,” he said. “People right here in Richmond are flying all over the country to play ice hockey.”
Collins Enterprises has estimated their portion of the development will total $75 million – but the county won’t have to pay anything. In fact, the county will be selling the firm a parcel to help recoup its initial investment in the project.
“The EDA is the facilitator,” Hart said.
The EDA will sell the parcels at fairly low prices, he added, in hopes of spurring growth, not reaping short-term profits. “Our job is to break even.”
The iceplex, on the other hand, like the volleyball facility across the street in Stonebridge, will be built and owned by the county – which will benefit from a rental windfall once it enters into use.
Alongside the iceplex, the development will eventually have a 250-room hotel to serve away teams and those traveling to the complex’s office buildings on business.
The county will be responsible for some major investments, however, such as “roads, utilities and public open spaces.” That will include include an ambitious “greenway” proposal, transforming a nearby utility easement into a bike and pedestrian trail.
The other challenge is connecting the development to nearby Stonebridge, Boulders and Chippenham Hospital.
In the short-term, the plan is to provide a local shuttle between Chippenham hospital and Stonebridge, with stops in Spring Rock Green and Boulders.
Eventually, said Project Manager Mike Laing, the question is “How do we get over, under, around or through Midlothian Turnpike?”
“The intersection of Chippenham and Midlothian has some of the biggest traffic counts in the region,” Hart pointed out- a blessing and a curse for a pedestrian-oriented city center.
Infrastructure along that portion of Midlothian Turnpike is extremely hostile to pedestrians and bicyclists, with a full eight lanes of traffic at the crossing between Stonebridge and Spring Rock Green – without a single crosswalk in sight.
The development’s master plan calls for the eventual construction of a “green bridge” over Midlothian Turnpike – an expensive proposition for the county, but, Hart said, “The developers will participate in that.”