The financial state of Liberty University is stronger than ever with more than $3 billion in gross assets, according to numbers from the last fiscal year, said LU President Jerry Falwell Jr.

The report found that for every $1 of LU spending, $1.67 was generated in local economic activity and that one of every four jobs is “directly or indirectly attributable” to the university.
Reporter: Josh Moody
Lynchburg News & Advance 
October 2, 2018

Via text message to The News & Advance, Falwell said LU “passed $3 billion in gross assets in August” with “$2.48 billion in net assets” and “almost $1.7 billion in cash and investments,” per recent numbers.

With an emphasis on money generated from operations and donations, Falwell said that LU added a larger surplus in 2014 thanks to a strong return on endowment investments. That too is a strong point for Liberty, according to the annual study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute on college finances released in February, LU’s endowment for the 2016-17 fiscal year came in at $1.3 billion — a number that has grown since that report, looking at a prior year’s endowment, was released.

Falwell shared these new numbers with The News & Advance following a new economic impact report commissioned by Liberty, and released last week, that showed the university generated an estimated $1.3 billion a year in local and statewide economic activity.

“What this tells me about Liberty, is that it’s a huge economic engine for the area, and it’s becoming more and more pronounced as the years go by,” Falwell said.

That number matches the findings of a 2014 report commissioned by the university, which estimated that Liberty generated around $1.3 billion in estimated economic activity.

LU has spent $1 billion on facilities alone in recent years as part of a campus construction plan, adding new athletic facilities and academic buildings, and renovating existing structures.

The report, compiled by Richmond-based Mangum Economics, noted LU employs 6,797 people full time and its regional spending supports another 12,000 jobs, generating $434.3 million in labor income. The report found that direct spending by LU, associated enterprises, students and visitors totaled $618.3 million in the Lynchburg metropolitan statistical area during the course of the 2016-17 fiscal year. LU, students, and visitors generated another $106 million in collected tax revenue. In 2014, that number was reported at $116.7 million.“Liberty’s growth and their significant economic impact in Lynchburg — both in spending and employment — make them a primary anchor and partner for the City of Lynchburg,” Anna Bentson, Lynchburg assistant director of economic development, wrote via email.

The report found that for every $1 of LU spending, $1.67 was generated in local economic activity and that one of every four jobs is “directly or indirectly attributable” to the university.

A number of high-profile events have drawn visitors to Liberty this year. More than 50,000 attended graduation, nearly 15,000 participants came for the Commonwealth Games, at LU since 2016, and hundreds more attended the Miss Virginia Pageant in its first year at Liberty.

Bentson noted that the Commonwealth Games alone had a $2.6 million economic impact according to last year’s numbers, and LU also will host the State Games of America in 2019.

As LU’s economic impact has increased in recent years, so too has its influence with local government. Falwell said that relationships with local officials are better than ever.

“They’ve realized that Liberty’s intentions are to do things right, make things look good, to bring in students that really contribute to the city in many ways, through public service, through volunteerism, through being good employees, good tenants for landlords,” he said.

City Manager Bonnie Svrcek described LU as an economic engine for Lynchburg.

“The economic impact report simply documents the data that supports what we already know: Liberty University provides both a primary and secondary infusion of not only revenue into the City but provides human capital that contributes to the energy and fabric of our City,” Svrcek wrote in part of an email.

Falwell added that he’s also heard many anecdotal stories of students settling in the area after graduation and of family members of students moving to be near the university.

“There are some things that can’t be measured,” Falwell said.

Something the economic impact report does measure, though, is student growth. According to the report, LU experienced 783 percent growth in student population from 1992 to 2017. That number has slipped recently. The LU website used to claim total enrollment of around 115,000; the report claims that Liberty had a student headcount of 101,951 in 2016-17.

Falwell said the decline in enrollment was due to targeting fewer, more successful students.

“Even though enrollment is down a little bit, actual revenue and surplus of revenue over expenses is the highest it’s ever been from operations and donations,” Falwell said.

Officials from other area colleges said they have not conducted economic impact reports to determine spending generated by their institutions.

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On Wednesday the Lynchburg Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval to adopt a Graves Mill Corridor improvement study as part of the comprehensive plan.

Increasing traffic on Graves Mill Road could soon earn it a place in the city’s Comprehensive Plan for 2013 – 2030.
Reporter: Rachael Smith
Lynchburg News & Advance 
June 11, 2018

The future of Graves Mill Road, traversing 1.6 miles from Gristmill Drive in Bedford County to McConville Road in Lynchurg, could include new turn lanes, expanded ramps, a roundabout or even a newly designed highway interchange called a “diverging diamond.”

