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What’s the future for Willow Lawn?

The shopping center is set for a long-term mixed-use redevelopment that could take place over 20 years.


Willow Lawn is located near city limits in Henrico County.

Photo by RICtoday

Table of Contents

It looks like redevelopment is again in the cards for Willow Lawn. News broke in August that the site’s owner, Federal Realty Trust, was looking to turn the Henrico shopping center into a mixed-use site. Last week, the county planning commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors to approve the rezoning request.

The rezoning request document illustrates the scope of redevelopment Federal Realty Trust is after. It anticipates the project will take place in stages over the next two or three decades, eventually adding as many as 2,000 residential units and 510,000 sqft of commercial and office space.


An overhead look at the current Willow Lawn shopping center.

Photo via Henrico County documents

The document also notes that “the mix of uses will occur both vertically and horizontally.” Federal Realty is reportedly planning one 10-story mixed-use building, with other buildings generally standing at six floors.

Conceptual illustrations in the document are wide-ranging in terms of style, with examples given for traditional façades, contemporary designs, and architecture inspired by Willow Lawn’s original Miller & Rhoads store and S&W Cafeteria.

There are also visuals for different kinds of street lighting, outdoor furniture, bike and pedestrian facilities, outdoor amenities, and parking garages.


In this diagram, dark blue sections would be zoned for mixed-use, light blue would be mixed-use (commercial), and gray would be mixed-use (residential), centered around a courtyard.

Photo via Henrico County documents

With the future of Willow Lawn still in the imagination stages, we want to know: What do you think should be included in a redevelopment?

Would you want to live or work at a reimagined Willow Lawn? What tenants would you want to move into the space? Or are there issues with the current shopping center that you think should be addressed? Editor Robin here — I’d love it if the area were more bikeable, since navigating all those parking lots can be tricky.

Tell us your thoughts by taking our quick survey.

Reader feedback

Here’s what readers said when asked about the pending redevelopment of Willow Lawn.

We got a good mix of Willow Lawn shoppers, with most respondents saying they go to the area sometimes (once a month or so) or regularly (once a week or so).

People were pretty split on what they’d be most excited to see in Willow Lawn’s future. Green space came away with a plurality, with 36% of respondents saying that’s what they most look forward to. Restaurants came away with 30% and small businesses 26%, leaving 8% for residential space.

Several respondents brought up the prospect of more outdoor appeal.

One reader commented, “I like the feel of a village with walkable accessibility and green spaces to enjoy.”

Another response said, “If the development was made with significant green space (including native species) and if it had opportunities for outdoor dining adjacent to those spaces, I would not only go to visit but would consider living there.”

The most common ask for residential space was that apartments be made affordable for most Richmonders. Many respondents also brought up concerns over parking and traffic.

In terms of businesses, the consensus seemed to be keep them local. We heard a lot of requests for small, boutique-style shops similar to Carytown’s offerings, including consignment shops. The same went for restaurants, with a lot of calls for more local spots or satellite locations of Richmond favorites.

When asked what else Willow Lawn might be missing, the responses cast a wide net. We got calls for more amenities like a food hall, expanded kids play area, and bike racks. Many responses also shouted out larger chains. Trader Joe’s, Sephora, Marshall’s, and Dunkin got multiple mentions.


Should we do a story on the Willow Lawn Theatre?

Photo via rivest266

One reader suggested bringing back a movie theater. Willow Lawn had a historic one, opened in 1956, which was the first in the area to offer 70mm screenings. It closed in the eighties and a Regal was built on the site, but then that closed in 2001.

Editor’s note: We also received one passionate plea regarding the lack of small carts available at the Willow Lawn Kroger:

“Why is it impossible to find a little cart at the Kroger? Are they all in the parking lot? I can only ever find the big huge carts and I want just a little guy. Otherwise I do shop there a lot.”

If anyone has inside information on how to help this reader have more consistent luck finding a small cart, let us know.