New developments

The Times-Dispatch reveals details on the financing of the proposed Shockoe baseball park (formerly known as a stadium):

Officials emphasized that the deal would be structured so that private investors — not city taxpayers — would be on the hook if revenue fails to cover debt payments.

The article goes into great detail about the proposed funding structure.  It’s good news that they politicians and developers have gotten the message that taxpayers should NOT be on the hook for failed private investments.

Also, we learn that we are not to refer to the development as a stadium, but rather a ballpark:

Kreckman [vice president with developer Highwoods Properties] emphasized that what’s planned is a “ballpark” rather than a “stadium.” A ballpark is “very fan-friendly, very intimate,” he said.

That didn’t stop the TD from titling their article, “Stadium planners want multiuse park.”


A 10-story or taller high rise to extend over the expressway and the RMA parking deck? Maybe. People are talking, but nothing’s certain yet.

A surface parking lot between 9th & 10th on Canal has been under contract since early this year, according to the TD.

An RMA exec said the adjacent RMA parking deck “was built in anticipation that someday there would be a high-rise building adjacent to that deck and actually cantilevering over a part of our air rights.”

The deck was built 16 years ago. Slow down that development pace! We can’t keep up!

Cantilever. An unfortunately underused word for the common building practice of building overhanging structures without external bracing. And that’s what they’re talking about doing over the deck and possibly the expressway. But I say, don’t hold your breath. The number of proposals flying around this town that don’t come to fruition is depressing.

Until they name a developer, which city and RMA officials aren’t yet doing, I refuse to get excited.

The rumor mill is buzzing about a new restaurant to open downtown:

There is another exciting project on the way. The venue is going to be called AURORA and it is brought to Richmond by a company called EuroEnterprises. A former bank building on the corner of Grace and 4th Street is currently being converted into a coffee shop/bakery tastefully combined with a European style cocktail lounge and restaurant. It is scheduled for opening in summer. Promotion campaign should start in coming next several weeks.

The rumor mill in this instance is my blog, and the buzz is a comment left on an earlier post (two posts, actually).

EuroEnterprises– an intriguing name- trying to bring a little European flair to our city center?

A few savvy business people have taken to using my blog to promote their new restaurants and developments. They know that my blog is read by hundreds of thousands of Richmonders daily. (OK, hundreds, and I can’t guarantee where my readers live).

Nevertheless, I like this trend. Makes updating this blog easier for me; my content has been sparse recently due to a change in my work situation. So reader submissions can help keep this community conversation going about what makes Richmond great.

While things are not going swimmingly for the Boulevard redevelopment, Shockoe continues to receive development proposals. Read the latest details and see pictures for a mixed-use development at Cedar and Broad (near the McDonald’s & Exxon) over at Church Hill People’s News.

The proposal, which is in its early stages, includes over 160 apartments, a rooftop pool, 5000 sq. ft. of retail, & courtyard parking (which helps mitigate the visual effect of our overabundance of cars on the urban landscape).

This will complement the redevelopment of Cold Storage into lofts and a brewery, the Sisson building, as well as the continuing conversion of other warehouses around Shockoe.

Predictably, the Church Hill People’s News commenters are concerned about their view and parking. The architects have done a great job in the proposal of hiding unsightly HVAC vents & units, and hiding parking in the courtyard. However, since MCV commuters currently use the parking lot on the site of the development, residents are concerned about where those students will park once that lot is gone.

While I understand the problem (which Carver, Oregon Hill, & the Fan have been dealing with for years), there are solutions other than opposing the development or advocating for surface parking lots. The Fan and Carver have decal parking; MCV has a number of pay parking lots and decks served by a well-developed shuttle system.

The folks currently parking in the lot near the McDonald’s and the streets in Shockoe are looking for a less expensive parking option. Keep providing cheap or free parking, and people will use it.

We should be celebrating the conversion of any and every surface parking lot into a more useful, (hopefully) beautiful space. Let’s figure out parking dilemmas in other ways- rather than preserving the status quo.

For more on parking lots in Shockoe, read my commentary, “No More Parking Lots, a Desperate Plea.”

Hayden Fisher, an attorney at Shaffer & Cabell & partner in real estate development group Prodigy Partnership, commented on an earlier blog post with an update on their progress on the “art-gallery themed restaurant” named Canvas:

Just checking-in to let everyone know that we’re still working on the Canvas design and working with DHR to finalize the plans. We couldn’t get everything put together by December so we decided not to rush things; in order to take our time delivering a truly special space and experience. And we haven’t forgotten about Manchester either, we’ll get there too and return a special diner experience to the area. Thanks for your support and patience.

