A plan to turn Innsbrook into a massive urban mixed-use development isn’t sitting well with some of the neighbors.
David Cummings, a resident of the Cedars at Innsbrook and a board member of the neighborhood’s homeowners association, said the group is speaking out against Highwoods Properties’ push for redevelopment when its plan goes to the planning commission next month, arguing that their concerns about the urbanization of Innsbrook have gone unheeded.
In a letter to Richmond BizSense, Cummings and the Cedars at Innsbrook Homeowners Association detailed concerns including the size of the proposed buildings, traffic and density.
“Highwoods has a grand vision for the future of Innsbrook,” the letter said. “Please understand that we have a vision also ‑ of quiet, peaceful, private enjoyment of our homes.”
Highwood’s plans for Innsbrook - a 1,300-acre suburban office campus off of West Broad Street in Glen Allen - call for the development of 415,000 square feet of retail, 1,000 hotel rooms and 6,000 apartment and condo units, along with 3.5 million square feet of office space. The development would take place on 188 acres of Innsbrook over 20 years at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion.
“Just like West Broad Village, which is just a mile away, Highwoods Village would have apartments, retail shops, high-rise commercial office towers, entertainment venues, townhouses, and who knows what within the next 20 years,” the letter said.
“In a few years, urban parking decks and high-rises would be the norm around the area that now has a distinct suburban feel.”
Today, the Innsbrook submarket consists of about 5.5 million square feet of office space spread out over more than a dozen buildings.
The Cedars at Innsbrook is a nearly 100-home subdivision on the northwest border of the office park near Nuckols Road. The letter said that Highwoods has worked with nearby neighborhood associations but that residents are unhappy with the results.
“In spite of the several ‘community meetings’ that have been held by either Highwoods or the Henrico County reps, the residential community has not been as recognized or protected as it should be to this point,” the letter continued. “The presentations that Highwoods has given up to now have had the tone of ‘this is what is coming, like it or not.’ The homeowners have raised multiple concerns, but very few have even been acknowledged and the homeowner suggestions have been largely ignored.”
Cummings and the Cedars at Innsbrook Homeowners Association argued that the planned buildings would be too large and that the introduction of late-night businesses such as bars and restaurants would make the surrounding communities less safe. The group is also concerned about the introduction of renters into the community and potential effects on property values.
Calls and an email to Highwoods were not returned by press time.
Developer Sidney Gunst, who was one of the founders of Innsbrook when it was developed in the late 1970s and ’80s, said the next phase of Innsbrook’s development is crucial.
“If Innsbrook is going to be competitive in the future, it has to become a mixed-use development,” Gunst said. “Change comes hard to people. When I started developing Innsbrook in 1979, all the neighborhoods were opposed to it. Now, if you ask them, they will have positive things to say about it.”
Bonnie-Leigh Jones, a member of Henrico County’s planning commission, said the public has had many opportunities to give input and that the county has worked extensively on the plan with Highwoods. Jones would not comment on next month’s commission meeting.
BizSense reported Sept. 19 that Highwoods was looking to develop the new urban concept on a 40-acre plot of Innsbrook starting next year.
“We’re taking 40 acres, and we’re going to try and prove the case,” Paul Kreckman, the local head of Highwoods Properties, told BizSense in September. “We want to identify what’s right and what’s wrong with the model. We’re not wedded to anything that doesn’t work.”
The Highwoods plan goes to the planning commission Nov. 8. Click here for the meeting’s preliminary agenda.