When the City of Richmond’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system (known as the PULSE) begins operating along Broad and East Main streets in October 2017, new transit oriented development projects in that area may follow. If a resolution adopted by the Planning Commission last week authorizing the rezoning of the Scott’s Addition and Boulevard areas is ultimately approved by City Council, these areas may soon feature seamless streetscapes, taller
buildings, active first floor and sidewalk uses and no visible parking lots

The proposed rezoning of Scott’s Addition would occur through two separate but related ordinances. The first ordinance would amend the city’s zoning ordinance to incorporate changes to the B-7 Mixed Use Business District
regulations and create a new Transit-Oriented Nodal District (TOD-1). The second ordinance would then amend the city’s zoning map to rezone those portions of Scott’s Addition not fronting on the Boulevard or West Broad
Street to the amended B-7 district and rezone areas along West Broad Street and the Boulevard to the new TOD-1 district. The rezoned areas are shown on the map below, which you can view in a larger size, together with copies of the draft ordinances’ text and other materials.

Scott's Addition Rezoning Proposed Zoning Richmond

The city’s Department of Planning and Development Review (PDR) staff calls the draft TOD-1 district “unabashedly urban.” The recommended ordinance states that it is “intended to encourage redevelopment and place-making,
including adaptive reuse of underutilized buildings, to create a high-quality urban realm.” If approved as written, the TOD-1 regulations would permit a wide range of commercial, manufacturing and multifamily uses
and would employ form and massing requirements to create walkable streetscapes. Minimum and maximum heights would be two and 12 stories, respectively. Most buildings would have a maximum setback of 10 feet and a
required minimum number of street-oriented windows. Surface parking would be heavily discouraged through the elimination of surface parking as a principal or conditional use, and any accessory parking would be subject to
robust screening requirements. The proposed TOD-1 ordinance would eliminate parking requirements for all uses other than hotels and multifamily residential buildings with more than 16 units. The district’s other regulations would encourage dense, walkable communities centered on high-activity nodes near PULSE stations.

Next door, the bulk of the interior of Scott’s Addition is proposed to be rezoned from M-1 Light Industrial to the B-7 Mixed Use Business District first put in place in the Manchester neighborhood. If the proposed B-7 district regulations are amended, the district would include greater flexibility in designating “street-oriented commercial” corridors, where street-front retail would be required as part of any residential use and certain car-oriented uses like gas stations and parking decks would be prohibited. In Scott’s Addition, these corridors would be Moore Street,
Summit Avenue and Roseneath Road. The proposed amendments to the B-7 district would also permit certain “maker” light manufacturing uses of under 10,000 square feet by right, which, if approved, would likely mean
the area’s ongoing boom in breweries, cideries and distilleries will continue unabated.

PDR staff indicated that both ordinances are scheduled to be introduced to the Richmond City Council on July 24, 2017. Following their introduction, a public hearing on both ordinances would be held by the Planning Commission,
which would then vote on whether to recommend the ordinances to the City Council. This hearing could take place as early as August 2017. The City Council would then hold another public hearing (potentially in September,
but more likely in October or November 2017) and ultimately decide whether the ordinances should be adopted.

If the city rezones Scott’s Addition, it will be just the first step toward actualizing the PULSE Corridor Plan. (See related post, “Fast Buses May Bring Major Development Opportunities to Richmond”) McGuireWoods’ land use team believes that if Scott’s Addition is rezoned and the TOD-1 district is established, there may be significant opportunities for RVA’s commercial real estate community to actualize the city’s vision for denser, more urban development in this area. Increased opportunities mean greater transactional potential along the PULSE route where market conditions and development readiness appear ready to be aligned.

Attorneys Ann Neil Cosby, Brennen Keene, Rob Benaicha and Danielle Stokes regularly handle land use and transactional matters in these areas and can share more information with you on the city’s plans, areas identified for development potential and how to navigate the new zoning requirements to come. To learn more, contact Ann Neil Cosby at acosby@mcguirewoods.com or (804) 775-7737.

Beginning in October 2017, the City of Richmond’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System, known as the PULSE, will operate through the center of Broad and East Main streets. The PULSE Corridor will run from Willow Lawn to Orleans Street, near Rocketts Landing, and the city is poised to make significant changes to its current land use plan to promote and accommodate new economic development in these areas.

On July 24, 2017, the Richmond City Council is scheduled to vote on the PULSE Corridor Plan as a new component of the city’s Master Land Use Plan. If approved by the City Council, the PULSE Corridor Plan will re-designate many areas along the route and in adjacent neighborhoods for higher density development; greater active commercial and residential mixed uses; reduced or, in some cases, eliminated parking requirements; and increased heights and other standards focused on promoting transit-oriented development.

What do these changes mean for Richmond’s development community?

If Richmond’s millennials and urbanites like the PULSE BRT as much as their peers like metro and light rail in other areas, the city hopes that owners of commercial, office and residential properties a quarter of a mile or even half a mile from a PULSE station could realize significant rental premiums and hefty increases in property values. In an effort to encourage transit-oriented development along the PULSE route, the city has identified emerging areas and neighborhoods along the corridor believed to have high development potential. New zoning regulations intended to stimulate development also are in the works.

A kick-off public meeting for the city-initiated rezoning of Scott’s Addition and West Broad Street between Boulevard and I-95 is scheduled for May 24 at Gather, 2920 W. Broad St. in Scott’s Addition. A second meeting to provide a detailed review based on feedback from the first meeting will be held on June 7 at DMV Headquarters, 2300 W. Broad St.

