City approves Union Seminary’s special exception request

The City of Richmond has granted Union Presbyterian Seminary a special exception that allows it to proceed with development of 15 acres of the Westwood Tract as planned, without removing existing structures on the remaining 19 acres of the property.

The decision by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) allows the seminary to move forward in constructing new apartments for students and the public without further delay.

“At long last, we are in a position to put the land to use to fulfill our mission to equip the next generation of faith leaders,” said Union President Brian K. Blount.

Under a plan approved by the school’s board of trustees in April 2015 and by the City of Richmond, 15-acres of the property will be developed as a joint venture with Bristol Corporation, creating a market-rate apartment community with 300 high quality units. The development allows Union to replace student housing that is inadequate and outdated, help attract new students, generate rental income and reduce the draw on the seminary’s endowment. The western 19 acres will remain undeveloped for three years.

When the Westwood Tract was donated to the seminary in 1910 by a group of seminary supporters for the school’s expansion, plans called for the full development of the land, including housing, a gymnasium, athletic field and library. The plans were halted by the stock market crash of 1929.

“In the absence of an opportunity to develop the land since that time, the seminary has been pleased to allow anyone and everyone from every part of the city free and unencumbered access to the land,” Blount said. “Union has been a good neighbor to the Northside community for over 100 years. The BZA’s decision helps us continue in that effort by contributing new housing to the community and creating competitive housing for future faith leaders — many of whom stay in Richmond to enrich our community as leaders in churches, hospitals, and nonprofit agencies.”

Read President Blount’s full statement to the BZA here.
Learn more about the Westwood Tract project.