What’s next for Henrico’s GreenCity?
The head of the county's Economic Development Authority discussed next steps for the project.
Henrico’s Economic Development Authority recently approved the purchase of a 110-acre property known as Scott Farm in the northeast part of the county.
The acquisition brings the county an inch closer to fulfilling its 2020 promise of developing its multi-use area known as GreenCity. Henrico’s Board of Supervisors are scheduled to review the development agreement during its regular meeting on Sept. 12.
Executive director Anthony Romanello told VPM News says the purchase is set to cost $35 million, with about $18 million of county-controlled funds and $17 million from the authority’s local real-estate development partner, Markel | Eagle.
Henrico expects to recoup its part of the payment over 20 years from incremental tax revenues generated by GreenCity.
“It really does take partners to get things done,” Romanello said. “GreenCity is a great example of public-private partnerships.”
Henrico first announced its multibillion-dollar vision for GreenCity in late 2020 as a mixed-use development located between East Parham Road and interstates 95 and 295.
The project promised to integrate a system of parks, trails and open space among a 17,000-seat arena, office and retail space in addition to nearly 2,400 housing units and two hotels.
Since the announcement, though, the county has handed over the 93-acre Best Plaza property to GreenCity’s developers. The project's scope has also expanded significantly as the county’s acquired land for the development.
“We now have about 225 acres including the original Best Products property,” Romanello said. “We have the 110 and the Scott Farm property, and earlier this year we acquired about 16 acres of Saint Gertrude High School.”
Romanello said although the county is still far from a groundbreaking, the EDA has been busy assembling partners to manage the multi-phased development.
The arena’s construction will be funded largely through bonds issued by a community development authority. Henrico has successfully structured similar projects in the past with large developments like Short Pump Town Center, Reynolds Crossing and White Oak Village.
The arena itself will be operated by ASM Global — one of the largest venue management companies nationwide, whose venues include the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., the TD Garden in Boston and the Barclays Center in New York.
ASM Global will also manage the new Henrico Sports & Events Center scheduled to open at Virginia Center Commons next month. The Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority Board of Directors, which oversees the center, approved an initial five-year contract with ASM Global in July. That could be extended annually up to five additional years.
“They have worldwide connections that can only help us, but our partners with Markel Eagle will help us realize the residential side,” Romanello said. “They're an excellent partner to help execute on our eco-friendly vision.”
Henrico-based Markel | Eagle signed on to develop a residential portion of what Romanello calls an ecodistrict — a neighborhood whose urban planning aims to develop and sustain carbon-neutral practices such as solar-powered facilities and enhanced greenspaces.
Eagle Construction, the company’s homebuilding arm, will build 880 for-sale homes planned for the Scott Farm property. Those are projected to cost $400 million over the next 10 years.
“We see this as an unprecedented opportunity and are honored to partner in helping to realize the vision and sustainability goals of GreenCity. It’s placemaking with greater purpose,” Markel | Eagle President Ricky Core said in a shared statement
However, concerns have been raised over the project's growing cost as inflation causes hangups in developments around the Richmond region. Romanello also acknowledged the dramatic changes an arena could bring to an otherwise rural portion of the county.
“As exciting as the notion of GreenCity is, we're not immune from inflationary pressures or even public interests,” Romanello said. “I think we're well on our way towards executing on the vision of a GreenCity ... I would say it this way — that if the partners we've assembled can't do this, nobody can.”
The EDA executive director added that the county and partners are committed to increasing GreenCity’s public awareness as it continues development.