Willow Lawn will soon become the starting point for what could become a regional transit system serving major activity centers in the region.
The high-capacity Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system will be operated by the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC). The GRTC Pulse route will begin at Willow Lawn in Henrico County and take passengers on a 7.6-mile ride along Broad and Main Streets. The final destination will be Rocketts Landing – an area located partly in the City of Richmond and partly in Eastern Henrico County. Construction is expected to be completed in 2017, and it’s hoped that the project will stimulate economic opportunity along the route.
“Great transportation and transportation choices are key factors in attracting and retaining a strong workforce, as well as attracting new businesses and growing businesses already located in the Richmond market,” says Ashley C. Lickliter, P.E., Vice President, Kimley-Horn and Associates. “Travel choices that include transit make our area more attractive for development.”
Kimley-Horn has been involved since the beginning of the project, initially providing preliminary engineering and design plans and currently assisting various stakeholders with engineering support and construction oversight. The stakeholders for this regional project include Henrico County, the City of Richmond, GRTC, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
“BRT often helps to spur development or redevelopment along a corridor,” Lickliter explains. “For each dollar invested in BRT, many more development dollars are generated. BRT has a terrific cost-benefit ratio when it comes to development impact.”
Cleveland, Ohio, is one example of a BRT success story. The city’s HealthLine BRT system has generated more than $6.3 billion in economic development along its Euclid Avenue corridor – $114 for each transit dollar invested.
GRTC Pulse could very well have a major impact on three important areas along its route. Here’s a quick look at this eclectic mix of Henrico County business communities.
WILLOW LAWN, GATEWAY TO MIDTOWN
The Willow Lawn shopping district has seen decades of reinvention and renovation since it opened as Richmond’s first shopping mall in 1956. National retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods will soon anchor the shopping center, and its future seems brighter than ever, thanks in large part to its Enterprise Zone status.
“The Willow Lawn area has benefited greatly from its Enterprise Zone designation over the years,” says Mark Strickler, Director, Community Revitalization, Henrico County. “The shopping center and other development in the area has received Commonwealth of Virginia Real Property Improvement Grants, and Henrico County has waived all building permit and planning approval fees – all of which amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Pulse will be a great asset for customers, employees and commuters in that area and beyond.”
Just minutes west of Willow Lawn is Reynolds Crossing – a commercial hot spot located in the heart of what’s become known as “Richmond’s New Midtown” – where the commercial tenant list reads like a corporate Who’s Who that includes Altria, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Genworth and James River Insurance Company, to name a few.
Read related story: Reynolds Crossing Finds Tenants for Final Office Parcel >
DABNEY ROAD INDUSTRIAL PARK
Running almost directly parallel to the GRTC Pulse transit route is another vibrant business community on Dabney Road. The industrial park’s location near major interstates makes it an attractive option for commerce. “With (interstates) 95 and 64 here, this is a stellar location that brings us a lot of traffic,” says Jay Frayser, President of Shade & Wise, which has enjoyed success in its Dabney Road location for many years. (Learn more about this 65-plus-year-old brick and masonry company.)
From large distribution companies like Loveland Distributing and BlueLinx Corporation to professional services firms like Linchpin Consulting and Image 360, Dabney Road Center includes a wonderfully eclectic and broad range of nearly 100 businesses tucked away in office parks or standing independently on large lots.
Read related article: Strangeways Brewing Opens in Henrico >
Global clinical researcher PPD is also among the varied businesses found on Dabney Road. PPD® Laboratories began operating at its current location in 1985 and has steadily expanded its capabilities since then. Today the company occupies nearly 200,000 square feet of bioanalytical testing and support space that includes the recent addition of nearly 17,000 square feet of new space for the company’s vaccine sciences lab.
“We’ve found the Dabney Road area to be a great location for our lab operations,” says Bob Nicholson, Senior VP, Bioanalytical Lab, PPD Laboratories. “It provides easy access to I-64 and I-95 for our employees, who come from a variety of communities around the city. It’s also a quick drive to Richmond International Airport, which is important because many of our employees frequently travel to support our business, and we have a steady stream of clients visiting our lab operations from all over the world.”
“Being here helps us attract and retain top scientific and technical talent due to the strong academic institutions located both in Richmond and throughout the state,” Nicholson adds. “Plus, we enjoy a great quality of life in this area due to the wide range of amenities, activities and services available to us.”
ROCKETTS, A UNIQUE URBAN COMMUNITY
The final stop along the GRTC Pulse route is Rocketts Landing, a unique urban community located along the eastern border of Henrico County where exposed brick, modern finishes, and river and skyline views distinguish the living and commercial spaces.
The vision for Rocketts Landing was always to develop a mixed-used community, but it’s actually been the site's residential developers who have propelled the area toward enticing larger commercial tenants like BrownGreer, Mediapond, Pure Culture Consulting, Stone Brewing and, more recently, Urban Farmhouse to locate along the river.
In January of this year, Rocketts Landing announced its 2017 plan to bring new apartments, townhomes and commercial spaces to the community. The development has 700,000 square feet of office space and 200,000 square feet of retail space available, according to its website.
The area seems especially attractive to creative businesses. BES Studios recently found its new home just east of Rocketts Landing, in Henrico County. The video production company’s new 11,000-square-foot office and studio space is the very definition of “city chic office meets high-tech production space.”
“We knew that a new studio designed with all of our needs, creative vision and future growth in mind was necessary,” says Barry Ellenberger, Producer, BES Studios. “The location also had to be convenient to downtown, where many of the creative agencies and clients we work with are located, and it had to have ample parking. Honestly, we didn’t think such a space existed, but we’re so happy to have we found it here in Henrico.” (Learn more.)