Friday, October 7 2022

Tilting panels each weighing more than 100,000 pounds are set up for Henrico’s sports and event center at the Virginia Center Commons. (Jonathan Spires photos)

Just days after establishing its first sports and entertainment authority, Henrico County began vertical construction of its much-sought-after sports and events center at Virginia Center Commons and a second hotel may also be under construction.

County officials gathered next to the site of the future Henrico Sports and Events Center on Monday, where the first of 109 tilting panels – each weighing more than 100,000 pounds – was erected and placed to form the steel structure and in concrete of 185,000 square feet. .

The placements, by general contractor EDC, mark the start of vertical construction of the $50 million arena, slated to open in about a year. The 4,500-seat facility is slated to accommodate indoor sporting events, high school graduations, small concerts and community events.

County officials gathered at the site to mark the start of construction as the arena goes vertical.

Work on the site began early this year and included placing the concrete for the tilting panels on site. The work was dependent on the arrival of the panel’s steel beams, which arrived 18 months after they were ordered due to supply chain issues, officials said.

The facility will feature 115,000 square feet of playable space, with 12 basketball courts that can be converted into 24 volleyball courts. The indoor courts are primarily intended for these sports, although the space is designed to also accommodate other sports such as gymnastics, wrestling, futsal and pickleball.

The center will also be able to simultaneously host a concert and a basketball event, said Dennis Bickmeier, executive director of the new Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority, whose responsibilities include running the new arena. The authority was formally formed last week with a final vote of approval by county supervisors.

Henrico County Executive John Vithoulkas was among the speakers at Monday’s event.

On Monday, Rob Hargett, director of developer Rebkee Co., which is leading the redevelopment of the suburban indoor mall into an urban-style mixed-use village, joined officials.

Hargett said the project has been slow due to supply chain issues and economic considerations. Work began in earnest in early 2021 with the razing of the former Macy’s store at the east end of the mall, where contributor Shamin Hotels is planning what is now being considered one of two potential hotels that would anchor the new development.

CEO Neil Amin confirmed Monday that a second hotel is being considered for the site, where Shamin is also planning two restaurants. Amin said the second hotel could total up to 114 rooms if it comes to fruition. The initial hotel is planned for 111 rooms.

The process of placing the steel and concrete tilt panels is expected to take two weeks.

Construction of the first hotel would follow the arena, with the rest of the site filling in thereafter. Amin said the hotel is in the design phase and restaurants will be determined as the project progresses.

Hargett said demolition of the rest of the mall is expected to begin in November. The demolition will include the mall’s food court, which at one time was to be retained as a central amenity. Hargett said plans for the residential components of the project made it impossible to maintain the food court.

Hargett said Stanley Martin Homes is awaiting development plan approval for its first batch of 75 townhouses on a 5-acre site between the Mall and Brook Road. He said plans for the mall site include 325 two-by-two condos, 500 apartments and some retail space. He said a second phase involving around 5 acres nearby would include income-based housing options.

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