The Willow Circle apartment complex would rise seven stories across from Kroger. (Images from Poole & Poole Architecture)

The Willow Lawn area is full of retail and restaurant businesses, single family homes, and a major stop on the bus route. Two local real estate companies believe there is another necessary ingredient for the neighborhood: a few dense pockets of apartments.

Thalhimer Realty Partners and Crenshaw Realty are seeking to replace a complex of five dilapidated office buildings on Willow Lawn Drive and Byrd Avenue with two 7-story apartment buildings totaling 585 units.

The companies, working as part of a joint venture, submitted a rezoning proposal for the project last month with Henrico County.

If approved as planned, a 330-unit apartment complex dubbed Willow Circle would rise to 1506-1510 Willow Lawn Drive, where three 1960s office buildings currently reside across from Kroger and 12-story condos. 5100 Monument Ave.

The Byrd would be located west of Willow Circle and just south of Broad Street.

At the corner of 1904-1910 Byrd Ave., two equally aging office buildings would make way for The Byrd, with 255 apartments across from the Faison Center.

The existing buildings are all currently owned by Crenshaw Realty, who reached out to Thalhimer manager Jason Guillot earlier this year to discuss the future of properties in an era of office space flux.

Crenshaw buildings are occupied by smaller tenants, such as lawyers, nonprofits, real estate agencies and marketing offices. Guillot said some of them have told Crenshaw they are unsure of their future at the properties as the work-from-home trend continues.

“The long-term future of these buildings was sort of in question,” Guillot said. “It’s no secret that vacant offices are increasing and that some companies are giving back space and needing less space than before the pandemic. It’s a struggle with older, inefficient buildings to keep them full.

A site map of Willow Circle.

The two companies concluded that the 2.5-acre Willow Circle site and 1.7-acre plot were ripe for apartments in light of the revitalization of the Willow Lawn commercial area over the past decade.

“The multi-family was kind of obvious use because you already have literally the fabric of a mixed-use neighborhood. You have a giant mall that includes a grocery store, a rapid transit stop, and a Gold’s Gym, all within walking distance, ”Guillot said. “But what you don’t have is decent rental accommodation. It was truly the missing link.

Hatcher Crenshaw IV, whose family has run the real estate company of the same name for about 60 years, said the offices of Willow Circle were first built by his grandfather, E. Hatcher Crenshaw Jr. in 1968. The property changed hands several times until the family bought it out. in the late 1980s, shortly after purchasing the Byrd Avenue buildings.

Crenshaw IV hatcher

Crenshaw said he would like to see the apartments contribute to the development of the area.

“We are long-term stakeholders in the Willow Lawn neighborhood and believe that these two projects will help maintain and build on the momentum that Henry County has fostered with the redevelopment of the shopping center and the Pulse bus stop, ”Crenshaw said in a statement. declaration. “We hope those who use the Pulse and park up and down in Byrd and the surrounding neighborhoods choose to live here instead, reducing the pressure on street parking. “

Crenshaw’s current portfolio consists of a mix of office, retail, flexible office / warehouse and industrial bulk space from Ashland to Chester. The project with Thalhimer would mark its return to the apartment business.

“We owned and operate a number of apartment complexes, but moved to commercial properties only in the mid to late 1980s,” Crenshaw said. “Things have a way to come back and forth. “

Of the 330 apartments planned at Willow Circle, 200 would be one-bedroom, 95 would be two-bedroom and 35 would be three-bedroom units. The site would also include a 429-space car park, which developers could offer as paid public parking in addition to its use by apartment residents.

The 255 apartments at the Byrd would include 195 one-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units, and 24 three-bedroom units. It would also have parking with 350 spaces for residents and potentially for rent for Pulse riders and surrounding businesses.

The Willow Circle property was recently valued by the county at $ 3.4 million. The Byrd property is valued at $ 1.8 million. The properties are currently zoned B-2, which does not allow apartments.

A site map of The Byrd.

The timeline of the project depends on several factors, including the rezoning process. The proposal has not yet been scheduled to be heard by the county planning commission. If the rezoning is successful, then the group will have to file a development plan.

Guillot stressed that any final plan would come as a result of community and county feedback. This process will begin with a community meeting for neighbors on November 1. Notification about this has already been sent.

Guillot said they would expect them to start in early 2023.

Thalhimer and Crenshaw hired attorney Andy Condlin with Roth Jackson to help with the zoning change process.

Poole and Poole Architects are the designer of the apartments. The group has not yet selected a general contractor and has not yet put in place any financing.

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