Adoption of the PULSE Corridor Plan is a first step in the city’s effort to create a vibrant downtown corridor that interconnects existing and future residential neighborhoods and retail areas.

McGuireWoods’ Land Use Team believes the city’s placemaking efforts provide new opportunities for the commercial real estate community in RVA to become involved and create change. Attorneys Ann Neil Cosby, Brennen Keene, Rob Benaicha and Danielle Stokes can share more information on the city’s plans, areas identified for development potential and how to navigate new zoning requirements adopted to further the city’s vision. To learn more, contact Ann Neil Cosby at acosby@mcguirewoods.com or (804) 775-7737.

Developers in Henrico County, Va., have long known that the county’s zoning and subdivision ordinances lack the flexibility needed for multifaceted projects or those outside the “traditional zoning box.” This has often resulted in time-consuming and expensive rezonings. All this trouble may soon be a thing of the past, however, as the county gears up to revise its development regulations.

On April 26, Clarion Associates, the county’s consultant for the updates, met with the Henrico County Planning Commission, staff and citizens to set out a two-year timeline for the update process, consisting of six discrete tasks. The timeline, meeting information and a survey regarding the update effort are all available on the county’s website here. The survey will be accessible through May 2017 for individuals to identify issues or goals or provide suggestions and changes for the updates. The website will also provide access to proposed ordinance text changes and other information with each step forward in the process.

The McGuireWoods land use group — including Ann Neil Cosby, Rob Benaicha and Adena Patterson — are closely following this process. If you have any questions regarding the ordinance update process or substance, please contact Ann Neil Cosby by email here.

The Urban Land Institute has released the results of an in depth analysis of the future of the Westfields Corporate Office Park in western Fairfax County.  This analysis was the product of a ULI Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) that began its work in 2016.  A link to the report can be found here http://washington.uli.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/56/2017/04/Westfield-TAP-Report_FINAL.pdf.  The report responds directly to well documented challenges facing suburban single use office parks and offers an exciting vision for Westfields that is respectful of Westfield’s history as a premier office park, but also encourages reasonable evolution that can include complimentary mixed use options and the potential for exciting new services and amenities. McGuireWoods has a three decade history in the planning, zoning and management of Westfields.

The Embark Richmond Highway Advisory Group met for its 16th meeting on April 24th. The Advisory Group reviewed a 2040 transportation land use analysis prepared by FCDOT. FCDOT estimates ridership of the proposed bus rapid transit system will reach 18,000 daily trips under the land use plan the Advisory Group is considering. The Advisory Group also heard presentations on heritage resources, parks and recreation, and stormwater management from various Fairfax County staff members. Sightlines from historic structures and open space were discussed as issues in need of further consideration as the planning process moves forward. Staff still anticipates releasing a draft plan in September and public hearings in January/February 2018.


On the eve of its 40th birthday, Fairfax County has kicked off a Zoning Ordinance Modernization effort to analyze and update its current ordinance, which was originally adopted in 1978. The modernization efforts are part of the County’s Fairfax First initiative for economic success.  The effort is being led by Barbara Byron, the Director of the Office of Community Revitalization.

With the help of outside consultants, County staff is kicking off efforts to streamline and update the ordinance. A major goal of the effort is to reformat and restructure the ordinance to make it more user friendly.  This includes creating more table, charts, and graphics to increase the ordinance’s functionality and usability.  The modernization effort will also focus on processing prioritized amendments of County-wide impact.  The initial list of prioritized amendments include:

  • Minor Modification Provisions
  • PDH Districts
  • Use Categories and Definitions
  • Signs
  • Special Exceptions for Building Repurposing

The final area of focus is on improvements to ordinance amendments and other zoning process. Those efforts will focus on how amendments are authorized by the Board of Supervisors and how effective outreach and communication to stakeholders is achieved.

A new initiative to provide better proffer compliance tracking has launched in Fairfax County. The initiative requires applicants to submit a standalone proffer compliance matrix beginning at the first site plan submission.  That matrix is required to be updated as a development project moves through building plan review, occupancy, and bond release.  The overall goal of the new process is to create clarity for developers and Fairfax County regarding the status of a project’s proffer compliance.

The new proffer compliance requirements go into effect on June 27, 2017. If you have any questions about the new process contact Scott Adams at sadams@mcguirewoods.com.

Fairfax County Technical Bulletin


The Embark Richmond Highway Advisory Group held its 15th meeting March 20th. The Advisory Group heard presentations on projected public facility and affordable housing needs within the plan area as a result of proposed increases in density. Staff disclosed the 2040 Land Use Transportation Analysis is being finalized and revealed they have met with VDOT to discuss the planned Chapter 870 Analysis. So far the planning process has stayed on schedule, staff anticipates the final draft plan will be released in early September, the final staff report will be released in November, and public hearings will occur in December or January.


On March 14, 2017, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved an update to the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons. Consistent with comments from industry representatives and the Tysons Partnership (www.tysonspartnership.org), the updated language in the Plan reasonably responds to evolving development trends and steers clear of arbitrary limits on the growth of the County’s economic engine.  McGuireWoods was proud to participate in this effort and is a founding member of the Tysons Partnership.

On March 14, 2017, the Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the Tysons PTC Zoning District that eliminated the FAR maximum of 2.5 for certain uses located within a Transit Oriented Development that is up to one fourth a mile from a Metro Rail Station.  All non-office uses are now generally not subject to an FAR limitation and the appropriate density is determined based on site specific guidelines otherwise contained in the Plan.  This amendment provides needed flexibility to help implement evolving mixed use concepts and eliminates what was proving to be a somewhat arbitrary restriction in favor a more appropriate performance based approach with respect to traffic and other impacts.