After local transportation officials from both Lynchburg and Bedford County identified issues with traffic volume and crash rates in the area, Region 2000’s Local Government Council and the Central Virginia Metropolitan Planning Organization began a process to study the stretch of Graves Mill Road between Gristmill and McConville roads.

“I’m real excited about what I’ve seen,” Planning Commissioner Cham Light said. “You’ve done a nice job addressing a very challenging situation out there.”

The study began last summer and was presented during two public meetings last winter and this spring at the Lynchburg Humane Society.

Bill Wuensch, principal transportation engineer and planner for EPR, the Charlottesville-based engineering company assisting with the study, said about 80 residents signed in to those meetings — many of whom live in the Graves Mill corridor.

“What we heard is folks were glad we were trying to get out in front of the development and future growth,” he said. “By and large people were concerned with congestion.”

After analyzing volume, traffic patterns and other issues, engineers have prepared a variety of projects that could improve capacity and safety. Listed in order from lowest cost, about $3 million to highest cost, about $6 million, the study has identified options that can be implemented from now to 2045 and beyond.

If the recommendations are adopted by city council, this does not mean the study’s ideas automatically will be implemented — instead, they will become options the city or Bedford County can pursue if they choose.

The corridor contains a mix of industrial, office and retail uses.

A crash analysis performed for the study covering the period from January 2012 to December 2016 identified crash patterns based on severity, roadway characteristics and environmental characteristics.

There were 142 crashes reported over the six year time period. Of those crashes, 100 involved property damage and 31 involved injuries. There was only one fatality at Gristmill Drive in 2013.

One of the low-cost and highest prioritized projects would be to widen Graves Mill Road from Creekside Drive to the Lynchburg Expressway in order to add a second right-hand turning lane onto the expressway near the Home Depot. This also would include widening the on-ramp to two lanes at the beginning, before traffic would merge back down to a single lane to enter the expressway.

Another less costly recommendation in the study would be to add a left turn lane from Graves Mill Road onto Gristmill Road as well as another right turn lane from Gristmill onto Graves Mill Road.

A large, high-cost way to address safety and congestion in the area would be the installation of a diverging diamond interchange, which would change the traffic pattern radically and remove left turns that cross traffic.

The new interchange would involve traffic switching sides of the road in between the two entrance and exit points onto the expressway, which would prevent traffic turning left onto the expressway from having to wait for a break in oncoming traffic to make the turn. Reducing the times cars have to turn across traffic, planners say, would decrease crashes in the area and quicken traffic flow.

Wuensch said the diverging diamond is very cost-efficient and is a key recommendation.

He said the Virginia Department of Transportation is encouraging localities install diverging diamonds and extra points are given on a SMART Scale application for the innovative traffic pattern.

The diverging diamond has been proven to be safer and simplifies the traffic light operation, he said,

Planning Commission Chair David Perault said he has driven through one and it was “brainless.”

“You follow the signs,” he said. “It was exciting to see.”

Planning Commissioner Robert Bowden said it looks confusing on paper but in reality is very smooth.

“It’s a great solution,” he said.

Another recommendation includes reconfiguring the intersection of Graves Mill Road and Millrace Drive to add new right-hand turning lanes on both sides of Millrace onto Graves Mill as well as new left turn lanes into both sides of Millrace from Graves Mill. However, the intersection also would prevent left turns from Millrace onto Graves Mill to prevent the possibility of crashes.

City council is tentatively scheduled to hear the recommendation on August 14.

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As Virginia rides the wave of a booming population in Northern Virginia toward a projected ranking of 10th most populous state in the union by 2040, Central Virginia is not getting left behind.

the city of Lynchburg is projected to grow to 96,000 residents by 2040
Reporter: Margaret Carmel
Lynchburg News & Advance 
July 5, 2017

 

 

According to the latest population projections released by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the city of Lynchburg is projected to grow to 96,000 residents by 2040, up from 79,047 measured in 2014, according to citydata.com. Between 2020 and 2040, the city is expected to add 15,000 residents, which is an estimated growth of 18 percent.

Just behind Lynchburg, Bedford County is expected to grow to 91,000 residents by 2040, with a growth rate of 15 percent between 2020 and 2040. The study estimates Bedford County’s current population of 76,000 residents will grow to just shy of 80,000 by 2020.

Appomattox County is expected to reach a population just shy of 18,000 residents by 2040, which is up from the currently population of about 15,000 people. The locality is projected to hit 15,900 residents by 2020 and then grow 11 percent over the next 20 years.

Campbell County also will add about 5,000 residents between 2020 and 2040 to reach a total population of 62,000. The current population of about 54,000 residents is expected to hit 57,000 by 2020.

Shonel Sen, a research and policy analyst with the Weldon Cooper Center, said metropolitan areas of all sizes are growing across the commonwealth, while rural areas are shrinking or holding steady.

