Your guide to understanding development news in Richmond, VA

Become a development terminology expert fast than you can say “Special use permit for a mixed-use zone.”


Know your way around a planning commission meeting with our guide.

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If you want to be a development detective but find yourself turned around by the terminology in various city releases + news reports, never fear.

Here are some definitions of common terms paired with ongoing projects and examples you might recognize in the River City.


Projects that provide more than one purpose in the community, like a building with apartments on top and retail shops on the bottom. Expect to see combinations of housing, retail, parking, commercial, and industrial components.

Think: The upcoming Diamond District development should have plenty of mixed-use spaces.


Changing an area of land from the city’s designated use. Examples of rezoning requests might be developers looking to build a high-rise in a neighborhood with a certain building height restriction, or open a business in an area marked residential.

Think: City Council adopted an ordinance to rezone areas around City Center ahead of its redevelopment.

Special Use Permit

Granted to provide relief from regulations when land is being used in a manner not normally compatible with the zoning. Only granted when intended site use is deemed appropriate and compatible with the surrounding area.

Think: The city is considering changing the special use permit requirement for accessory dwelling units (also known as in-law suites).


A conceptual map of what City Center could look like post-redevelopment.

Screenshot via city documents

Enterprise Zones

Areas of the city where building a site earns you incentives, including a break on real estate taxes and money back from costs of relocating, machinery + equipment, and construction permits. The goal is to promote economic development, so only certain commercial and industrial users qualify.

Think: These currently include much of downtown, Scotts Addition, and City Center (see this map for all enterprise zones).

Technology Zones

Like Enterprise Zones, Technology Zones offer benefits + incentives to tech companies for the goal of getting more tech businesses situated and thriving in Richmond. This is a recent measure taken by the city — adopted Feb. 28 of this year — and is available for start-ups and businesses making $100,000 or less in annual revenue.

Think: The technology zone is actually city-wide — meaning any start-up that fits the requirements in Richmond can benefit.

Single family home

A freestanding building that shares no walls with other homes or structures. Single family is a type of zoning district in the city.

Example: Much of the Fan District is zoned as R-6 Single-Family Attached Residential.

Multifamily home

One building that contains multiple housing units. Multifamily is a type of zoning district in the city.

Example: The label R-48, 48, 53, 63, and 73 indicate multifamily residential districts on this map.

Principal Use

The primary activity or function of a site. A site’s principal use must be aligned with the zoning ordinances of the land it’s on.

Example: Living in a home within a residential zone is an allowable principal use.

Accessory Use

An activity or function of a site labeled subordinate or incidental.

Example: The garage or shed on your home property might be labeled an accessory use.

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