Big changes are in store for Richmond's beloved Carytown, and we're not sure how we feel about them. 

The Carytown Martin's has been closed for almost a year now, leaving a noticeable gap in the bustling Carytown area. There has been talk of Publix taking over the space, and official plans for the project have now been revealed to the public. 

Florida-based developer Regency Centers has announced that they will be constructing what they will call "Carytown Exchange," where the Richmond Shopping Center currently resides. The center of the development will be the Publix, which will take up 49,000 square feet, and will be surrounded by an extra 71,000 square feet of retail space, which developers have said will provide room for about 25 extra tenants. The space will also provide ample surface and garage parking for Carytown Exchange customers, which will be free. 

Carytown Exchange, predicted to cost roughly $40 million, will completely transform the area between Cary, Thompson, and Nansemond streets, and Ellwood Avenue. Though there are already big-box retailers in the surrounding blocks (such as Fresh Market, CVS, and Petco, among others), this development has the potential to attract even more chain businesses. And while this could be good for some of the current Carytown tenants, who could ultimately attract more business, it may provide unwanted competition for many of the smaller, local businesses. 

Cary Street has seen quite a bit of transformation over the years as Richmond continues to grow into a more desirable place to live, but a change this significant is a first. In 2011, when the former Verizon building was developed into the 40,000 square feet of retail that is now Carytown Place, the "Don't Big Box Carytown" campaign got locals fired up about keeping Carytown local. So it is only natural to expect a mixed response about the forthcoming Carytown Exchange from area merchants and residents. Though the developers promise that the project's aesthetic will flow with the distinct charm that Cary Street has had for decades (and that the architecture will keep with the eclectic feel of the area), it is hard to imagine what such a massive new construction will do to the beloved Carytown landscape.

And then there's the issue of construction. The project is going to take over two years to complete, which means unsightly construction sights and sounds, as well as the likely possibility of obstructed traffic flow. Demolition is set to begin next year, with Publix potentially opening in 2020, and the rest being completed by 2021. The only business in the Richmond Shopping Center that will remain open during construction will be the 24-hour CVS, while the rest of the center's businesses, such as Carytown Teas, Carytown Burgers and Fries, and Eclectic Stuff, are being forced to find new spaces. We will begin to see many of these businesses moving out by fall of this year. 

Some may argue that growth can only be a good thing, while others may fear that Carytown is just a few big-boxers away from starting to resemble Short Pump. What do you think about this upcoming development? Are you excited to shop at Carytown Exchange, or are you more in favor of keeping Carytown local? Let us know in the comments!

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