A jewel on the riverfront

A near-$50 million project would transform the South River Complex into The Mill at South River. And perhaps help transform Downtown Waynesboro into a jewel on the riverfront.
“This can be such a neat project for Waynesboro,” said Beverly Shoemaker of Winchester, the owner of the 40-acre property with a history as an economic engine in Waynesboro dating back to the 1920s.
Formerly the home to the Crompton Shenandoah plant, The Mill at South River would adapt the industrial site into a mixed-use commercial, retail and residential development with space for medical, legal and other professional offices, education and research facilities, retail and restaurants and apartment and studio living spaces.

An application for a rezoning that would allow for the new development will be submitted to the city for review on Friday, said Michael Bryan, the attorney for South River Inc., a Winchester-based development company leading the project effort.

Pending approval by Waynesboro City Council, construction on the first phase of the project could get going in the late summer or early fall, Bryan said.

The development schedule calls for the phased work to be completed within a seven- to 10-year period, Bryan said.

I’m not getting the sense that there should be any expectations that there will be any holdups on the rezoning issue, at the least. Assistant city manager Jim Shaw said the proposal that was made public today has been two years in the making, implying that a lot of i’s have been dotted and t’s have been crossed even before getting to the public-review phase that is to come.

There could be questions regarding the location of the complex in the South River floodplain, though I would think that there wouldn’t be much to be concerned about there considering that the existing South River Complex is in the floodplain and has been since the first buildings went up at the site in the late 1920s. I would expect some consideration being given to asking the developers to implement flood-mitigation measures as they go about the adaptive reuse of the buildings at the location, and in fact would recommend such.

Questions may also arise about the impact on traffic on Arch Avenue. Shaw addressed that at a news conference on the proposal today, noting that the former Crompton Shenandoah plant had 800 employees on the site at the height of their operations, and the road network that serves the site had been designed to accommodate the flow of traffic associated therein.

A bigger question to me comes beyond whatever happens with the rezoning, namely, will the city be asked to participate in the redevelopment effort in the form of monies to go toward infrastructure improvements that may need to be made at the site, either in the form of the road network or flood mitigation, or even more generally in the economic-development sphere in working with the developers to try to attract tenants to the space?

I posed a question on that topic to Bryan, who brushed it aside as only a lawyer could, insisting that the development team was focused at this time on the rezoning request and hadn’t given consideration to other questions related to the redevelopment effort.

My guess is that the question of city participation will be the key one that will need to be answered before this is all said and done. And while I’m not one for signing blank checks without having a good handle on the amount that will have to eventually fill in the blank, I’m hoping after we do our due diligence that the answer to that question is a hearty yes, we will do what we can within reason to make this project happen.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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