“The divide between urban and rural communities is growing,” she said. “In terms of metro areas, a lot of the growth you’re seeing is coming from areas like Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and Richmond, but all other metro areas are also a large contributor to the population growth. Even when you’re looking at Central Virginia, the urban areas will pop up more in population.”

The Weldon Cooper Center’s Demographics Research Group produces the official annual population estimates for Virginia and its localities and serves governments at the federal, state and local levels as well as private companies with statistical research.

The state budget for fiscal year 2016-18 budget allocated funds $300,000 over two years for the new round of population estimates to help the government implement policy.

Despite growth in the more rural counties of Bedford, Appomattox and Campbell, Amherst and Nelson are lagging behind.

Amherst is projected to see a 2 percent population decrease between 2020 and 2040 to about 31,000 residents by 2040. The county’s current population is 32,000 and is expected to drop to 31,700 by 2020.

Nelson is predicted to grow to 15,244 by 2040, which is only marginally higher than the 2020 estimate of 14,941. The current population is estimated to be just 100 residents lower at 14,835.

The study did not focus on the causes of population growth or decline but instead studied previous trends and data collected from the last two censuses collected in 2000 and 2010 to create a model to project the near future.

“We tried to go back and see what the locality’s population structure was in the past and how that could change in the future,” Sen said. “These findings are a template for the future, but they may vary, and we intend to change these projections as we get more input data.”

Megan Lucas, CEO of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, said the results of the population projections are encouraging for the region’s existing businesses, and future ones that could be drawn to the area.

“Ultimately it means success for our existing industries, but it also means our labor force will grow, and that is important as we try to recruit industry into the region and tell our story,” she said.

Currently Virginia is ranked 12th in the nation for population with 8.4 million residents, but the study estimates the commonwealth could surge past New Jersey and Michigan and be home to 10.5 million people by 2040. The state of California is ranked first with 39 million and Wyoming comes in last with only 585,000.

Despite the increasing population in the commonwealth, Sen said the majority of the growth is coming from older residents who are living longer and growing old in Virginia.

“Even though the commonwealth is growing, it’s growing because of older people, plus there are medical advances so you have longer life expectancy. In terms of the future growth, about more than 50 percent that you can expect to see is people who are about 65 just growing older in the same place.”

Statewide, the population of Virginia residents 65 and older is projected to jump from about 1.4 million in 2020 to more than 1.9 million by 2040.

 

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Graves Mill Road has served as a transportation corridor since the 1700s, and it has been growing with traffic and business ever since — and regional officials looked at shaping the road’s future at a Tuesday public meeting at the Lynchburg Humane Society.

Officials, residents meet to discuss ways to alleviate traffic and wrecks in corridor
Reporter: Rachael Smith
Lynchburg News & Advance 
December 13, 2017

 

 

After Lynchburg and Bedford County planning and transportation officials informed Region 2000 Local Government Council about the concerns for high traffic volume and a higher-than average vehicular crash rate, a plan to improve traffic in the corridor was developed.

“There is rather extensive growth in this area,” Scott Smith, transportation planning director of Region 2000, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We wanted to get ahead of the growth and identify ways to address these issues.”

The meeting allowed area residents to see data on possible plans for the road.

Region 2000 Local Government Council and Central Virginia Metropolitan Planning Organization, in partnership with Bedford County and the city of Lynchburg and with assistance from Charlottesville-based engineering company EPR P.C., are conducting the study of Graves Mill Road between Gristmill Road and McConville Road in Lynchburg. The study began this summer and will be concluded next spring.

The planning process began in the summer and cost $65,000. It has been funded mostly by Region 2000, with some money from Lynchburg.

“Our job on a regional level is to help identify and prioritize projects and help get them ready for funding,” Smith said.

The area has grown during the past several years with new businesses like The Home Depot and Moore’s Country Store and will continue to grow with developments like Rosedale — a community that hopes to soon build and attract a hotel, grocery store, restaurants, a brewery and office space — as well as Elements at Old Graves Mill Road — new apartments being constructed.

Information

For more information or to submit concerns or questions, visit gravesmillplan.com.

“Graves Mill serves a larger purpose, and that is to get people from Forest to Lynchburg,” Smith said. “Forest is one of the fastest-growing areas of Bedford County and is one of the fastest-growing areas of Lynchburg metro. Even if no other businesses are proposed, we’re going to have increased traffic. It’s the connector of choice for most people.”

Every intersection between McConville Road and Gristmill Drive, except for one, has a higher than average crash rate than all of Lynchburg and the state, Smith said. There are seven signalized intersections and two with no signals in the corridor. The highest is Creek side Drive, where The Home Depot is located.

