The first phase of the Virginia Center Commons mall opened to great fanfare in October 1991.

Some of the retailers operating then were surprised by the large turnout. One even called it “overwhelming.”

The mall, on Brook Road north of Interstate 295 in Henrico County, later added three more anchor tenants and dozens more stores.

Over the years, other large-box retailers, restaurants and hotels gravitated along U.S. 1 in Henrico and in nearby Hanover County and along Sliding Hill Road at Interstate 95 in Hanover. New apartments and homes were added nearby, including River Mill, a 250-acre master-planned residential development that is now under construction.

But the mall is a shadow of its former self.

Like other enclosed shopping malls around the country, Virginia Center Commons continues to face tough times as consumer shopping habits and preferences shift. More national retailers that once were staples in malls have closed locations including anchor tenants.

What is the future of Virginia Center Commons and the area around it?

In January, entities tied to Richmond-based The Rebkee Co. and Chester-based Shamin Hotels acquired the enclosed mall plus the former Macy’s and Sears buildings.

They turned around and sold 24.75 acres to Henrico, which plans to put an indoor sports arena on the site. Another 6.25 acres was sold to another entity tied to Shamin Hotels for a new hotel.

The remaining 45.5 acres was kept by the two companies for redevelopment of the mall property.

What plans are in store for the mall and surrounding property? Should the mall remain as a shopping center? Should it have a combination of offices and apartments? What happens to the area near the mall — both in Henrico and Hanover counties?

The next Metro Business Live event — on Tuesday, March 24 — will talk about the future of the area around Virginia Center Commons. A panel of experts will discuss the topic at that event.

The panelists will be:

  • Rob Hargett, a co-founder and principal of The Rebkee Co., a Richmond-based development company that is part owner in Virginia Center Commons as well as Regency mall;
  • Neil Amin, CEO of Shamin Hotels, the largest hotel operator in Virginia and in the Richmond region;
  • Adam Bonosky, an architect and planner with Dover, Kohl & Partners, the Florida-based firm that is conducting a charrette session with neighbors and others in early March to get ideas on the future of Virginia Center Commons;
  • Neil Luther, who has directed Henrico’s recreation and parks division since 2011 and is overseeing the new sports arena; and
  • E. Linwood Thomas IV, Hanover’s economic development director since April 2017 who was the economic development director in King George County for four years before that.

Richmond Times-Dispatch Business Editor Gregory J. Gilligan will moderate the discussion.

Metro Business Live events are a way to connect, challenge and inspire business owners, CEOs, employees, entrepreneurs, advocates and others. Even though the event will feature a panel discussion, participation by those attending is encouraged.

The event will be held at the RTD building at 300 E. Franklin St. The gathering, which includes a catered breakfast, will be from 7:15 to 9 a.m.

Tickets are $30 per person if purchased by Monday, March 2 and $35 after that.

For more information or to buy tickets, go to www.richmond.com/MBL.

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