By Greg Pearson BCA Board member
In a presentation earlier this month, developer Brett Burkhart provided new information on The Lake project to members of the Brandermill Regional Men’s Club. Much of what he said was a reminder of the mixed-use development now underway at the intersection of Genito Place and Genito Road across from Clover Hill High School.
The Lake is an entertainment-driven, retail-office-residential development on 105 acres modeled from a development in Charlotte, NC. Burkhart’s concept incorporates two water properties — one for surfing and the other for waterskiing with kayaks and paddle board use — as major draws to play off Chesterfield County’s sports tourism effort at nearby River City Sportsplex. The latter holds numerous tournaments for soccer, lacrosse, and other outdoor sports as the county tries to diversify its income sources.
Burkhart said one new feature of The Lake under serious consideration is the potential to have an outdoor ice-skating rink during cold weather months. If financially feasible, The Lake would have outdoor potential year-round to attract customers, becoming a gathering place also in the winter. The rink would be at one end of the body of water used for water skiing. Burkhart said new technology made it possible to freeze ice at another southern venue, recouping the operator’s cost for the ice-making equipment in just 60 days.
The development also includes 1,190 multifamily residences, an amphitheater, a 170-room hotel, and 150,000 square feet of retail and office. Because Burkhart expects The Lake to become Chesterfield’s #1 entertainment destination, he said rental rates for both commercial and residential spaces would be higher than the surrounding area.
Burkhart began working on his unique concept with the planning department in 2014 and “went public in 2017.” The BCA Board endorsed the general concept when the plan only proposed 790 living units, which was several years before county supervisors unanimously approved his revised zoning case last year. Part of the residential properties are in Brandermill’s footprint.
Complete buildout of The Lake will take 10 years, explained Burkhart. He estimated that he will have invested $38 million — much of it for roads and utilities — before the first building is completed.
“Chesterfield is now looking at a full interchange with [Route] 288,” he announced to the senior’s group. That was a major concern during the rezoning process because much of the traffic coming to The Lake is anticipated to use 288. Burkhart predicts, after completion of his contribution to offsite road improvements, that the impacted road system there will be rated as levels C and D. That rating system is A to F with E and F being less than acceptable.
At buildout, The Lake will have 2,600 parking spaces for residential, retail, office, and customers. Retail and office uses would be on the first floors with residential above.
BACKGROUND ON THE LAKE. The mixed-use rezoning of 105 acres stretches back from Genito to the existing storage business. The parent company (Lake Adventures) acknowledges a small part of the residential section is within Brandermill. That wasn’t known to the BCA at the time of its endorsement.
CONCEPT. The entertainment concept revolves around attracting customers to visit the site to participate in water sports, shopping, and eating at several restaurants (including on outside patios) perhaps within viewing proximity to those activities. There’s 150,000 square feet of retail/office space planned, rock climbing, and seeking tenants for a brewery and possibly a movie theatre complex to round out the entertainment appeal. With Regal Theaters locations not far away in the Commonwealth Centre and Westchester Commons plus a theatre malaise post-Covid, that presumably will be difficult.
The plan has two water facilities with one featuring surfing (6 acres) and the larger one (13 acres) with water skiing providing a 1,500-foot ride via a cable line. Both bodies are 10-12 feet deep. The sources of that water are fed by three deep wells on the property, water runoff from the project itself and, if needed, the purchase of water from the county, except when water restrictions are implemented. Water runoff from the site drains away from the Swift Creek Reservoir.
CONCERTS. The center will offer outdoor concerts with seating from patrons who bring blankets and chairs. Burkhart anticipates holding “40+ concerts annually” using the county standard of 4 square feet per attendee (very snug). The zoning approval permits offsite parking. Burkhart has indicated initial offerings would be free (Westchester already holds free concerts in its parking lots during spring to fall).
The developer said some later concerts would charge a fee (presumably like Innsbrook did previously) to attract bigger name groups and a larger audience. Its website says The Lake will hold 200+ other events per year. Eliminating four cold-weather months, that could mean about one per day on average. Conceivably, The Lake could use its concert space to attract outdoor food and/or wine festivals. Elsewhere pre-Covid, Rotary clubs in Chesterfield sponsored the Midlothian Food Festival and the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce’s annual wine festival.
