Residential boom is about to hit the Innsbrook office park in Henrico as developers plan for thousands of new apartments

By Mary Alice Russell – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Innsbrook Corporate Center has been known for decades as a large office park in western Henrico County, but now it is being transformed into a place where you also can live.

Several projects from different developers are expected to bring more than 3,000 apartments and town homes over the next 10 years or so, transitioning Innsbrook from mostly an office park to a place where people can work, live and play.

The 630-acre office park, created more than 40 years ago, has always been attractive for offices. It is home to some of the area’s best-known businesses and organizations, including Markel Corp., Hamilton Beach Brands Holding Co., Commonwealth Commercial Partners, Dynex Capital and Keiter.

But Innsbrook “was a maturing office park that needed to introduce some new users in order to remain relevant and attractive to the newer market,” said R. Joseph Emerson Jr., Henrico’s planning director.

“I’m not surprised [with] the interest in Innsbrook, but in general I think the overall interest in multifamily development over the last couple of years in the region is interesting,” Emerson said.

The county conducted a study of the Innsbrook area in 2010 that encouraged construction of apartments and retail space to bring more vibrancy to the area.

“That’s what we envisioned when we did the study, that we wanted to mix this community in order to make it a more viable and productive employment center. But there does need to be balance,” he said.

Henrico created an urban mixed-use zoning designation in the Innsbrook area to allow for mixed-use developments with retail spaces and apartment buildings so that the office park would be more conducive to the needs of the 22,000 people who work in about 100 buildings of varying sizes.

Innsbrook is becoming what many planners and developers call a live-work-play community.

In this environment, there is a balance of offices to residences and retail, allowing people who work there to live in the park and be within walking distance of all the amenities they need in their everyday lives.

“In 1979, the focus of Innsbrook was work,” said Sidney J. Gunst Jr., the founder of Innsbrook who developed a suburban office park in what was then the hinterlands of far western Henrico.

“We wanted to create a place that I thought companies would find very attractive, very competitive,” Gunst said. “The fundamentals haven’t changed, but the execution has changed.”

Some elements of play have been around Innsbrook since the beginning.

Gunst included walking trails and man-made lakes in the park to make the area aesthetically pleasing and a unique place to work, he said. In the early 1980s, Gunst started a concert series in the park that still goes on today.

The main missing piece in Innsbrook was residential.

Some condos and other housing options are available on the outskirts of Innsbrook, but it was not until the first phase of the 223-unit Innslake Place apartments opened late last year that there was housing directly in the park’s footprint.

Changes to the county’s zoning regulations allowing for the urban mixed-use designation is triggering much of the planned projects.

Several developers now have plans to build other apartment complexes either on existing parking lots next to office buildings or on undeveloped tracts of land in the office park. Parking decks would be added to some of the proposed projects to ensure that parking won’t be a problem for the area.

For instance, Innslake Place apartments, at Dominion Boulevard and Innslake Drive, was partially built on an existing parking lot next door to the Benchmark Mortgage Cos. offices on Innslake Drive. The apartment complex’s buildings are situated around the Benchmark’s building. A parking deck was added.

The first phase of the project, with 100 apartments, was completed in November and is 99% leased, said Joseph P. Marchetti Jr., a managing director at commercial real estate brokerage Colliers International who developed the project along with a business partner and with WVS Cos.

The remaining 123 apartments should be ready by the end of this month. Some tenants have already started to move in, he said.

For the first 100 apartments, 40% of the residents work in Innsbrook, 35% work within a 5-mile radius of the office park, 15% work in retail and 5% are retired, Marchetti said.

“We’ve got a lot of young, single professionals,” he said.

Here are plans proposed by other developers:

Robinson Development Group

Construction is underway on the Metropolis at Innsbrook apartments on 14.5 acres between Dominion Boulevard and Sadler Road. The project is just north of the Wells Fargo office and south of Dominion Energy’s Innsbrook Technical Center complex.

