By Andrew Arnold
Lexington City Manager Jim Halasz finalized the city’s request earlier this week for companies to propose plans to develop land near Maury River Middle School.
Halasz’s action on Tuesday means that prospective contractors can review the proposal and submit offers to the city for development of the 5.47-acre property off Waddell Street that used to be the site of a Virginia Department of Transportation hub for service vehicles and equipment.
The city set a March 17 deadline for proposals.
“You (a contractor) tell us what your vision is. You tell us why you’re the best company to work with us as a partner,” Halasz said, explaining what the city is soliciting from developers.
In its request, the city outlined two categories that are priorities: commercial development and construction of multi-family housing.
The city said in its request that commercial development could include retail, technology, medical, recreation and office space. Halasz also emphasized the city’s desire for housing for low- to moderate-income families.
Council Member Leslie Straughan said she is open to any ideas for developing the land.
“Ideally, it would be nice to see a grocery store go in there because it’s on flat land, but I doubt that will probably happen,” said Straughan, who also serves as council’s liaison to the city Planning Commission.
She said she would like to see the Kroger on East Nelson Street relocate to the property, which is next to Maury River Middle School. She said she does not think that will happen because Kroger’s current location is closer to town and residential areas.
Straughan said the goal is to generate property taxes for the city.
“This way, if we can grow our base and have more taxable properties and have some developer on that, it’s good for everybody,” she said.
The land was owned by VDOT before it moved to another location nearly a decade ago, Halasz said.
It’s taken years for the city to reach the point of soliciting development proposals because it needed permission from the commonwealth to buy the property.
In 2019, the General Assembly approved the sale of the land to Lexington. The city then began conducting assessments to ensure there was no contamination from underground gas tanks or any other chemicals that VDOT had been using at the site.
The Department of Environmental Quality took about 18 months before finding that the land had not been contaminated.
In March 2022, the city finalized the purchase of the land.
Halasz said he realizes that the economic environment is not ideal right now for developers because of persistent supply shortages caused by the COVID-19 epidemic and inflation.
“You got increased costs that probably limit a lot developers or businesses looking at opportunities like this,” he said. “So, we’re just going to throw it out there and see what happens.”