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Richmond City Council Considering Taller Buildings In West End

richmond city council chambers
FILE PHOTO: Roberto Roldan/VPM

Richmond City Council is looking to rezone properties along Broad Street in the West End for transit-oriented development.

On Monday night, they voted to approve a resolution kickstarting the process of rezoning Broad Street properties west of Interstate 195 from B-3 “General Business District” to TOD-1 “Transit-oriented Development.” Under the current designation, buildings cannot be taller than 35 feet or roughly three stories. The proposed TOD-1 zoning would allow for a mix of residential and commercial buildings up to 12 stories tall. The zoning change would also bring lower parking requirements, since the area is served by GRTC’s Pulse rapid transit line.

Council Member Andreas Addison, who represents parts of the West End and Museum District, proposed the resolution. He said the changes could bring in more affordable housing options, a demand he heard repeatedly on the campaign trail.

“People were asking during a lot of the candidate forums, ‘What can the First District do about affordable housing? Where are we helping this need for our city residents,’” Addison said. “Maybe we aren’t doing enough, but we have an opportunity and I think that’s along Broad Street.” 

While the Broad Street corridor has seen significant new development in Scott’s Addition and Downtown, the area West of I-195 hasn’t matched the rapid growth. 

Many of the big developments in the West End, like  the new Top Golf complex, have been North of Broad Street in Henrico County. Only the land immediately off Broad Street is within Richmond’s boundary.

Addison said encouraging more multi-family housing and retail space along the street could help the city keep pace with Henrico.

“I don’t want to wait until we see Henrico build their Sears warehouse, the building right beside Top Golf, into some awesome development and we are then following their lead on what goes in that neighborhood,” he said. “We should be at par with our vision and support transit-oriented development.”

City Council’s action Monday night will direct the Department of Planning and Development Review to put forward a rezoning proposal. That will need to be approved by the Planning Commission before going back to City Council for a final vote, a process that will likely take months. 

The City of Richmond, at the behest of Addison, has also filed a request with the Virginia Department of Transportation to build another Pulse rapid transit stop at Broad Street and Malvern Avenue. 

The proposed West End rezoning comes after a similar measure to rezone the Fan District parts of Broad Street were put on hold  following pushback from some residents

A coalition of civic associations, including the Fan District Association and West Grace Street Association, sued the city over a proposed rezoning late last year. 

Jonathan Marcus, president of the RVA Coalition of Concerned Civic Associations, said at the time that the group was concerned about increased density along Broad Street where single-family homes are just blocks away.

“Even on the Downtown business part of Broad Street, City Hall, which is 19 stories, looms over the city,” Marcus said. “Trying to imagine a building like that height next to The Fan is crazy.”

While the coalition was ultimately unsuccessful in getting a judge to block the city council vote, Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration withdrew the proposal.