Inside Regency Square Mall -- not the experiencing people are looking for these days.
Inside Regency Square Mall — not the experience people are looking for these days.

by James A. Bacon

Thalhimer Realty Partners Inc. and The Rebkee Co., two Richmond-area developers, have closed on the purchase of Regency Square Mall for $13.1 million. That’s a bargain-basement price for a property that had been assessed for $25 million a recently as a year ago and once was the premier mall in the Richmond region.

The big question to those of us living in western Henrico is what the new owners have in mind for the mall. According to an account in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today, the new owners want to renovate the mall and reclaim its status as a pre-eminent retail location. They have no intention at present to raze the structure. However, they indicated that they are open on how to develop the property. “Nothing is off the table,” said Rob Hargett, a principal at Rebkee.

As I argued in this month’s Henrico Monthly (reproduced in the previous post) Regency Square is a strategically central property for the Tuckahoe district of Henrico County. It’s the dominant retail presence for a much larger commercial district around the intersection of Parham and Quioccasin Roads. What happens at Regency will shape future commercial re-development and determine the character of surrounding neighborhoods. If the new owners simply recycle the old mall into a new retail center that perpetuates the low-density, autocentric character of the area, we follow one path. If they re-develop the property as a walkable, mixed-use “town center,” we follow a very different path.

In other words, Henrico County residents have at tremendous stake in how the mall is re-developed.

Based on my research, Regency Square doesn’t have a future as a regional retail center akin to Short Pump Mall, which enjoys access to two interstate highways. Regency’s pull will be sub-regional — mainly from the Tuckahoe district of Henrico County — and the new property owners need to calibrate their re-development plans to that reality. Of course, having picked up the property for a thrift-shop price, $13 million, dusting off the old mall and spiffing it up may be a viable, low-risk strategy for them. Another possibility is bringing in an activity generator like a medical facility or an educational institution, as other malls have done successfully around the country.

Redeveloping the property as a town center would take longer, involve more consultation with the community and require cooperation from Henrico County to build a street grid, but the payback could be considerably higher. I have put in a call to Rebkee to see if the new owners have considered a more ambitious re-development option than the one they described to the Times-Dispatch. It’s possible that they did and that they determined that a market for such a project does not exist.

Personally, I think Henrico County is ready for islands of walkable urbanism, as long as the re-development preserves the integrity of existing residential neighborhoods. This opportunity is too good to waste. Let’s hope that Henrico County leaders make the most of it.

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3 responses to “Hither Regency Square?”

  1. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    Wow. 13 million for a property assessed at 23 million? I imagine you’re correct….at that price, they’ll try to keep a mall for a couple more years just to test the market. That’s a steal at that price.

    Here’s an interesting mixed use proposal for you:

    1. A unique setting! So many great features going for it, the river and two trails, historic canal, the nearby city street mall for urban life, but hemmed in by limited access and that still-active railroad trestle. Let’s hope that the same County that has handled rampant commercial sprawl and stroading so poorly north of town can do better to the east.

  2. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

    I have a lot of fond memories of Recency Mall and I’m sad it’s time has come to an end. That said, let’s think radically outside the box: how about they blow the roof off the promenade, unify some of the shops and turn it into cohousing.

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