Builder proposes 200-plus apartments at Westchester Commons

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Rendering of the proposed two buildings, totaling 236 apartments on a 5-acre parcel. (Courtesy Casey Sowers)

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Eight years after Westchester Commons opened for business, the shopping and entertainment center at the crossroads of Midlothian Turnpike and Route 288 is slated to receive its first set of residential rooftops.

Midlothian-based Riverton Associates, led by developer Casey Sowers, is proposing two buildings totaling 236 apartments on a 5-acre parcel overlooking 288, on a bluff at the northeastern edge of the center.

The one- and two-bedroom apartments, tentatively named “Westchester,” are the first residential pieces proposed for the 100-acre Westchester Commons, which is anchored by a Regal Cinemas and consists primarily of retail and restaurants, alongside a number of undeveloped parcels.

Sowers, whose developments in the area include Winterfield Place, said a goal is to add more density – and people – in and around the shopping center, which he said has yet to spark the level of development envisioned when it opened in 2009, right around the time of the economic downturn.

“There’s no mystery that there’s empty retail space in and around that corridor. And there’s been zoning for literally thousands of residential units in and around the area, but, really, nothing’s sparked out there yet. Nothing’s caused it to happen,” Sowers said.

“We’ve been looking to get some density in there – get some rooftops, so to speak – in a spot where the infrastructure is there and will hopefully balance real well with the retail and commercial that’s there now, and hopefully some new commercial that will precipitate from it as well.”

Sowers is working with Midlothian-based Poole & Poole Architecture on the apartments, which he projects will cost about $39 million to develop. Berkadia Commercial Mortgage is financing the project. A contractor has not been selected, Sowers said.

He said his company is under contract to purchase the 5-acre site from Zaremba Metropolitan Midlothian LLC, the ownership entity tied to Ohio-based Zaremba Group, which developed Westchester Commons. The development was the brainchild of former state Sen. John Watkins, whose family owned the land and once operated a nursery there.

Sowers described the 5-acre parcel as “pad-ready,” in that road access, utilities and other infrastructure are already available to the site.

“Very rarely do you see a site like that for any type of multifamily development so prepared already for the project,” he said. “It’s a spot that doesn’t take a lot of heavy lifting to get going.”

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