Chesterfield County officials looking to upgrade Rockwood community

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Three shopping centers in the area of Hull Street and Courthouse Roads in Rockwood could be getting an upgrade, under the recently-introduced Rockwood Special Focus Area plan.

Chesterfield County officials unveiled a draft of the plan for the Rockwood community on Friday, Jan. 8, to serve as a guide for future growth, land development and redevelopment decisions, programs, ordinances, and policies. It is the county’s first Special Focus Area (SFA).

The draft plan encompasses 673 acres, including the Rockwood Square, Oxbridge Square, and Rockwood Plaza shopping centers, which, according to county officials, account for 50 percent of the area’s 426,484 total square feet of commercial use space.

“Rockwood was once a major shopping destination,” Chesterfield County Department of Planning Senior Planner Drew Noxon said. “However, today, we are witnessing changes in the market, which pose challenges to the typical retail uses that we used to see, which is opening up opportunities for the redevelopment of many of our older shopping centers.”

Noxon says there is about 58,000 square feet of vacant retail space in the area of the three centers.

“What this is telling us is that the smaller commercial outparcels directly fronting Route 360 and somewhat along Courthouse Road are relatively healthy,” he said. “However, the larger shopping centers on the interiors of these sites are having some challenges and have called us to action.”

County officials say more than 75,000 vehicles pass through the intersection of Hull Street and Courthouse Roads daily, making this an ideal location for development.

However, Noxon says the area becomes less attractive to visitors because there are few sidewalks and bicycle access points. Meanwhile, several different entrances along the road to each business have a tendency to slow traffic.

“The area really lacks a nice Main Street or town-square-style environment,” he said. “The area is completely dominated by automobile-oriented uses and design.”

The proposed Rockwood SFA plan includes new trails for biking and walking to bypass major traffic intersections.

The Rockwood SFA plan shows proposed bikeways and trails in the area of Hull Street and Courthouse Roads to avoid vehicular traffic. (Photo: Chesterfield County)

“The plan also suggests the creation of a Main Street or town-square-type of concept,” Noxon said. “This is your central pedestrian-oriented street or public open space surrounded by retail uses. It creates a really nice environment where you can spend multiple hours of your day and visit many businesses and entertainment uses.”

The draft plan contains further guidelines for open spaces, which county officials say could be used for seasonal events, much like what can been seen in the area of the 17th Street Farmers Market in downtown Richmond. This could include a pavilion or outdoor stage.

The plan proposes pedestrian-friendly streetscapes to encourage visitors to spend more time there. (Photo: Chesterfield County)

However, Noxon says the plan is not an ordinance or requirement for future use.

“Property owners would still have to come in and apply for zoning changes in order to develop their land within the plan area,” he said. “That means they would have to go through the public process and seek approval through the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors before development could take place.”

Based on the information presented Jan. 8, officials will work to incentivize development through low costs, as existing building may have to be demolished before new structures can be built.

“The plan provides a healthy balance of residential, commercial, retail, office, and entertainment spaces that are mutually supportive of each other,” Noxon said. “It also promotes uses that are not currently available in the area, as well as additional housing choices. The plan seeks to encourage a more walkable development pattern, with higher density centered around the intersection of [Route] 360 and Courthouse Road.”

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