Planning Commission to consider Goodwin Square, High Street apartments

Staff writer

Colonial Williamsburg’s Goodwin Square proposal could take another step toward becoming reality when it appears before Planning Commission at its regular meeting Wednesday.

There, the board will consider requests for zoning ordinance amendments and a special-use permit that would allow Colonial Williamsburg to demolish the 48-spot parking lot and build a new pedestrian plaza in its place. If approved, the project would then go to City Council for a public hearing and final review at its December meeting.

The proposed Goodwin Square would be outfitted with a play fountain for children, ample room for outdoor events and festivals, a public restroom building, additional outdoor seating for Merchants Square shoppers and a large LED video screen, according to the original request submitted to the city by Colonial Williamsburg. Eight parking spaces would remain there.

“We believe that a new downtown, pedestrian-friendly entertainment and event space with curated, consistent, scheduled and regular experiential and cultural opportunities will invite increasing numbers of local, regional and visiting audiences to shop, linger and explore all of downtown Williamsburg,” wrote Jeff Duncan, CW’s vice president of real estate, in his request to the city.

City staff is expected to advise Planning Commission to approve the project, with the exception of the planned video screen.

Late last month, Colonial Williamsburg worked with South Dakota-based digital billboard manufacturer Daktronics to set up a 12-by-19-foot video screen in the middle of Colonial Williamsburg’s P3 parking lot as a demonstration of what it could look like. Duncan said the video screen would be roughly the same size if the project is approved.

According to a memorandum prepared for the board by Carolyn Murphy, the city’s principal planner, the video screen is out of scale with surrounding buildings due to its size and is inconsistent with the community character of the downtown area. Murphy also said the video screen would not be allowed to show advertisements for Colonial Williamsburg or Merchants Square, as billboards are not allowed by the city code.

The plaza would take the place of the busy P3 downtown parking lot owned by Colonial Williamsburg, which is behind the Blue Talon Bistro and is surrounded by other Merchants Square shops including Shoester’s, The Precious Gem and French Twist Boutique. The 48-spot parking lot has vehicle entrances off of North Henry Street and North Boundary Street, and currently allows one hour of free parking.

Eight parking spaces would stay in the square, according to Duncan, with the majority being handicapped spaces. The vehicle entrances off North Henry and Boundary streets would also stay in place.

If the project receives final approval from City Council, Duncan said construction could begin as early as January 2019 and would take about four months to complete.

More High Street apartments

The board also will consider a site plan for a new 223 apartment project in the High Street commercial center.

If approved, the project would be developed by Commonwealth Properties, a Richmond-based real estate developer who is building an already-approved 96-unit apartment complex next to Sterling Manor Drive off of Treyburn Drive and Middle Street.

Commonwealth Properties bought both parcels of land last year, said Jack Middleton, development director for Commonwealth Properties, and received approval to begin construction on the 96-apartment project from City Council in January.

If approved, the new apartment project would be next to those already under construction. The 223 apartments would be built on a vacant grassy site along Kings Manor Drive and would be combined with the 96 townhome-style apartments as one large luxury apartment complex targeted toward professionals and retirees living in Williamsburg, according to Middleton.

“One of the demographics that is attracted to our apartments are empty-nesters and retirees. They tend to be some of the older folks who rent for the lifestyle, and we found in our most recent project in Richmond that our product was extremely appealing to that market of people, and Williamsburg has a similar demographic in that sense,” Middleton said.

The two apartment structures would become a single living community if the larger apartment project is approved by Planning Commission. The larger structure up for consideration would be a four- or five-story apartment building totalling 365,904 square feet, with 84 one-bedroom units, 108 two-bedroom units and 31 three-bedroom units, according to the site plan.

Middleton said the project would feature a swimming pool, courtyard, fitness center and other amenities. The complex would also have 379 parking spaces, with a two-level parking garage containing 236 parking spaces and 143 spaces being provided behind the apartment buildings, according to an agenda memorandum.

If approved, Commonwealth Properties would have to file for building permits with the city before construction can begin, according to Heather Markle, the city’s deputy zoning administrator.

Want to go?

Where: City Council Chambers, Stryker Center, 412 N. Boundary St.

When: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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