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Proposal for nearly 600 apartments in Willow Lawn area

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 27, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Hundreds of new apartments may be coming to the Willow Lawn area in the future.

Plans call for two apartment complexes to replace five old office buildings on Byrd Avenue and Willow Lawn Drive.

Thalhimer Realty and Crenshaw Realty Partners have partnered up, hoping to breathe new life into the area by replacing buildings dating back to the mid-1960s.

Representatives plan to share more about their plans at a community meeting on Monday, Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, the hustle and bustle around Willow Lawn have only increased over the years, especially with the addition of the GRTC Pulse route.

However, when it comes to businesses and office space, Jason Guillot, the Principal at Thalhimer Realty, said the COVID-19 pandemic tweaked the future of some office spaces.

“A lot of local companies are going to maintain an office, but they’re going to consider a hybrid approach; where employees, if they want to come in every day they can, but there are going to be a lot of employees who choose to spend 2-3 days at home,” he said.

“I work in a hybrid format, so I go into the office a few days a week and work at home a few days a week,” said Will Garrett, who lives in the Willow Lawn area.

However, Garrett said his company is expanding and needs more office space, unlike what other companies are facing. Many office buildings have “for lease” signs out in front of them, including off Byrd Avenue and Willow Lawn Drive.

That change is why the two real estate companies teamed up to envision a new future for some of the office buildings in the area.

“We started thinking what is the highest best use,” Guillot said. “If you look around Willow Lawn, you’ve got a giant outdoor mall... you’ve got a lot of retail and restaurants, and what you really don’t have is any opportunity for residents to rent in a meaningful way.”

The proposal includes 255 apartments in place of the office buildings at 1904-1920 Byrd Avenue.

Around the corner, 330 apartments are proposed in place of the three office buildings in Willow Circle off Willow Lawn Drive.

Both complexes would come complete with hundreds of parking spaces; 780 total. Some of those spaces could be used for GRTC paid parking.

“It’s tough for the businesses like CVS and Jason’s Deli and some of the others that are near the GRTC bus stop when people who ride it park on the streets and illegally park in private parking lots and park in neighborhoods,” Guillot said. “While we’re proposing bigger buildings than are there today, better parking can actually provide an added value to the community.”

Reaction over this proposed project has elicited varied opinions.

“I’m excited to learn more about it,” Garrett said. “Happy to hear a proposal and understand what the impact would be. Like I said, giving people an option and a place to live is great.”

However, not everyone is on the same page.

“It will dramatically increase density and population in the area, and all of that will work towards deteriorating the quality of life in the neighborhood,” said Don Kilcullen. He has lived in the area for two decades.

Instead, Kilcullen would like to see green space in the area. He plans to attend Monday’s community meeting.

“We enjoy getting the feedback because quite often, people are able to point out some observations that we didn’t consider ourselves,” Guillot said.

Meanwhile, Guillot said they have already received feedback from community members, some concerned about traffic impacts. The latter is something that was also a concern for Garrett.

“We’ve actually conducted a traffic analysis already… the impact is actually very minimal because you can imagine residents in apartment buildings coming and going all day long; going to work, they have different work schedules,” he explained. “It’s not like a giant office building where everyone may show up at 8 or 9 o’clock and then leave at 5 p.m.”

Guillot has also mentioned the companies just submitted a rezoning proposal last month to the Henrico County Planning Commission. While a date has not yet been set to review that proposal, Guillot said county leaders would take the feedback from Monday’s meeting to make an informed decision.

Those who wish to attend the meeting in person can go to 1508 Willow Lawn Drive, Suite 117. The conference will start at 6:30 p.m. Those who want to attend virtually can register for the Zoom link by clicking here.

More information on these projects can be found here by clicking on the Crenshaw Realty, Co. tabs.

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