Work has begun on a Comprehensive Plan for the Northern Jefferson Davis Highway corridor.
Tourist courts, motels and family entertainment venues are not what you think of while driving on Jefferson Davis Highway. Until the late 1950s, what was known as the Pike was a bucolic route for those traveling along the east coast. Once Interstate 95 was built, the decline of the Pike was not far behind. The Interstate robbed the businesses on the parallel strip of highway by being a quicker way to travel.
Now, Chesterfield County, as part of “Moving Forward – The Comprehensive Plan for Chesterfield County,” is working on the Northern Jefferson Davis Corridor Special Area Plan, which will establish guidance for future revitalization and development.
“I think the Jefferson Davis Area Plan has come at an opportune time,” said Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle. “With new growth relatively stable, Chesterfield is focusing on revitalization and renovation of its older areas. Our Comprehensive Plan reflects this focus. The Jefferson Davis corridor fits right in with the current priorities of the county.”
From the south end of the corridor plan at Old Bermuda Hundred Road eight miles north to the Richmond-Chesterfield border at the Dupont Spruance plant, the corridor has an eclectic mix of income, housing, businesses, ethnicities and educational opportunities.
As the new area plan is developed this mix must be recognized. Typically, comprehensive plans consider how land is used, but planners know this plan is more challenging.
“The Northern Jefferson Davis Corridor Special Area Plan geography is much different from other area plan geographies we have focused on in the past,” said James “Jimmy” Bowling, principal planner and project manager for the special area plan. “The special area plan we produce may be much different from many other area plans we have produced in the past.”
Major changes have occurred in the recent past on the corridor south of Route 288. Relatively new shopping centers (Bermuda Square being totally replaced) are beginning to replace some of the older deteriorating businesses. Housing stock just off the corridor in this area continues to hold up. But pockets of challenges that still remain south of Route 288 such as motels and apartments renting rooms by the week with a number of people in single small rooms, deteriorating mobile home parks and some retail areas that could use a little TLC.
Two homeless camps are located south of 288. And with the lack of a homeless shelter in Chesterfield or job opportunities, the tents and makeshift dwellings will be the only way the county’s homeless population will be served. Still, if the high rent motels and mobile home parks are done away with, where will the residents go for housing? Bowling says that is one issue the plan needs to address, but social issues are typically not part of these types of plans.
One shining light, on the Pike on the southern end, is John Tyler Community College, which has several workforce education programs in place. Planners think the market will take care of the corridor south of 288 with several projects getting ready to pop in addition to what is on the ground now.
While revitalization is reaching northward beyond with recent residential developments such as Colony Village, the housing stock varies. There are other positives north of the beltway the ends at Jefferson Davis Highway. Winchester Green is one of them. It was built after the last Comprehensive Plan of 1996. The community offers newer clean housing as well as a women’s clinic, daycare and several newer businesses that line the Pike. The Defense Supply Center of Richmond (DSCR) also offers a clean operation including a five story office building that is under construction now.
Just south of DCR a new bridge over the CSX tracks is currently under construction. While access to a big box grocery store is limited to a Food Lion north of Chippenham Parkway, other bodega style stores are available. They serve the Latino population that has grown to about 50 percent as well as other local residents.
Another opportunity lies north of Chippenham by way of a Chinatown style department store. Area residents can shop under a roof market by way of separate booths. The market is bustling on the weekends. Even a farmers market outside offers a plethora of fresh and unique fresh fruits and vegetables for sale.
Homes along the northern end of the Northern Jefferson Davis Draft Plan are also mixed in their style, age and condition. Bensley Village has historic homes as well as rentals and the Bensley Community Building offers programs for all resident.
“The Northern Jefferson Davis Corridor is a place where residents, businesses and the county can invest in community,” Bowling said. “To this end, Jefferson Davis Highway should be promoted as a corridor that brings together many and diverse neighborhoods, development patterns and cultural, historic and economic interests. It is a place where the county has an opportunity to encourage and facilitate new development as well as redevelopment and revitalization, and to find a balance between promoting economic development, such as commercial and industrial uses, and providing for the needs of the existing and future residential neighborhoods.”
A huge section that is part of the current developing plan is industrial, in fact more industrial uses than any other part of the county, which brings in a preponderance of the Chesterfields tax base.
Bordering the James River, for the most part, industries such as Dominion Virginia Power, United Parcel and the Counties much touted new $2 Billion Tranlin Paper plant (yet to be constructed).
But transportation to these and many other industrial businesses is not available to most of the residents along the corridor due to a lack of means or their own vehicle to take advantage of the jobs there.
“In a nut shell, what we are currently thinking, based on our research and our citizen involvement to date,” Bowling said. “We (meaning the community, which includes public, private, resident and business interests) are still ‘writing the story,’ the ending of which will be decided by a collaborative effort.”
The Jefferson Davis Corridor Special Plan is so extensive. The Village News has touched on just a small part of the draft plan that it will take a series of articles to completly explain the situation and where the community may go in later years.