Believe it or not, Williamsburg is about as large a city as it will ever be.
The corporate limits will never extend, the downtown buildings will never get any taller and Colonial Williamsburg will never transform into a monument to modern American strip malls.
Despite these constraints, Mayor Clyde Haulman targeted three areas in need of economic redevelopment in the near future during the annual State of the City speech in November — including the high-traffic shopping center adjacent to the College of William and Mary School of Education.
“The hope is that the new School of Education gives focus to that [area] and the arts district gives focus to that,” Haulman said. “That area seems to have potential.”
Bordered by Richmond Road and Monticello Avenue, the Williamsburg Shopping Center is currently home to several businesses, including Bloom, Sal’s by Victor, Marshalls, Goodwill and Stein Mart.
Although there are no plans to redevelop the location in the immediate future, Haulman said he would like to see the College and community begin to explore strategies to revive the area.
“What possibilities that exist there need to be discussed,” he said. “What types of economic activity can take place there, given what’s out there on Richmond Road and New Town?”
He added that such a conversation could influence the city’s comprehensive plan for 2012.
According to city Planning Director Reed Nester, the shopping center currently operates as a B-3 zoning district, which permits muli-family dwellings with a special use permit. Any residential construction would require a two-to-one ratio of housing units to commercial space, with a maximum of 14 units per square acre.
City Council member Scott Foster ’10 cited two recent examples of mixed-use redevelopment that could serve as a model for future economic expansion: the City Green Apartments on Richmond Road and the soon-to-be-completed Tribe Square.
“We have a strong need for student housing that provides a lifestyle and price point students want,” he said. “People in the business community are looking to see what happens at Tribe Square.”
City Green took the place of a shuttered motel and Dis-N-That. The area now features apartments, a Domino’s Pizza and retail space available for lease. Tribe Square is expected to offer student friendly retail or dining on its ground floor, with 14 four-person apartments on the second and third floors.
College spokesman Brian Whitson said that although the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation remains focused on completing Tribe Square before considering further expansion, he acknowledged that the College has considered expanding to locations around the Williamsburg Shopping Center in the past.
“There’s nothing in the works at this time,” Whitson said. “But President [Taylor] Reveley said when we broke ground on Tribe Square, this is Act I.”
Although Haulman praised Tribe Square as a positive change, he cautioned that any future redevelopment not be confined to the parameters of multi-use residential complexes. A focus group is currently in the process of putting together recommendations for the area around Capital Landing Road and Second Street as well as a new development in Riverside that will include a hospital and retail.
“I think there are some neighborhoods in the city where a Braxton Court-type project could be helpful,” he said. “But I think we need to look much broader for that at Capitol Landing and Williamsburg Shopping Center.”