As appeared in THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT | OCT 08, 2020 AT 9:00 AM
By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL
PORTSMOUTH — A nearly 14-acre stretch of vacant land along Frederick Boulevard near the Kroger Marketplace and Interstate 264 ramps could get three drive-thru restaurants if the City Council approves a developer’s plans.
Alabama-based Capital Growth Buchalter wants to build a Starbucks, a Chipotle and a Zaxby’s on the property, as well as a car wash.
On Tuesday, the Portsmouth Planning Commission unanimously approved plans for the three restaurant developments, but voted 4-2 to recommend that the City Council deny the company’s proposal for a 3,200-square-foot car wash with an automated washing tunnel and 15 self-service vacuums on-site, citing the potential noise and proximity to 221 homes in Seaboard Square next door.
The land had been vacant for five years despite a zone change to allow general mixed-use conditional development.
“Changes and challenges in the retail industry are largely the reason why this property has sat vacant for the last five years since it was rezoned,” said Lisa Murphy, an attorney representing the developer. Since the pandemic, an embrace of drive-through and takeout orders led the developer to the latest proposal. While the Chipotle restaurant won’t be a typical drive-through taking orders, it will allow for pre-ordered food to be picked up at a window.
Kirk Farrelly, with Capital Growth Buchalter, told the planning commission that it represents the company’s first major development in the region. He said his company had started looking into the project as early as October 2018, and didn’t close on the purchase of the property until March 12 of this year.
“Obviously the pandemic came shortly thereafter,” he said. The company checked in with its committed tenants and plans proceeded.
“The pandemic has made it clear that pickup windows, drive-throughs, curbside parking for customer pickup and mobile order pickup spaces, along with outdoor dining and patios, are absolute necessities for restaurants to operate in these times,” he said.
An affiliated limited liability company of Capital Growth Buchalter, Portsmouth ARD CGP LLC, bought the property.
The Portsmouth City Council is expected to consider the project during a public hearing in November.