When Hirschler Fleischer client Edge Development Partners proposed a 55-acre residential development on an underutilized tract of land along the Jahnke Road corridor in the City of Richmond, one of the big hurdles for the project was gaining the support of nearby residents, who had turned back a different developer’s plans a few years earlier. “That earlier project had less density and, unlike ours, didn’t have multi-family units, so we knew we had to get residents on our side,” says Jeffrey P. Geiger, the Hirschler Fleischer attorney who represented Edge Development Partners in obtaining zoning and land use approvals.
The stakes were high for everyone. The 55-acre footprint of the project (with a total of 377 housing units) makes it the largest new housing development project in the City, and it will add $50 million to the City’s tax base. For the surrounding area of existing homes, most of them ranch-style homes built in the 1960s and 1970s, the project promises to bring in young families and professionals who will rejuvenate an area that has not seen new investment in its housing stock and commercial properties. The plans include a park, Craftsman-style homes, apartments and a streetscape that encourages walking to shopping and a sense of community. Homes will be priced to be affordable for young families, and the apartments are expected to attract young professionals who work at a nearby medical center or downtown Richmond.
Still, there were concerns initially among residents. Some feared drainage problems and others worried about the removal of forested land adjoining their property. Density, crime and traffic also were issues, as well as the addition of additional apartments in the corridor.
The key to allying community objections, says Geiger, is to address any apprehension early on. “Part of our job is to help our client explain how its project is going to be a benefit and an asset to everyone, and to help neighbors get comfortable with the idea of living next to it.”
That begins with on-the-ground communication, says Geiger, and to that end he literally walked the neighborhood with the representatives of the developer, who talked with residents and listened to their concerns. “We had six community meetings at libraries or schools. We walked the neighborhood with residents, and they were able to point out areas where they had questions. It gave them the opportunity to be heard.”
As a result, Edge Development Partners won Richmond Planning Commission approval in an 8-1 vote and subsequently received unanimous approval from Richmond City Council. Previously zoned R-2 for single-family detached homes on large lots, the property was rezoned to R-7 for more dense single-family detached homes in one component of the project and R-53 for the multi-family units in the other component of the project. Edge Development Partners will break ground in mid-2015, and the first units are expected to be ready about a year later.
For more information on this case or how Hirschler Fleischer’s Commercial Real Estate Practice can serve you, please contact Jeffrey P. Geiger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (804) 771-9557.
Myrna H. Rooks