Henrico working to revamp Highland Springs, racetrack district
This fall, Henrico County officials will begin a push to rehabilitate Highland Springs and several neighborhoods near Richmond International Raceway, an effort that could include listing Highland Springs on the National Register of Historic Places.
The county also plans to work with community and business associations to encourage improvements and highlight the county’s enterprise zone, which provides reimbursement for some projects. Officials also are hiring two new employees to allow a reinvigorated approach to code enforcement.
And county officials will likely work with nonprofits to buy up and rehabilitate derelict houses in the area, then sell them to first-time homebuyers, said S. Mark Strickler, the county’s director of community revitalization.
Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson said a similar effort brought good results in the county’s Lakeside area, a little farther west.
“It happens with these traditional neighborhoods that have been around for a long time,” Nelson said. “You’ve got to just bring a fresh eye to it.
“At the end of the day, we want Highland Springs to be a clean-looking, safe place where residents want to live, where property values are up.”
In addition to Highland Springs, the push will be focused on homes near the raceway. The neighborhoods in question are west of the track, from Azalea to Laburnum and across Laburnum, Strickler said.
“I’m just impressed with the quality and leadership of our county in making this important decision to help revitalize them,” said Mark Romers, president of the Eastern Henrico Business Association.
County officials are going out of their way to make it clear that inclusion on the National Register isn’t the same thing as being included in a local historic district. While local districts can have boards that must approve a wide range of changes to —Tyrone E. Nelson, Varina District Supervisor included buildings, National Register properties are subjected to extra scrutiny only if there are state or federal permits, licenses or funds are involved, according to Strickler. “There’s just a lot of confusion between that and the local district,” he said.
But there are financial reasons to be in the district, Strickler said. “It makes available historic tax credits,” he said.
The state has given the county a grant that will cover part of the cost of surveying Highland Springs to determine whether it’s suitable — and, if so, in what area it’s suitable — to be added to the National Register.
The code enforcement component of the plan will be aimed at prompting people to clean up abandoned and substandard housing. But it will be done with a light touch, he said, including finding help for those who physically or financially cannot address problems with their homes.
That’s the kind of approach Romers called for.
“There’s an appropriate approach that takes a lot of sensitivities,” he said, “because there are stories behind why some of them appear to be vacant ... but they can still be addressed and improved.”