Richmond BizSense hosted the second event in “The Future Of. . .” series and Sands Anderson was again pleased to be a sponsor. A crowd of over 300 people interested in “The Future of Transit-Oriented Development” in the Greater Richmond area gathered in the Main Street Station Train Shed in downtown Richmond. With the GRTC’s recent opening of the Pulse system and the invigorated real estate development along various Richmond transit corridors, transit-oriented development is a popular topic in the Richmond region. Highlights from the crowded event attended by key private and public players in Richmond’s transit systems and real estate development follows.
Leading the discussion and panel moderator was Andy Condlin, an attorney at Roth Jackson Gibbons Condlin, PLC whose practice focuses on commercial real estate and land use law. The panel providing their expertise on the future of Richmond’s transit systems and their interaction with local real estate development included::
- John Vithoulkas, the County Manager for Henrico County
- Mark Olinger, the Director of the Richmond Department of Planning and Development Review
- Gary Armstrong, the Chairman of the GRTC
- Jason Guillot, a principal at Thalhimer Realty Partners, a commercial real estate developer and commercial real estate realtor
- Eric Phipps, the co-owner of SNP Properties, a commercial real estate developer
Condlin guided the panelists’ conversation, providing each an opportunity to share insights from their development and transit system planning experiences in the Greater Richmond market:
Outlook of Pulse and Development
- Armstrong thought that the Pulse has been a success in that its actual ridership numbers continued to exceed predictions.
- Several panelists stated that developers and tenants are focusing on the Broad Street corridor. The Pulse and rezoning has helped spur development and a rise in tenant rents.
The Problem of Parking
- The panel noted that parking remains a major problem for developers, tenants, and government planning agencies.
- Phibbs noted that the creation of underground parking is a large upfront expense for developers.
- Vithoulkas stated that the Willow Lawn stop was the busiest bus stop on the Pulse line. Because of the surrounding retail area and popularity of the Willow Lawn stop, he believed that additional parking facilities would be needed to accommodate the new inflow of people to the area.
- Guillot and Phipps both believed that parking was a major concern for both commercial and residential tenants.
- Several panelists thought that alternative means of transportation such as bikes, buses, and on-demand transportation services such as Lyft and Uber would be used in the future to alleviate the expense of building parking and parking zoning restrictions.
- Another idea raised to combat parking shortages was for tenants to lease parking from neighbors who require parking during different parts of the day.
Trends for Solving Transit and Development Issues
- Several of the panelists addressed the overriding theme that because of how commuters and customers travel on a daily basis in the Greater Richmond area, municipalities must work together to improve the transit offerings for customers.
- The panel noted that transit-oriented development remained a challenge in thinly populated areas.
- Several of the panelists thought that cooperation with on-demand transportation services such as Lyft and Uber could help solve some public transit problems such as transporting riders the last mile between their home and the nearest transit stop.
- The real estate developers believed that incorporating on-demand transportation service lanes and other tenant services such as Amazon pickup locations and breakfast lounges will become necessary to attract tenants.
- Vithoulkas believed that the localities were improving their respective areas for pedestrians, bikers, and public transit riders by adding sidewalks and streetlights, but that building connected transportation infrastructure took time.
- Vithoulkas noted that Henrico County was in the process of updating its zoning rules to help better address the county’s current needs.
- Armstrong thought that one interesting solution was potential new real estate development spurred by the new Qualified Opportunity Zone federal income tax incentive.
- The panelists thought that working with larger employers to provide services for their employees and customers could achieve better transportation and development results. One example was the Pulse’s cooperation with VCU to provide bus routes and times to better accommodate VCU staff and students.
We are pleased to provide you with the highlights from commercial real estate events in the Richmond area. Sands Anderson’s Commercial Real Estate Team uses the insights provided by such events and the networks they promote to support our clients with their commercial real estate and business issues.
Click here for David’s recap from the last BizSense “Future of..” event, focusing on “The Future of RVA Office Space”.