Better schools, new businesses, and more homes. That's the vision of Eastern Henrico leaders who want to breathe new life into an area some feel is lacking attention. Right now, several projects are on the way to make that vision reality. County leaders believe it's the start to a new and improved Eastern Henrico.
In any quickly changing environment, growth is inevitable.
"East Henrico will definitely be buzzing," said Varina Supervisor Tyrone Nelson.
Sometimes that's easier said than done. Nelson admits the toughest task is balancing development with those who may not welcome it.
"There are some who want a lot of growth because they want the amenities. They don't want to have to go to Mechanicsville or Short Pump. Then there are some who don't want the growth because they like having their house on one acre of land with green space all around it," he said.
But signs of progress are underway at Henrico High School.
"Henrico needed a face lift….This will be the new main building, the new common building, school board member Lamont Bagby said pointing to construction.
He touts the $37 million renovation project as a worthwhile investment to the entire community.
"Just the newness and the fact that a lot of folks thought that it couldn't be done and the fact that it is being done," Bagby said.
Since 2010, Henrico has spent more than $132 million on upgrades at East Henrico schools. Some neighbors believe development must extend beyond schools.
"When you go to the west end, they got the bright lights, they got the scenery, they got the outside mall and it makes you want to come there and spend your money," Brandon Jordan said.
It's why he wants to see changes at the Fairfield Commons mall. Many argue, it's once shining light has dimmed.
"It's like an eyesore to be honest," Jordan added
Representatives with an Arizona based developer said they're close to sealing the deal with a major anchor store to re-locate there. It would call on the demolition of the current Fairfield Commons.
"If what we hear, I think it will be a huge shot in the arm and will liven up that corridor…Not only will they open but other businesses will want to come because of the attention they're bringing," Nelson said.
The developer says it plans to know much more this month.
That's not all in the works. Current diagrams showcase a new state of the art library headed to Varina.
"We're going to have walking trails outside…On the inside, it's going to be as modern and contemporary as you can be as it relates to libraries," Nelson said.
He believes the county's commitment to restore the east side is evident with a new recreation center, preparations for a new health clinic, and The Board of Supervisors vote last month to prevent an east side landfill from doubling in size.
Now the county continues to look at areas for new neighborhoods - like The Ridings subdivision off Route 5.
"It's probably going to be one of the largest developments that have come up. About 650 homes, about half town houses, half single family on about 600 acres of land," Nelson added.
So as the county expands, so does the vision for a better Eastern Henrico - not just by the many neighbors who make up this community, but also those in power to make revitalization reality.
"I see the sun starting to show again," he said.
County leaders are also calling on the community to get behind this effort to make East Henrico a more attractive place for everyone to live work and play.
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