St Francis Campus
The St. Francis Campus Master Plan is a document that addresses the immediate expansion plans of a medical center while also describing a longer range vision for a new mixed-use urban neighborhood. Located in suburban Chesterfield County outside of Richmond, VA, the St. Francis property is situated next to two major regional highways and is only a fifteen-minute drive west of the State Capitol. Though still largely unbuilt the hospital’s immediate surroundings nonetheless constitute an infill site, as they are enveloped by over 50 years of post-war residential development. The vacant adjacent parcels were zoned for a mix of uses over 20 years ago in anticipation of a downtown for the County that never quite materialized. Recognizing the potential of this location and understanding how the longterm investment of a hospital could serve as the economic catalyst for an unrealized urban center, Bon Secours commissioned this master plan. In what must be considered an unusual visionary step for a healthcare organization, they broadened the scope of the hospital’s short term, two-building expansion to include the creation of an entire 142-acre neighborhood, with a balance of institutional, residential, commercial, and civic functions.
Enhancing the existing three-building campus with walkable streets, shops, restaurants and parks, the plan proposes an interconnected network of thoroughfares. The pattern of new streets, inspired by Richmond’s downtown and its Fan District, gives shape to relatively small blocks that are conducive to a mix of uses and pedestrian mobility, urban traits that would hopefully set the tone for the neighboring downtown parcels yet to be developed.
Approximately 130,000 square feet of approved expansion for the existing hospital are located on the north side of the newly established St. Francis Avenue, an arcaded street that features a linear park and leads from the entry boulevard to the hospital’s arrival plaza with its signature campanile and pergola. In addition to a 54-bed vertical addition, St. Francis will be supported by 878,820 square feet of new medical office space positioned throughout the plan in proximity to the hospital. There are approximately 161,880 square feet of ground floor retail, mostly along the major streets and squares, and 305,520 square feet of additional office space primarily designed into perimeter buildings that screen 3,160 structured mid-block parking spaces.
Given the urban character intended for this plan, high density residential uses are added to support the hospital and office components of the campus. A range of types featuring apartment flats and other forms of attached housing will help offset the current imbalance of largely single-family use in the County. About 872 proposed apartments, mostly in the form of “sixplex mansions”, and 39 rowhouses will add variety to the neighborhood scale and provide housing options for both hospital employees and the community at large that is not currently available in proximity to St. Francis.
Numerous places of varying civic character and function are located throughout the plan. A centrally-situated formal village square, ideal for civic events and a farmers market, is located at the intersection of the two principal access roads. A prominent hotel site was studied for the southeastern corner of the site, providing additional lodging support for the hospital, the adjacent community, and the future town center uses likely to evolve around it.
The Master Plan acknowledges that this site is part of a sensitive regional watershed that drains into the Swift Creek Reservoir. In addition to a having a street layout that celebrates and protects the network of greenways, creeks, and wetlands connecting to the reservoir, the plan incorporates innovative Light Imprint practices to minimize stormwater run-off and maximize natural drainage and infiltration. Linear parks and ponds preserve natural corridors and their buffers while enhancing opportunities for recreation. Extending from a forest setting through to designed parks, plazas, courtyards and gardens, the circuit of paths and greenways unite the ecological appreciation associated with St. Francis and the Bon Secours commitment of bringing to wholeness, through the contemplative potential found in places that offer rest, meditation and well being.
This Master Plan is a blueprint for extending the Sisters of Bon Secours’ mission of community service into the realm of community building. It could also help bring a measure of balance in services and civic infrastructure to a suburban County that sought refuge a generation ago in large-tract, single-use zoning and placed too high a premium on single-family housing.