NOISE ABATEMENT. The elevated stage of the amphitheater would direct the sound east toward the River City Sportsplex and now-defunct Southside Speedway to mitigate the impact to Brandermill. The zoning case includes a sound study that placed limits on noise. The amplified sound from a concert is limited to 110 dbs, 65 dbs at the edge of the property and 55 dbs anywhere in Brandermill. 60 dbs is the level of conversation in a restaurant. The zoning allows outdoor concerts up to 11 pm Sunday-Thursday and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The developer is permitted to request a 1 am cutoff five times per year. During the previous approval process, the applicant said the restaurants with patios might also offer musical entertainment.
RESIDENTIAL. Its original rezoning approval allowed just 790 townhouses and apartments, but last year the county board approved an increase to 1,190. Townhouses would have parking for two vehicles per unit and the apartments will provide 1.6 spaces per unit. Despite 400 more residential units, the impact on schools is “negligible” over the previous approval since 95% of the units are now limited to 1-2 bedrooms.
The materials for commercial/residential are upscale using stone, brick, and vinyl. 80% of the units would have a covered balcony at a minimum of 60 square feet. The two large buildings will have retail/office on the first floor and residential above. The maximum height would be 95 feet (6 floors). Along the roadside, there would be street lights every 40 feet up to 30 feet tall. As you would expect, the residential will have a clubhouse and pool as amenities for residents.
SIGNAGE. The applicant has approval for a large electronic message sign facing 288 southbound up to 40 feet tall for a total of 250 square feet. The messaging is restricted to three lines of copy changing not more often than every 30 seconds. The messages can’t flash or be of the “Las Vegas” type in the presentation. The developer also has approval for 3-4 smaller electronic signs elsewhere within the development — one facing Genito Road and the others with the same aforementioned restrictions.
TRANSPORTATION. CDOT estimates traffic generation of 15,000 trips daily, causing the applicant to proffer additional left-hand turn lanes onto Charter Colony Parkway from the Powhite Parkway, from Charter Colony onto Tredegar Lake Parkway, from Charter Colony onto Genito eastbound, and into The Lake onto Genito Place. They would vary from 100 feet to 725 feet in length, plus two other right-hand turn lanes outbound. A backdoor entrance from Tredegar to Genito Place will be created to lighten the impact. To regulate traffic, a signalized light would be placed at the intersection of Genito Road/Genito Place/Kelly Green Drive. Offsite road improvements are proffered at an estimated cost of $7-8 million paid by the developer.
All those left-hand turns needed to get to the site will delay traffic, particularly during late afternoon rush hour and on weekends. If concerts or events at the amphitheater coincide with afternoon rush hour, even longer delays are likely. Burkhart has dedicated right-of-way for a one-lane ramp off southbound 288 onto westbound Genito ending at the aforementioned traffic light. However, he expects VDOT/CDOT to fund the estimated $2-3 million for construction. Additionally, the draft plan shows that ramp with a fork that allows a left-hand turn onto Genito Road eastbound toward the soccer complex. That requires a second traffic light on Genito, which means short spacing between the two lights.
VDOT is objecting to that ramp off 288, saying the spacing from the exit onto Old Hundred Road is inadequate, but it becomes part of the plan if VDOT approves. County officials have said VDOT has waived the spacing problem elsewhere in the state. The ramp would facilitate traffic into The Lake, aid traffic considerably prior to concerts, and in general help traffic homebound during afternoon rush hour. The county is in the process of securing funding for improvements to the Hull Street exit westbound from 288, which is the worst bottleneck in Chesterfield. There was some discussion of a county transportation plan proposing a flyover from outbound Powhite Parkway over the inbound Powhite Parkway lanes connecting to Tredegar Lake Parkway as a quicker backdoor to the waterpark. However, flyovers are expensive.
ALCOHOL. Because of a county ordinance that prohibits the sale of alcohol within 500 feet of a school, The Lake sought and receive a conditional use permit for ABC licensing. The permit was granted due to the proximity of Clover Hill HS.