#3 -- VSU begins redevelopment of Ettrick, shutout by Chester

Throughout its long history, the village of Ettrick has served as an important gateway into Chesterfield County. According to the Chesterfield County revitalization department, under the leadership of Tom Jacobson, that gateway will now be enhanced. In June, a conceptual plan was introduced at a ceremony in Ettrick, showcasing what the proposed improvement to Chesterfield Avenue, which connects River Road in Chesterfield to the City of Petersburg.

Its location adjacent to Virginia State University (VSU) is also important, according to project planners, The Timmons Group. Planners see Ettrick as becoming a vibrant college town that would incorporate a distinct retail shopping district. The streetscape would provide a unified and interesting experience for pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

VSU is also under a massive expansion project, its first phase to cost $20 million for dormitories. A student commons building to anchor the second phase.

The first phase of the Chesterfield Avenue project is complete, which consists of about a block on the north end of Chesterfield Avenue. The second phase, currently under construction, includes redesigned  sidewalks and planting areas.

But there was a problem when Dorothy Jaeckle, Chesterfield County supervisor from the Bermuda District got involved in what seemed to be a different issue but was woven into the VSU and Chesterfield Avenue plans.                                            

According to Thomas Reed, the university’s director of university relations, the university needed temporary housing until the new housing facility is built. “We’ve been searching for appropriate safe housing for students who will be registering in the fall. It could be as many as 400 students,” Reed said. He said that the school had been working with two hoteliers in Chester to accommodate new students until the Gateway II, a 500 bed suite-style housing facility is complete.

Jaeckle said that bringing the students to Chester would be unsafe, and two of the hoteliers said the supervisor insulted them during a meeting. While Jaeckle said it would be unsafe for the students, the hoteliers said she had implied that the students would make it unsafe for Chester residents.  

The school promised to place guards at the hotel housing units and provide transportation for the students, but Jaeckle indicated in an email that guards and RAs (resident advisors) tend to turn a blind eye to partying. Jaeckle responded to the Village News in an email that she, the police department and building department thought there were a number of concerns in the proposal.

In a letter written to the hoteliers as a reply to why a sign for Logan’s Steakhouse on the property adjacent to one of the hotels was delayed, a representative of a prominent local sign company wrote that Jaeckle had indicated, “One didn’t have anything to do with the other but it would give her some leverage [on VSU issue.]”

VSU eventually located hotels, at which to house second year students, in Enon and Petersburg.

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