Bill Wuensch, principal transportation engineer and planner for EPR, has collected all of the data and looked at crash history.

Most crashes are caused by rear-ending and angle crashes — where drivers make turns and hit another vehicle. There is one reported fatality on Graves Mill Road since 2006, which occurred in 2013 near Bulls Steakhouse.

Kelly Duff Smith, of Amherst County — who works on Nationwide Drive, which intersects with Graves Mill Road — said she has to drive on the road on a daily basis.

There is a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Nationwide Drive, Graves Mill Road and McConville Road. In her opinion, she said drivers don’t know how to use it.

“When everyone is getting off at 5 o’clock p.m., it’s a madhouse and very dangerous because people don’t wait their turn to go, and it causes others to stop so they don’t get hit,” she said. “It has gotten worse and is more dangerous.”

She thinks there needs to be a stoplight instead of the four-way stop.

 

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One year after Lynchburg City Council voted to enter into a performance agreement to fund $5.9 million in roadwork for Rosedale, the developer is seeking a hotel for the 70-acre mixed-use development on Graves Mill Road.

Near the intersection with Old Graves Mill Road in Lynchburg, Rosedale’s developer aims to attract a hotel, apartments, townhomes, a trendy grocery store, restaurants, a brewery and other office space.

Developer Dick Schoew, also president of real estate development company Hopkins Brothers, said ideally the hotel would offer 80 rooms, with 75 percent being single rooms and 25 percent being suite-style with architecture that is complementary to a proposed Bella Rose event center.

Rosedale developer seeking hotel for Graves Mill Road site
Reporter: Rachael Smith  
Lynchburg News & Advance 
October 10, 2017

 

 

Schoew said the goal is not to make the development into a mall but a town center similar to the Boar’s Head resort in Charlottesville so new businesses will be attracted to the space. So far, about $6 million has been put into infrastructure.

“We’re betting we will be successful,” Schoew said. “We have to take one step at a time to plug in an apartment builder.”

Money reimbursed to Hopkins Brothers for construction of the road will come from tax revenue generated by the Rosedale property and the adjacent Bella Rose Plantation and Events Center during the course of 15 years, according to the performance agreement. Up until the first $3 million is paid out, the city will reimburse Hopkins Brothers 75 percent of annual tax revenue, and afterward, the city will return 55 percent of the collected tax revenue. This will continue up until the cap of $5,879,794 is reached or the 15-year agreement comes to an end.

The arrangement resembles the performance agreement between the developers of The Virginian hotel and the city for $5 million in gap financing for the project.

Schoew said he hopes to break ground on the road next spring but cannot do that until a hotel signs on as there needs to be development on the property before a road can be built.

The city will be reimbursed for the $5.9 million from what is gained in Rosedale taxes.

“The agreement with the city is to all of this together,” he said. “The city wants to see a place that will be destination for businesses when they come to town.”

Schoew said by the time the development is completed, it will extend back to the Stonemill Apartments on the expressway.

 “We’re trying to develop a Golden Mile, an entrepreneurial mile that goes from here all the way to the expressway that [will] become a main street for the newest thing Lynchburg has to offer,” he said.

Schoew said a hotel group has been identified that would be a good fit for the town center. He said he could not disclose the name of the hotel group at this time.

Mayor Joan Foster, who has been supportive of the development since the beginning, said she was happy to hear the hope of getting a hotel in Rosedale is becoming a reality.

“Hopefully if we have businesses come in, which I hope they will, with Bella Rose and things happening in that location, other pieces will hopefully fall into place,” she said.

With the proposed event center at Bella Rose, people will need a place close by to stay, she added.

“It’s exciting news that that’s in the works,” she said.

Brian Runk, owner of Bella Rose, said the wedding and conference venue is the first anchor on the Rosedale property and has become the face of what more could happen there.

“When developers are interested in Rosedale, we’re always involved in how we could complement that,” he said. “We partner with them on the creative side. We are the business anchor of Rosedale so we can show what can be there and what the potential can be.”

When the hotel is built, it directly will benefit the proposed Bella Rose event center, which Lynchburg City Council approved earlier this year.

The event center is planned to hold between 300 and 400 people.

“The hotel is great for our guests,” Runk said. “Everything would be close by and on shared access so everything flows. Having the hotel there would facilitate the growth of everything already going on.”

 

 “It’s a fabulous property,” he said, speaking of Rosedale. “The challenge of the property was always: how can you afford all of the improvements that need to be made along Graves Mill so it doesn’t turn into another Wards Road?”

Foster said the city is experiencing development in different pockets, and she finds that exciting.

“We are growing in population, there is increased quality of life and people are interested in Lynchburg,” she said. “When they come to visit, they fall in love with the city.”