Robinson Development Group, a Virginia Beach-based developer, plans to build a total of 700 apartments as well as retail space over the next few years.

Hal Yuill, vice president of investments and acquisitions for Robinson Development, said the legacy of the Innsbrook office park is what led the company to be interested in putting residential there. Its proximity to major roadways such as Interstate 295, Interstate 64 and West Broad Street also were major factors in the developer’s decision.

“It’s the top-performing suburban office park in Richmond,” Yuill said. “We see a great demand driver for renters in that location.”

The land for the project recently was cleared of trees, and construction is starting to go full force, Yuill said.

The first phase of the project includes two buildings with 402 units, a parking garage between the two buildings, and two courtyards, one of which will have a pool. The apartments will be in four- and five-story buildings.

Of the 402 apartments, plans call for 169 studio, 105 one-bedroom, 113 two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom units.

The project also will include five live/work units, where the front of the area is commercial space and the back part of the unit is the residential space with a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom.

The next phase will consist of retail space and 298 more apartments as well as other amenities. Construction would start on the next phase around the time the first phase is close to being completed, Yuill said.

Dominion Realty Partners

North of Dominion Energy’s Innsbrook Technical Center off Dominion Boulevard is where Dominion Realty Partners is looking to develop a mix of apartments and for-sale town homes.

Dominion Realty Partners — which has developed other multifamily projects in the Richmond area, including the Residences at the John Marshall, Riverside on the James and Vistas on the James — plans to start construction on its Innsbrook project early this fall.

The project would consist of about 300 apartments and 58 town homes when the project is completed in 22 months.

The town houses would be the first to be built in Innsbrook, said Michael Campbell, president of Dominion Realty Partners, which is not connected to Dominion Energy.

Putting residential in Innsbrook checks all of the boxes developers look for in a project, he said. The location, the access to retail and the amount of people working in the area make Innsbrook incredibly popular, he said.

This is not the first office park where Dominion Realty Partners has developed apartments.

The company completed construction on a 248-unit apartment complex in the Boulders office park in Chesterfield County last November. The Boulders Lakeside Apartments on Boulders Lake Drive was 98% leased in early July, Campbell said.

Across the lake from Boulders Lakeside Apartments, Dominion Realty Partners has 214 apartments under construction. This month, the company bought about 26 acres at 1001 Boulders Spring Drive for $1.5 million for the Boulders Lakeview Apartment development.

Campbell said he hopes the Innsbrook project and the new apartments the company is building in Boulders will have the same reception as Boulders Lakeside.

“To be 98% leased in a short amount of time is a pretty good testament to the location and the product and the need for multifamily,” Campbell said. “It supports our thesis about the need for those apartments in these suburban infill locations and office parks with accessibility to retail and accessibility to the right systems throughout the city of Richmond.”

Silver Hills/Edwards Communities

At the corner of Sadler and Nuckols roads just off Interstate 295 is an undeveloped 3.3-acre lot where 243 apartments are planned. The land is next to the U.S. Post Office and on the south side of Nuckols Road across from the Market Cafe and convenience store.

The area was originally zoned for mixed-use several years ago.

Silver Hills Development and Edwards Communities Development Co., both based in Ohio, are developing the new apartment community, which would consist mostly of one-bedroom units, said Nathan A. Shor with commercial real estate brokerage S.L. Nusbaum, who represented the developers in the sale of the property.

Construction would start sometime this fall, he said.

Highwoods Properties

Highwoods Properties, the Raleigh, N.C.-based real estate investment trust that is one of the largest landlords in Innsbrook, has some big plans for the park’s northern entrance at I-295 and Nuckols Road.

It wants to develop 34 acres — the land includes Elks Lodge property and the property where the Innsbrook After Hours concert venue is — into a mixed-use project with apartments, condos, restaurants and retail shops, office space, and possibly a hotel.

Highwoods, also one of the largest landlords in the Richmond area, has 1.3 million square feet of office space in Innsbrook. It has owned property there since 1995.

