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Richmond developer plans big investment in Colonial Beach
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Richmond developer plans big investment in Colonial Beach

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Though he grew up in Roanoke with his mom, Duke Dodson often visited the Fredericksburg area to be with his late father Dennis, a local insurance agent and high school sports star.

On many of those visits, the father and son headed out to spots like Lake of the Woods or Colonial Beach to have fun on the water.

That connection plays a critical part in what could be the biggest residential and commercial redevelopment that Colonial Beach has ever seen. The businessman and his company, Dodson Development, inked a development agreement with the town that could inject $27 million into that community on the Potomac River over the next several years.

Dodson’s Richmond-based firm has plans for a project in Colonial Beach—to be built in four phases—that includes townhouses, renovated office and retail buildings, a beachfront hotel and mixed-use space on the boardwalk consisting of commercial, retail and residences.

A town press release on the project notes that the mix of residential and commercial construction will be done in a style that pays homage to the town’s history. And it said Dodson’s company will donate $20,000 to Colonial Beach during the construction “earmarked for continued historic preservation, tourism promotion, and town beautification.”

The press release notes that the Colonial Beach Town Council has approved the project and will sell 12 parcels owned by the town to Dodson Development for $2.7 million.

Phase one of the project is slated to include 35 three-bedroom townhouses adjacent to Town Hall, at the corner of Wilder and Douglas avenues where the town’s high school once stood. Fourteen of those residences are expected in 2021, with 21 more in 2022. Each will have a rooftop deck and access to a communal area including a pool, picnic area and putting green.

Phase two of the project, slated for 2021, includes renovating three existing office and retail spaces in the area of Irving and Hawthorn avenues. One of the units is a former bank building.

Phase three, scheduled for 2022 would see the construction of 36 waterfront condominiums, 10,000 square feet of retail space and a rooftop event space. It would be situated on Taylor Street along the shore between the town pier and the High Tides restaurant. Most of that space is currently used for parking.

Phase four would, by 2023, put a “boutique” hotel at Wilder Avenue and Beach Terrace, on what’s now a gravel parking near the Riverboat on the Potomac.

Colonial Beach Town Manager Quinn Robertson said the project “is really huge for our town. It can revitalize the epicenter of Colonial Beach and provide commercial activity otherwise not present. And it will increase the tax base significantly.

“We think this project will prompt other developers to take a look at other development opportunities that already exist here,” Robertson added. “I’ve had phone calls since this project became known from folks interested in other parcels in town. There are a lot of privately-owned swaths of land in the town that have not been developed.”

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Dodson saw the parcels listed for sale by the town about six months ago, and it struck a chord with him.

“My family and I have been trying to figure out for a while where our river or lake getaway would be, and this seemed like a great choice,” he said.

Dodson said he’s visited many towns in the Northern Neck.

“None of them has the downtown component that Colonial Beach does. It’s on the river, but also has a downtown. And I love the idea of living where you can walk or take a golf cart to restaurants and other attractions. My wife and I will have one of the townhouses in phase one.”

He said his company has spent a lot of time with Colonial Beach officials and residents in preparation of the project, trying to find out what they want for the town.

“We’ve heard from them that they value the history and the look of downtown, and that they want to make the boardwalk a thriving and vibrant place like it was 50 years ago,” he said. “They want to have a reason to come downtown, to go down to the beach and walk down the boardwalk to get ice cream or coffee. They want to see more restaurants and maybe a brewery downtown.”

He said his firm will work to come up with buildings that mesh with the Victorian homes in town, while still providing modern elements.

The project may take advantage of historic tax credits for some of the work once the town is able to get historic designations in the downtown area, an effort already underway.

Robertson said that while Colonial Beach had been experiencing a revival before COVID-19 hit, the pandemic has brought visitors and people from urban areas looking for a safer spot to raise their families. He said parking revenue exceeded the annual budget projection before the end of spring.

“It’s brought a wave of tourists to the beach,” he said. “It has been insane, and we’re seeing many families looking at the benefits of small-town culture and life.”

Robertson acknowledged that some town residents aren’t thrilled with growth in Colonial Beach, but he thinks most are excited about the project.

He said elected town officials have made clear their interest in the new development pieces meshing with what’s already there.

“We want them to keep the charm and aesthetic that would align itself with the East Coast appeal of our town,” he said. “We think they’ll be able to do that.”

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

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