She hopes in the future, poverty rates can be driven down and income can be driven up. She said she remains hopeful the development is on-track and will come to fruition.

“I’m hoping City Council now and in the future will pay close attention to growth issues and smart development, and so far, we have,” she said.

Schoew said once a hotel comes, the rest of the development will come together with townhomes and apartments.

It is possible, Schoew said, between now and Thanksgiving, he could find a group that wants to buy the entire property, but there is a better chance there will be several participants who want one piece.

“We put a value on the whole property because anyone looking at the property will always ask what we would take for the whole thing, and that’s $4.8 million,” he said.

Schoew said getting a hotel in the city anywhere other than on Wards Road is an accomplishment.

“We feel we have cleared that bar,” he said. “We now have a hotel that would be very desirable as an extension of Bella Rose.”

Schoew has been working with Taylor Long Properties in Richmond to bring several buyers who are interested in buying part of the property for development with the understanding the first priority is to build the hotel.

“If you’re going to build a town center, and it’s going to be a place where new businesses can set up, you need a hotel,” he said.

The Lynchburg Planning Commission unanimously gave its recommendation Tuesday to amend a concept plan to allow the future construction of an event center at Bella Rose Plantation on Graves Mill Road.

Planning commission recommends inclusion event center in concept plan
Reporter: Sherese Gore 
Lynchburg News & Advance 
February 22, 2017

 

 

The developers of Bella Rose say they are seeking to keep pace with a growing demand for larger events.

Located on a more than seven-acre parcel at 1220 Graves Mill Road, Bella Rose currently is used as a wedding venue.  An antebellum manor house is located at the property as well as a mill.

Bella Rose was included as part of a concept plan for a conditional use permit for the adjacent Rosedale mixed-use commercial and residential development that was approved by Lynchburg City Council in 2014.

The concept plan currently does not include the proposed event center at Bella Rose, requiring the need to have the plan amended.

According to an architectural rendering included in meeting documents, the new facility would be three stories in height and would share an antique appearance with the existing manor. The new center would have a maximum capacity of 350 people.

No one spoke in favor or against Bella Rose’s petition during a public hearing.

One point of discussion by commissioners concerned a traffic study that was conducted in 2013 for the Rosedale development that projected traffic delays at ramps connecting Graves Mill Road to the Lynchburg Expressway will be exacerbated by growth along the corridor.

City Planner Tom Martin said a 350-seat event center will not generate nearly enough traffic as the traffic of the overall Rosedale development.

“In terms of making those ramps fail, I would highly doubt this event center would be the straw that broke the camel’s back right now,” Martin said.

The proposed amendment to the concept plan will require final approval by Lynchburg City Council, which will consider the amendment at a later date.

Commissioner Cham Light said he’s happy to see Bella Rose has been successful.

“It’s exceeded, I think, everybody’s reasonable expectations as to how nice it has contributed to the community, Light said. “When you saw a house and a piece of property, that in my mind, was in calamitous decline, I tip my hat to the parties involved that have moved the project forward.”

A two-story adult treehouse currently is being constructed on the grounds of Bella Rose and will be featured on an episode of Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters.”

After the meeting, Brian Runk, of Bella Rose, said there is no defined timeline in place for the construction of the new event center. His wife, Vickie Runk, said Bella Rose is getting many requests for larger events.

“This is really planning for the future so that as we grow, this is approved,” Brian Runk said.

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Spending a night in a treehouse is a child-hood fantasy that could come true for Lynchburg couples and visitors starting a month from now. Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters” is bringing a new honeymoon treehouse to the grounds of the Bella Rose Plantation on Graves Mill Road just in time for the wedding season.

“Treehouse Masters” specializes in constructing full-size treehouses for adults who want a Swiss Family Robinson-style getaway but with all of the comforts of a modern home.

Two-story honeymoon retreat will overlook Bella Rose wedding site 
Reporter: Margaret Carmel 
Lynchburg News & Advance 
February 17, 2017

 

 

Even though Bella Rose only just began holding weddings in May of last year, the dream for a treehouse on the property began three years ago for Vickie Runk when she and her husband, Brian, purchased the Bella Rose property with plans of establishing the wedding venue.

“I told [“Treehouse Masters”] our story, that we had this great tract of land that was historic in nature and we were only a few miles from Thomas Jefferson’s historic summer home Poplar Forest,” she said. “My idea was that we would do a Jeffersonian-style treehouse and put in lots of the components that Jefferson used back in the day because that was the time this property was fully intact.”

Scheduled to be completed after just four weeks of construction, the two-story treehouse will overlook the wedding site at the back of the Bella Rose property. The structure will be assembled in prefabricated sections and be fully anchored to the ground and the tree to prevent shifting. Upon completion, it is estimated to weigh 75,000 pounds.