“We are absolutely supportive of a mixed-use concept,” said Jane DuFrane, the senior vice president and Richmond market leader for Highwoods. “We believe in Innsbrook, but we also believe in change. We need our companies to attract the best talent, and talent wants to be in a place where they can live and they can play and they can work.”

Preliminary plans call for building 600 apartments, 100 condos, 52,500 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of office space, and a hotel over the next 10 to 15 years, DuFrane said.

The project is still in the planning stage, she said, but she hopes Highwoods could break ground on it by 2023.

The proposal to rezone the property under the county’s urban mixed-use designation had been scheduled to be considered at the Henrico Planning Commission on July 15, but the request was deferred.

Highwoods purchased the Elks Lodge property last year. The concert pavilion, which is located on Highwoods property, and the Elks Lodge both will be relocated before major construction on the project begins, she said.

The Innsbrook Foundation, which operates the concert series with the Innsbrook Owners Association, is working with Highwoods to find a more central location in the park for the concert venue, while the Elks are looking for a permanent home, DuFrane said. Both are allowed to stay in their current locations until they find a new place, she said.

Most of the developments in Innsbrook, she said, have been on the south side of the office park — between West Broad Street and Nuckols Road. She hopes the Highwoods project will bring more attention to the northern part of the park.

“I would like for [the I-295] entrance to be the new main entrance. I think the north end will kick that off. We need retail; we need amenities back in this area,” DuFrane said.

The Innsbrook After Hours concert series, which has been held for more than 30 years, continues to be held this year at the Innsbrook Pavilion after being canceled last year because of COVID-19. But the concert series was revamped this year.

For many years, the concerts were very large, which caused some traffic problems in the area. This year, the concerts are scaled back to have a more casual feel like the concerts in Innsbrook’s earlier years, DuFrane said.

A farmers market started July 15 and will run through the end of September.

Yvonne Mastromano, executive director of the Innsbrook Foundation, said she looks forward to having more people living in the park.

“We will continue to be very flexible and ready to adjust to the needs and the interest of our evolving and growing community and what changes might come with that,” Mastromano said when asked if events would change because of the addition of more residents to the park.

Even though many employees in the Richmond region have been working remotely in the months since the beginning of the pandemic, DuFrane and other developers believe workers will return to their offices.

“I do believe we’ll be together in order to be creative and to keep the [work] culture going,” DuFrane said about how COVID-19 has impacted Innsbrook and offices. “I’ve actually used the pandemic to positively promote Innsbrook because, who doesn’t want to be near water, who doesn’t want to be near grass … [Innsbrook] is a much more pleasant place to work.”

Lingerfelt Development

Five apartment buildings could be built in the parking lots used by five different office buildings along Cox Road under plans that Lingerfelt Development is pursuing.

The projects would bring 1,375 apartments along with parking decks to replace surface lots over the next seven to eight years, said Brian F. Witthoefft, the managing director of leasing and marketing for Lingerfelt Development, a subsidiary of Lingerfelt CommonWealth Partners, which is the investment management affiliate of commercial real estate firm Commonwealth Commercial Partners.

Lingerfelt Development, another large owner of properties in Innsbrook, filed plans a couple of months ago with the county seeking to rezone the five properties under the county’s urban mixed-use designation to allow for the apartments. That request is scheduled to be considered by the Henrico Planning Commission in August.

The apartment complexes would be built on property Lingerfelt owns in Innsbrook.

One is at 4198 Cox Road, where Lingerfelt and Commonwealth Commercial Partners have their offices. The other properties are at 4121 Cox Road, 4510 Cox Road, 4801 Cox Road and 4880 Cox Road.

Witthoefft said he hopes Lingerfelt will be able to deliver the first apartment project in 2023. There would be several years separating the projects to make sure that Innsbrook does not overextend the demand for apartments.

“This is a slow, slow development throughout the park,” Witthoefft said of the five apartment projects. “What we don’t want is to create a situation where [Innsbrook] is not adequately addressed to parking and traffic and all the other things.”
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