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2017-08-02 / Real Estate

Supervisors approve Winterfield project

BY JIM McCONNELL STAFF WRITER

Moments after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved his company’s plan for the oft-discussed Winterfield Crossing development Wednesday night, Willis Blackwood’s face conveyed exactly what he and his partners were thinking.

Finally.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Blackwood, a Midlothian real estate developer, in the hallway outside the county’s Public Meeting Room. “It has been a long haul and a lot of effort by many people. We’re happy to have zoning so we can build the type of quality project we intended all along.”

More than two years have passed since Blackwood Development Co. filed its initial application for rezoning on a 25-acre parcel at the intersection of Winterfield Road and Midlothian Turnpike.

Other than its name, the company’s current plan for the $40 million mixed-use development barely resembles the one that passed the Planning Commission on a 5-0 vote in November 2015.

At various points over the past 20 months, amid intense scrutiny from elected officials, county staff and citizens, it appeared the project was doomed. There were concerns about its architecture, its impact on local roads and even Blackwood’s agreement with German grocer Aldi to serve as its retail anchor. After a significantly revamped Winterfield Crossing proposal failed to gain a single vote of support from the Planning Commission in January, Midlothian Supervisor Leslie Haley assumed a larger-than-normal role in ongoing negotiations.

Rather than leave the work to their subordinates, Haley and Blackwood held a series of face-to-face meetings. They eventually addressed the commission’s concerns and clarified language in the zoning case that governs the property’s development.

In calling for a vote during Wednesday’s meeting, Haley told her fellow supervisors she is proud to support the Winterfield Crossing project.

“I have to say thank you to all the people who came together and spent time and energy on this case,” she said. “I commend the developer for coming to the table. We have gone through several reiterations of the site plan and the architectural renderings, as well as a major discussion on how this project benefits the entire community.”

Haley described Blackwood’s plan as “a great initial vision” of what county leaders desire for Chesterfield’s suburban villages: increasingly dense, pedestrian-friendly developments that include a mix of residential, commercial and office uses in the same area.

Blackwood’s property technically isn’t located in the Village of Midlothian, but it is expected to be when the Board of Supervisors approves an update to the Midlothian Special Area Plan.

For that reason, he agreed to build Winterfield Crossing to both a scale and standard of quality that is cohesive with existing development in the village.

The property’s current zoning allows for up to 300,000 square feet of “big box” retail development. Instead, Blackwood has committed to build no more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space in smaller, village-scale buildings.

There also will be office buildings and 250 age-restricted apartment units, along with four miles of sidewalks and a lakefront promenade that is expected to serve as one of several public gathering areas.

“The design reflects a changing marketplace and an economy that is evolving,” said Andrew Condlin, attorney for Blackwood Development.

“If you think about it, you can live, exercise, walk to work, eat, meet with clients, collaborate with coworkers, grab coffee, go visit your mom and go grab some ice cream along the way, while getting some groceries and a bottle of wine to go cook dinner at your apartment. You can do all of it without getting in a car,” Condlin added.

To address the development’s impact on traffic along Midlothian Turnpike, Blackwood had committed to build a third travel lane that would run the length of its property. The county no longer wants that third lane, though; additional pavement (and by extension, vehicles traveling at higher speeds) runs counter to its goal of promoting pedestrian activity in the village.

In lieu of roadway improvements, Blackwood will pay the county a total of $728,500 in cash proffers.

“We continue to believe in building communities that foster a sense of place, are pedestrian-friendly and encourage small business,” said Amy Satterfield, president of the Village of Midlothian Volunteer Coalition, an influential civic group that works to ensure new development projects reflect the character of the village.

“Initially, this project was a source of significant concern because we felt it didn’t meet the standard set by the existing zoning in either site plan or architecture. However, the months of work engaged in by all parties have helped to transform it. We are grateful that this challenging case received the attention it very much needed.” ¦

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