Runk has been working with a designer based in New York to come up with the concept for the interior, which will be modeled in a Jeffersonian style. The structure will be an octagon shape, modeled after Poplar Forest. “This is just an unbelievable experience that I will never forget,” she said. “This is the first treehouse [the show has done] that will have actual drywall in it to resemble the plaster Thomas Jefferson used, and it will have windows top to bottom.”

Long after Runk thought they had been overlooked for a spot on the show, a call came in from “Treehouse Masters” in March 2016 about the possibility of an episode. For the show’s star and lead treehouse designer Pete Nelson, the combination of never having built a treehouse in Virginia and the proximity of the historic vacation home of Thomas Jefferson drew him to the project.

“I’m a big history buff, especially American history, so the ability to come and see Poplar Forest and build something modeled after it on this historic property was great,” said Nelson, the owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply based out of Fall City in Washington state. “I saw the Runks as having a high level of excitement and always saying ‘what’s next’ and ‘what can we do now.'”

In addition to the treehouse, the Runks also have two other major construction projects in the works for the property. In the next two months, construction will begin on a large greenhouse cathedral to host weddings inside during bad weather. Additionally, plans are in the works for a large event center capable of hosting 350 to 400 guests for larger weddings.

Bella Rose Plantation has partnered with the planned mixed-use Rosedale development located on the tract of land next to the wedding venue. In a contentious November Lynchburg City Council meeting, the council voted to allow up to $5.9 million in property taxes raised from both the Bella Rose Plantation and Rosedale properties to be reimbursed to the developers to fund the main road leading from Graves Mill Road onto the Rosedale tract over 15 years.

The Lynchburg Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed event center Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. in the second floor conference room of City Hall. City Council tentatively is scheduled to hear the petition at 7:30 p.m. April 11.

“I think that Lynchburg is in for some really great news about Rosedale, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be the start of that development,” Runk said. “It will bring a lot of great things to the city and give the community more options.”

In the meantime, Runk looks forward to the treehouse coming together.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to take this journey,” she said. “The wedding season is just kicking off for us, which means so many brides will be able to use the treehouse exactly as I had imagined it.”

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By the close of 2016 the Preserve At Oakwood, an upscale residential development located on the former fairways of the Oakwood Country Club golf course had completed the sale of all but one of its initial (28) Phase I&II custom home lots and town home Villas. Developer Dick Schoew of Hopkins Brothers LP&D and his business associates in the project, Bryant Hare and Fred Howell, say the success of the project comes as validation of a process that made saving the Oakwood’s landmark green spaces along Link Road a top priority.

The Preserve at Oakwood
Inside Boonsbono  
February Issue, 2017

 

 

Schoew said “the site plans of our primary competitor for the Oakwood project, a well known Richmond area developer, stressed an approach of maximizing housing density. On the other hand, we were the local guys who knew we would have to live with the disappointment of our peers if the finished project failed to live up to the expectations for what has arguably been considered in recent years as the finest remaining undeveloped  residential green space property in all of our Lynchburg city limits. Slicing and dicing the old golf course into another ‘cookie cutter’ housing development was simply never an option.  We just felt so strongly that an undeveloped open space of Oakwood’s size, character and location in the heart of Lynchburg’s most prized neighborhoods came with an obligation to go the extra mile.’

Currently The Preserve is introducing its Phase II with (19) new lots and Villas. For more information on the Preserve At Oakwood go to www.hopkinsbros.com.

Economic impacts from tourism in the Lynchburg region exceeded $500 million in 2015, according to a report from the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

The tourism industry employed about 5,334 people in the city of Lynchburg and counties of Nelson, Campbell, Bedford, Amherst and Appomattox. The industry also generated more than $17 million in local taxes for the area last year.

The data, released in September, represents estimates of direct spending by visitors from at least 50 miles away, including food, accommodations, auto transportation, public transportation, incidental purchases, entertainment and recreation, according to VTC.

Region generated more than $500 dollars in 2015
Reporter: Margaret Carmel
Lynchburg News & Advance
October 14, 2016

 

 

The city of Lynchburg and Nelson County combined saw total spending from visitors nearly $370 million, with $176,856,705 and $190,973,532, respectively. Bedford County came in third for the region with $101,015,681. All three localities have seen growth in tourism dollars spent of more than 10 percent since 2011.

According to Sergei Troubepzkoy, director of Lynchburg’s Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, much of the city’s growth comes from sporting events and conferences being held in Lynchburg.

“Lynchburg is in a great location to attract statewide conferences because [organizers] like picking communities that are centrally located,” he said. “Getting some events like the Commonwealth Games has certainly helped.”

