WINCHESTER — A major mixed-use development is proposed for a 4.8-acre parcel of open land in southern Winchester.
The three-building Harrison Plaza complex would include 70 apartments and nearly 20,000 square feet of commercial space, with a major access point along an extended Hope Drive that will, when completed, lead from Valley Avenue to a new Interstate 81 overpass connecting to Frederick County.
Currently, the building site is comprised of three separate parcels — a 2.1-acre lot at 2310 Valor Drive and a nearly 1-acre lot at 230 Hope Drive, both of which are owned by Molden Real Estate Corp. of Winchester, and a 1.8-acre lot at 2330 Valor Drive that is owned by David A. Rao, of Harrisonburg.
Each parcel is zoned Highway Commercial District (B-2), but the owners are asking to add a Planned Unit Development (PUD) overlay that would add enough residential density for the construction of apartments.
Winchester Planning Director Timothy Youmans told the Planning Commission at its work session Tuesday afternoon the property's location along Hope Drive and in an area that already includes a mix of residential and commercial buildings "is the place where we would encourage this type of construction."
Kit Molden, a senior associate at Winchester-based brokerage, investment and development firm Greenfield and Craun Commercial, started working on potential development ideas for the site more than a year ago. His initial goal was to have a total of six buildings with apartments, offices and retail and restaurant uses.
Harrison Plaza is proposed with three buildings — two of which would have 27 apartments each, and a third with 16 apartments and 19,100 square feet of ground-floor commercial space that can be built to suit tenants.
About 35% of the property would be green space, mostly in the form of a community park for residents. Youmans said that is short of the 40% required for the site, so city officials would have to decide if the plan is acceptable as presented or if more green space should be added.
The Hope Drive extension is expected to ease the site's current stormwater drainage issues. Youmans said water runoff would be funneled to a new stormwater retention pond that will be built along Papermill Road as part of the street improvement project.
Evan Wyatt of Greenway Engineering of Winchester prepared an impact report for city officials, in which he wrote that Harrison Plaza's 45 two-bedroom and 25 one-bedroom apartments would house an estimated 105 people. Rents would start at $690 for studio apartments, $950 for one-bedroom units and $1,100 for two bedrooms.
Since similar apartment complexes in the Winchester area traditionally attract singles, young couples and older adults whose children are grown, Wyatt projects that Harrison Plaza will add just five students to the Winchester Public Schools system.
His report also states that apartment and commercial tenants would generate an estimated $517,930 in tax revenues per year. Since the property would cost Winchester approximately $150,430 annually for infrastructure and emergency services, the city still stands to add $367,500 to its coffers every year.
"This is a very good bottom line in terms of the fiscal impact analysis," Youmans said.
Planning Commissioner Brandon Pifer said he has concerns about the proposed development's impact on traffic, particularly at the intersection of Weems Lane and Valor Drive that does not have a traffic signal.
Youmans said he doesn't foresee a problem because trips to the mixed-use development would be spread throughout the day.
"If that had developed 100% commercial, you would have a more concentrated peak hourly use," Youmans said.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Harrison Plaza proposal at its business meeting on July 16. The panel's recommendation to accept or deny the development plan will then be forwarded to City Council, which will make the final decision.
Attending Tuesday’s Winchester Planning Commission work session in Rouss City Hall were Chairman Mark Loring, Vice Chairman John Tagnesi and members Brandon Pifer, Lacey Burnett, Leesa Mayfield and Katt Eaton. Commissioner David Ray was absent.