Conservation group buys land by river once planned for Echo Harbor project

The 5 acre parcel on the James River is currently green space and will be in perpetuity once a conservation easement is placed on the land. (Photo by Mike Platania)

Waterfront real estate slated for a major condo project over a decade ago has been sold to a local conservation group.

Earlier this week, the Conservation Fund bought 5 acres at 3011 and 3021 Dock St. for $ 4.87 million.

The Conservation Fund, a Northern Virginia-based nonprofit organization, is working with the Capital Region Land Conservancy and the James River Association to put the plot under a conservation easement to prevent its further development and possibly donate it to the City of Richmond to be part of the James River Park System.

In the mid-2000s, developers planned a 12-story condo project on the site dubbed Echo Harbor, but those plans were ultimately scrapped. Land conservation plans were announced in April.

CRLC executive director Parker Agelasto, a former city councilor, confirmed the land deal.

He explained why the Conservation Fund was the buyer in the business, rather than his organization.

“We will work with them to reimburse the amount of the purchase. One thing it does is take some of the financial risk out of CRLC, ”Agelasto said. “The Conservation Fund is a national organization, they have their own source of funding that they can tap into.”

Capital Region Land Conservancy executive director Parker Agelasto, a former city councilor, was joined by Mayor Levar Stoney and others at the site in April. (BizSense File)

Agelasto said CRLC has already raised around $ 3.6 million in cash and pledges to help repay the loan the Conservation Fund has taken out for the deal.

The property was recently valued by the city at $ 4.15 million. The seller was The USP Cos., A company based in Chantilly.

The process has already started to put the land under a conservation easement, which Agelasto says will take around a year.

In the meantime, Agelasto said, they are in discussions with the city to see if it can lease the land for a year, which would allow the fence surrounding the land to be dismantled.

“Is it a question of accountability, like we want the accountability on our shoulders or open it to the public?” ” he said. “I understand that a one-year lease with the city doesn’t need to have a financial obligation, just compensation.”

The Virginia Capital Trail currently runs alongside the property along Dock Street, but will eventually be detoured to cross the land. Agelasto said the specific route has not yet been selected.

“We’re going to do a community vision now that everything is closed and we can develop a sitemap,” he said. “They still have to raise funds to build it, but it could be done quite quickly.”

Once the conservation easement is completed and the donation is granted, decisions will be made by the city and the James River Park System on the end use of the land.

“The programming questions are still a bit unanswered,” Agelasto said.

“There will obviously be some restrictions in the conservation easement as to what could be done on the property. But that would not exclude 99% of what would be of interest to the public. “

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