Troubepzkoy also pointed to the revitalization of the downtown area as a draw for tourists, both first-time visitors and people who have not visited in a long time.

“We consistently hear that [visitors] are surprised by what they see,” he said. “There has been so much change in such a short amount of time. One thing we hear consistently is how impressed with what they’re seeing they are, particularly with the downtown area. I think that’s helping to grab their attention.”

As opposed to the growing downtown area and development surrounding Liberty University that attracts visitors to Lynchburg, Nelson’s growth has come from tourists seeking outdoor recreation and natural beauty.

“We are known for our pristine landscapes, craft food and beverages, and we are known as a destination for lifestyle music events,” said Maureen Kelley, director of tourism and economic development for Nelson County.

Part of the Brew Ridge Beer Trail passes through Nelson, which guides beer enthusiasts to several breweries throughout the county. Nelson also has hosted the Lock’n music festival since 2013, which brings thousands of music enthusiasts to Arrington for several days of music.

Beginning in 2006, Nelson County started laying the groundwork to grow their tourism industry, Kelley said.

 “We’ve been really working on making sure the businesses who come here thrive and can expand, she said. “We’re seeing the fruits of our labor from all of that work.”

With tourist attractions like the Appomattox Court House and the Peaks of Otter and the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford in surrounding counties where hotel rooms are scarcer, many visitors to the region stay in Lynchburg in order to visit the neighboring localities, Troubepzkoy said.

Hotel occupancy rates in Lynchburg have remained steady at 59 percent in a year-over-year comparison between August 2016 and August 2015 in data collected by STR Inc., a travel research firm. The study also found the average price paid for a hotel room has risen slightly over the same time period.

Despite the steady occupancy rate, Troubepzkoy said this is a positive indication due to the construction of several hotels in the past year.

“We’ve been increasing the number of rooms, but our occupancy is staying the same, so we’re building occupancy,” he said. “Even though we’re constantly building rooms, we have no problem selling those rooms.”

The increase in regional tourism comes amid a statewide increase in tourism spending, which saw an increase from $19.2 billion in 2008 to $22.9 billion in 2015. According to VTC, tourism spending contributed $1.6 billion in state and local taxes for Virginia in 2015.

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For more than a year, a large gold-and-black sign advertising the Rosedale development has stood alone in a large open tract of land on Graves Mill Road, near the intersection of Old Graves Mill Road in Lynchburg.

The proposed 62-acre, mixed-use development is planned to include a mix of office space, nature trails, dining, a hotel, shopping and about 135 residential units. After City Council voted late Tuesday to enter into a performance agreement with the developer to fund $5.9 million in roadwork necessary for the project’s completion, Rosedale is moving ahead.

According to the developers, the bidding process for the construction of the main road through the property will begin in the next two months. They expect groundbreaking to begin during the spring or early summer of 2017. Upon completion, the roadwill be turned over to the city. Dick Schoew, president of Hopkins Brothers, the developers behind the project, praised City Council on Wednesday for its support.

 “What the city did for us last night put us in a position to grow our project,” Schoew said. “That piece of land out there is not just going to fill up with knock-off kind of development. We’ve got time to do the thing right and to do something pretty substantial with it.”

Schoew said the next step for the development will be to secure contracts for a boutique hotel with 80 to 90 rooms, an upscale restaurant and a microbrewery he said would be similar to Devils Backbone.

Rosedale project moves forward
Reporter: Margaret Carmel
Lynchburg News & Advance
October 13, 2016

 

 

The 6-1 vote to fund the road construction was preceded by a heated discussion between council members in favor of the deal and Councilman Jeff Helgeson, who voted against it.

“There is nothing about this that I like,” Helgeson said during the meeting Tuesday night. “This is $5.8 million you cannot cut from our heavy tax burden on our citizens. It’s not money we can give to our firefighters or our teachers because we’re going to give it to these guys so they can build a driveway into their property.”

Councilman Randy Nelson countered with the argument developers are under much stricter regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation and need assistance to undertake large projects.

“All of the requirements that the city expects its projects to have included in there, that didn’t used to be the case, make it extremely difficult for any developer to take upon themselves the financial expenses of any large project,” Nelson said.

Money reimbursed to Hopkins Brothers for the construction of the road will come from tax revenue raised by the Rosedale property and the adjacent Bella Rose Plantation and Events Center during the course of 15 years, according to the performance agreement. Up until the first $3 million is paid out, the city will reimburse Hopkins Brothers 75 percent of annual tax revenue, and from that point onward, the city will return 55 percent of the collected tax revenue. This will continue up until the cap of $5,879,794 is reached or the 15-year agreement comes to an end.

