CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Rockwood community of Chesterfield County is one step closer to redevelopment, with a unanimous vote from the Planning Commission to hold a Public Hearing on a Special Focus Area (SFA) plan for the area at its Feb. 16 meeting.
“This is the first of hopefully many to come of the Special Focus Areas,” Chesterfield County Department of Planning Senior Planner Drew Noxon said during the Jan. 19 meeting. “It promotes uses that are currently not available in the area, as well as some additional housing options and choices.”
The Rockwood SFA would outline a plan for development and redevelopment of the area centered around Route 360 and Courthouse Road, encompassing 673 acres.
Noxon says the goal is to create a village square feeling in the Rockwood community, which does not currently exist.
“Rockwood was once a major shopping destination. However, today, we’re witnessing changes in the market, which really pose challenges to the typical retail uses that we’re used to, which really opens up some opportunities for the redevelopment of our older shopping centers,” Noxon said. “The larger shopping centers are really having some challenges. That’s really called us into action.”
The shopping centers in question include Rockwood Square, Oxbridge Square, and Rockwood Plaza, which, officials say, account for 50 percent of the area’s total square footage of commercial use space.
The plan does not only focus on commercialization, however. It also outlines options to develop additional access points to Rockwood Park, expand residential offerings, and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment, including a “Creek Walk” and outdoor dining areas.
County officials say there are just 163 residential units and 105 individual landowners in the area now.
Noxon says these numbers provide neither the support necessary for existing businesses nor a draw for new businesses.
“People want to see change. They want to see something different,” he said. “They want more upscale shopping opportunities or new residential opportunities, more open space, that sort of thing, so they’re excited to see changes coming soon, hopefully.”
But changes come at a cost.
According to the Rockwood SFA presentation at the Jan. 19 Planning Commission meeting, the combined estimated costs of work on Collector Road and new access to Rockwood Park, gateway signage, work on a segment of Horner’s Run Trail, and pedestrian bridge access across Falling Creek to Rockwood Park would total up to $3,845,000. That does not include the estimated $6 to $8 per square foot for demolition assistance for shopping centers.
“This is a long-range plan and it does depend on the market and market forces,” Planning Commission Chair and Clover Hill District representative Gloria Freye said. “But I think if the county is willing to adopt this plan and invest in it and start with what the county can do to improve the area, I think that’ll send a terrific message [for private support].”
The Planning Commission is accepting public comments on the draft Rockwood SFA plan through Feb. 1.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to scheduled a Public Hearing on the matter at its February meeting, pending a virtual meeting to allow for public discussion prior.
So far, Noxon says the community has expressed concerns about traffic congestion and the impact a higher-density area might have on schools and the Manchester Volunteer Rescue Squad, which officials say is one of Chesterfield County’s busiest facilities.
Noxon says he spoke with Chief James Fitch of the Manchester Volunteer Rescue Squad, who reportedly did not share any initial concerns about increased pressure on the department.
“I’m particularly excited to see the new proposal for the new road network,” Freye said. “Not only is that going to better serve property owners, [but also] it’s going to better serve the citizens. They’re going to have better access to Rockwood Park and to the businesses that, hopefully, will reinvest there.”