WINCHESTER — A proposal to build apartments and businesses in an empty parcel of land off Hope Drive has been endorsed by the city Planning Commission.

The Harrison Plaza complex would include three buildings with a total of 70 apartments and nearly 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

The proposed construction 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.

Access to the stores, restaurants and offices that could locate in Harrison Plaza would be off Hope Drive, which the city plans to widen and convert into a major east-west corridor linking Valley Avenue to a new Interstate 81 overpass connecting to Frederick County.

“The really cool thing about this is that it all comes together,” Evan Wyatt of Greenway Engineering said about the mixed-use complex’s construction coinciding with the Hope Drive improvements.

However, the dual projects also mean that Harrison Plaza would have to be built in two phases.

During the plaza’s initial construction, Winchester Planning Director Timothy Youmans said a temporary stormwater retention pond would be created on site because the city’s current drainage system along Hope Drive is inadequate. Winchester is developing a new stormwater management system as part of its Hope Drive project, but plaza developers wouldn’t be able to tap into it until the city completes its infrastructure improvements.

The retention pond will be located on the south end of the plaza site, which is where the building with commercial space would be located. That structure could not be built until Phase 2, after the city’s new stormwater management system is online and the temporary retention pond has been filled in.

Phase 1 of Harrison Plaza would include the construction of two buildings with 27 apartments each, and the creation of a community park and residential parking lots. Phase 2 would bring the third building, which is proposed to have 16 apartments and 19,100 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, along with parking lot expansions.

Wyatt created an impact report estimating 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, Wyatt projects that Harrison Plaza would add just five students to the Winchester Public Schools system.

His report also states that residential and business tenants would generate an estimated $517,930 in local tax revenues per year. Since the property would cost Winchester approximately $150,430 annually for infrastructure and emergency services, the city could add $367,500 to its coffers every year.

“It appears this would be a good development from a fiscal analysis standpoint,” Youmans told the Planning Commission at its meeting on Tuesday.

The commission forwarded the rezoning proposal to City Council with an unanimous recommendation for approval. Council will get its first look at the request next week.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the Planning Commission:

Unanimously recommended approval of an ordinance to rezone 5.08 acres at 2508 Papermill Road from Intensive Industrial (M-2) to Commercial Industrial (CM-1). The change would bring the property owned by Winchester Noland Co. into better alignment with zoning designations currently in place along the Papermill Road corridor. It would not impact any of the wholesale and warehouse operations currently conducted at the site by the plumbing supply distributor.

Unanimously recommended approval of an ordinance to rezone 0.95 acres at 410-412 Smithfield Ave. from Medium Density Residential (MR) to Medium Density Residential with PUD overlay. The change would bring three apartments on the property into compliance with the city’s Zoning Ordinance.

Attending Tuesday’s Winchester Planning Commission meeting in Rouss City Hall were Vice Chairman John Tagnesi and members Brandon Pifer, Lacey Burnett, Leesa Mayfield, David Ray and Katt Eaton. Commission Chairman Mark Loring was absent.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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