Helgeson said the agreement is not in line with what the city and developer had discussed in 2014, when City Council rezoned the land.”I see this as a deal that has changed so drastically when it was put to us as a council two years ago,” he said. “It wasn’t a decade ago when development was so different; it was two years ago. Two years ago, you said you were going to [build the road]. I don’t think it’s the city taxpayer’s responsibility to make up for poor financial projections.”

In September 2014, City Council laid out its criteria for participation in such an agreement. Council’s Finance Committee said the new road would have to provide connectivity to Breeze wood Drive, and the city would provide no more than a 50 percent reimbursement for the hard costs of the road and reimburse the developer for 10 years.

According to meeting documents about the agreement, the developer originally asked for a cap of $8 million for the road construction, but city staff recommended a lower amount. Nelson lobbied for the higher cap Tuesday, citing inflation and shifting federal loan rates over time that could raise costs.

“Projecting the cost of a project that is going to be completed years and years from now to say that $5.9 million is a reasonable cap is to ignore what can and will happen,” he said. “I don’t want to approve a project and put an artificial cap on it that may not be realistic given a changing economy and have to pour money into this because we got the developer to build it at minimum quality.”

 When Councilwoman Mary Jane Dolan made a motion to keep the cap at $5.9 million, Helgeson abstained in the vote because he thought it was a “dumb motion.” Council members are not allowed to abstain from a vote unless they have a conflict of interest or the abstention has been approved by the board.

When Councilman Turner Perrow called his abstention “a cop out” and pressed Helgeson to “hit yes or no,” Helgeson replied he “wasn’t voting because you’re an a–,” and said Perrow should “stop getting in a hissy fit like a schoolgirl.”

When reached by phone Wednesday, Perrow chose not to comment on the interaction.

On Tuesday, Perrow emphasized the importance of having connectivity from Rosedale to a large piece of land behind it, referred to as the Skinner tract, and the potential for future connectivity to Breezewood Drive.

“This is a road that connects through this project that unlocks other pieces of land,” Perrow said. “This is a road that we very well could be paying for ourselves, and this is a good way to finance a project for something we desire to have.”

According to a project timeline included in meeting documents, developers have been in talks with the city over funding for road improvements both within the proposed development and on Graves Mill Road since 2012. Originally, the developers approached the city and requested they build a road and turn signal in exchange for a donation of the right-of-way. The turn signal was not discussed as part of the approved agreement.

In 2014, City Council approved a conditional use permit and the rezoning of 42 acres off Graves Mill Road just past Home Depot to allow the project. The following year, City Council approved a conditional use permit that amended the earlier conditional use permit and the rezoning of about 27 acres that was not included in the previous rezoning.

This arrangement resembles the performance agreement between the developers of The Virginian hotel and the city, for a total of $5 million in gap financing for the project.

 

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Lynchburg City Council voted 6-1 to approve a performance agreement with the developers of the Rosedale project off of Graves Mill Road, with Councilman Jeff Helgeson the sole vote against the agreement.

As per the recommendation of City Manager Bonnie Svrcek, the city will reimburse Golden Mile LLC, the owners of the property, 100 percent of the costs of building the main road through the development up to a cap of $5.9 million.

The funds for the reimbursement will come directly from new tax revenues generated by the Rosedale development and the adjacent Bella Rose Plantation beginning Jan. 1, 2017. The developer will be reimbursed 75 percent of the revenues up until $3 million is paid out and then will be reimbursed 55 percent of revenue from there up until the cap of $5,879,794 is reached.

Region generated more than $500 dollars in 2015
Reporter: Margaret Carmel 
Lynchburg News & Advance 
October 12, 2016

 

 

In September 2014, City Council laid out its criteria for participation in such an agreement. City Council’s Finance Committee said it would require no more than 50 percent reimbursement for the hard costs of the road, connectivity to Breezewood Drive and only would reimburse the developer for 10 years.

According to a project timeline included in meeting documents, the developers have been in talks with the city over funding for road improvements both within the proposed development and on Graves Mill Road since 2012. Originally, the developers approached the city and requested they build a road and turn signal in exchange for a donation of the right-of-way.

In 2014, City Council approved a conditional use permit and the rezoning of 42 acres off Graves Mill Road just past Home Depot to allow the project. The following year, City Council approved a conditional use permit that amended the earlier conditional use permit and the rezoning of about 27 acres that was not included in the previous rezoning.

The agreement is between the city; Golden Mile LLC, the owner of the Rosedale development; Bella Rose Plantation LLC, a historic home used for weddings and events on the property; and the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority.

This agreement resembles the arrangement for a total of $5 million loaned to the developers of the Virginian hotel project on Church Street by the city for gap financing in 2015.

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