The area on either side of the Boulevard between Broad St. and 95 continues to show signs of life and redevelopment – despite lack of movement by the city. The latest news is a $10 million proposal by VCU to build a sports complex and possibly dorms (!) on the site of the city’s Parker Field Maintenance Complex. Of course, the city actually has to decide to move its maintenance complex somewhere, so I’m not holding my breath that this will happen any time soon. But we’ll see. With Trani on their heels, they may just act quickly.

Richmond magazine reports this month on the proposed development by VCU (although no mention of it anywhere on VCU’s site). And Style is always promoting anything West of the Boulevard, i.e. Scott’s Addition, the home of their office. This week Style calls its neighborhood “a potentially hot new market,” (does anyone but me think this is a bit of wishful thinking?) and the restaurant news section profiles a new restaurant opening at 1200 N. Boulevard by a local cook and the owners of River City Tattoo, to be called Strong Hill Dining Company.

Then there’s nearby condo/apartment conversions, the oldest being the Todd Lofts at Hermitage, and their new across-the-street neighbors Southern Stove Lofts, where work seems to be steadily progressing. And in Scott’s Addition there’s Summit Loft Condos, at the corner of Norfolk and Summit, where condos are selling for $200,000+. According to the Long and Foster real estate listing, there’s only 3 of 14 units left. According to the Summit Loft Condos page, there’s 7 left. Hmmmm… And then the biggest newsmaker of the area, the FFV buildings, which were slated to become condos before the market went soft. Am I missing any?

There’s also a major commercial development planned at the corner of Boulevard and Leigh, “Boulevard Square,” to be anchored by a movie theatre. Bow Tie Partners plans to open, in 2008, a16 screen, first-run theatre with an additional 53,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and entertainment space. Word was that they were building a movie theatre downtown, on the block bounded by 3rd, 4th, Main, and Cary, to be called “Jefferson Square.” But somehow I doubt they’ll build both. Since they list a proposed opening date on their webpage for Boulevard Square, with no projections on timing for Jefferson Square, I’m guessing they’ve changed the plan for downtown – if they have a plan for that location at all. The webpage simply calls it a “major development site,” with no specifics mentioned.

At any rate, I think the North Boulevard neighborhood has a lot of potential to become a mixed use, pedestrian friendly neighborhood. There’s already a neighborhood shopping street, Boulevard, with charming old retail buildings. There’s vacant land along Leigh St. which could be developed, and plenty of old warehouses for housing, retail, or offices (of course most are still in use for industry). And with the possibliltiy of VCU dorms being built there, perhaps it would jump-start the transition from industrial to residential. I wonder how VCU would handle transportation from Boulevard to campus? Light-rail, perhaps? One can dream…

So Boulevard continues to be a place to watch. What will happen with the Diamond? Will the city move its facilities to make way for VCU? Will industry continue to abandon the area? Will the condo market rebound making the transition to residential possible? Will a first-run movie theatre in the city finally be built? Will the Boulevard be the next “hot new market?” At least it shouldn’t flood…

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