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'Act One' of student retail effort officially underway

  • Groundbreaking
    Groundbreaking  (Left to right) Michael Young of the W&M Student Assembly, Rector Henry C. Wolf, Mayor Jeanne Zeidler, W&M Real Estate Foundation Chair and Vice Rector John Gerdelman and President Taylor Reveley break ground on Tribe Square Tuesday morning.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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An effort to bring more student-oriented retail and housing near campus officially got underway Tuesday with the groundbreaking of "Tribe Square."

When finished in the fall 2011, the new building next to the Wawa store on Richmond Road will be home to 12,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 14 apartments that will house 56 William & Mary students.

"This project is going to do a lot of good for the College and the community," said President Taylor Reveley, who was joined by Williamsburg Mayor Jeanne Zeidler and others from City Council, members of the Board of Visitors and the representatives from the William & Mary Real Estate Foundation.

"This is the lead dog for other projects of similar nature," said Reveley, adding the Real Estate Foundation is working closely with the College to identify student retail options closer to campus. "This is simply Act One."

An artist's rendering of the view of Tribe Square from Richmond Rd.

Tribe Square has been many years in the making, officials said. It brings much-needed student retail and dining options near campus and College-operated housing close to campus. Reveley acknowledged the many individuals and government bodies who helped move the project forward.

"We are all here because we are excited and proud of this project," said Zeidler, adding the location on Richmond Road is ideally situated near campus, the Historic Area and Williamsburg transit lines. "I am convinced that Tribe Square is going to be the place to live."

The new building, designed by Boynton Rothschild Rowland Architects, will have a first floor dedicated to retail space, including restaurants with outdoor seating.  The parking lot behind the building will be accessed from Scotland Street.  A breezeway will allow access to Richmond Road directly from the lot, which will be reserved for retail patrons. The building's top two floors will include apartments for upperclassmen to be managed by the College's Office of Residence Life. Brick sidewalks and landscaping will surround the building.

Tuesday's event was groundbreaking - and not just in the literal sense, said Howard Busbee, Vice Chair of the Real Estate Foundation and Clinical Professor of Business at the College. Busbee said the Foundation was formed in 2006 "to acquire, hold, manage, sell, lease, and participate in the development of real estate properties in support of the educational goals of the College."

Two years ago, the Real Estate Foundation acquired properties on Richmond Road, including the Taylor Building and the former Master Craftsman site. Both are adjacent to the College-owned Thiemes House property, which William & Mary's human resources offices recently vacated. The three properties are on a site of approximately one acre that will be cleared for the new mixed-use retail and student housing building. Williamsburg City Council approved the rezoning of the Tribe Square site at their meeting in April.

"To accomplish that mission we are moving forward as partners with the College," Busbee said. "The Real Estate Foundation heard the call for action and we are pleased to be a catalyst in this significant event."

Following the event, Real Estate Foundation Chair John Gerdelman, who also serves as Vice Rector of the W&M Board of Visitors, said the groundbreaking represents the culmination of years of hard work to bring more student-oriented retail closer to campus. Echoing Reveley's earlier remarks, Gerdelman said Tribe Square is the first of many projects.

"We're very excited," Gerdelman said. "We're looking at what else can we do around campus that will be good for both the College and the community."