The pace of development is excruciatingly slow, not just on this project but on most redevelopment efforts.  I first blogged about this in March!

And then there are those tantalizing proposals that seem to get stuck somewhere along the line…

What should be built on the banks of our “great wet central park”? The mayor’s marina? The developers’ condos? Or the environmentalists’ parkland?

This question seems to vex our politicians, according to the TD.

But the city’s quest for a marina and more parkland along the James River faces scrutiny from a skeptical City Council and developers who have other ideas how to use the land.

Ahh, the cozy warm feelings I get when “City Council and developers” are mentioned in the same sentence.

For grammatical and conceptual clarity, I’d love to know who the “who” is in the phrase “who have other ideas…” Does it refer to the developers only? Or both the council and developers?

Oh the curse of English language ambiguities. And shoddy journalism.

At issue seems to be the Echo Harbor development, which council might support(?), and Wilder apparently opposes.

“We have made it clear that we’re not interested in any of these high-rise apartments on the river,” Wilder said after a recent public appearance.

Really? None? I thought Wilder had bought a high-rise condo unit on the river. So I guess the “any” refers to future riverfront condos? Or just ones where he wants his marina?

Well, whatever our politicians think, I have a suggestion. And I’m confident all my loyal readers will rally around and help change the political discourse in this town, right?

So without further ado, here’s my idea: Build them all. Here’s some pictures from a city that’s done just that.

Vancouver’s Coal Harbour (before being built out).

Notice the strip of green and the little circle of green. Those are waterfront parks. There’s a walkway/bicycle path along the entire length of the waterfront, and a marina. And those 3 high-rises closest to the green space are condos (more have been built since this picture was taken).

Here’s some additional pictures:

One of the waterfront parks with landscaping and public art, photo by mussels.

The marina, notice the walkway/bicycle path along the water. Photo by camera obscura.

All the shiny condos with a waterfront walkway/bicycle path. Photo by mussels.

OK, I know you’re sick of my endless promotion of Vancouver, BC. But as I was reading the TD’s account of political bickering, I thought to myself, why can’t we make everyone happy for a change?

Vancouver’s Coal Harbour was a waterfront industrial wasteland that was turned into a public asset with a waterfront promenade, sidewalk cafes, parks, a community centre, and living spaces. And if you want a piece of that real estate, it’ll cost you more than a few loonies. Check it out here.

Sounds a bit like our own James River- Lucky Strike, Lehigh Cement, Fulton gas works… Now Tobacco Row, Vistas on the James, Rocketts Landing. There’s no reason that waterfront condos necessarily preclude parks, marinas, and public access to the river when planned and built well.

And that’s all I’m saying. I’m not supporting the Echo Harbor proposal (nor am I opposing it). I’m not suggesting we copy Vancouver’s architectural aesthetic.

I’m suggesting that when it comes to developing the waterfront of the James River, it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too.

A new 33-unit condo complex is being planned for the far east end of Broad St in Church Hill, which has Church Hill People’s News readers up in arms. Here’s a few pictures of the renderings, complements of John Murden:



The plans are for 3618 E. Broad (click for map), near Chimborazo park.

Church Hill residents are upset by the plan’s architecture, location, density, and assumed parking and traffic issues. A bitch session and opposition-panning is ongoing in the comments section of the CHPN article about the project (85 comments as of 12/16, 11 am).

Now, the project’s opponents make some valid points, but it’s hard for me to take them seriously because of their history of NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) regarding almost any new development. Some vocal church hill residents have opposed Echo Harbor on the riverfront, a development below Jefferson Park on Marshall St., and challenged the density of the St. Patrick’s School condo project.

Now I’m all for neighborhood activism and residents taking an active approach in shaping their neighborhood. And where the CHPN commenters are logical in their opposition, I support them. But I have issues with the folks who eschew reason in favor of fear-mongering, who for example say the postal workers can’t handle the extra work, and that renters are always problematic (both critiques were leveled at this condo proposal).

Did Tobacco Row apartments create problems for E. Cary St. with the influx of renters? Did the postal service collapse? Did crime increase?

Now, I don’t think the units are as ugly as most at CHPN seem to, but I agree that they’re out-of-place in Church Hill. But, unlike many of the opponents, I personally celebrate infill development that brings more residents to the city, develops vacant urban lots rather than rural farmland, and increases the demand for stores and other services in an under-served area.

Greater density also helps make public transit more economically feasible.

So, to be clear, I do not support or oppose this project in concept- and I’m happy that residents are actively involved in shaping their neighborhood. But those that are irrational NIMBYists need to realize that urban neighborhoods are vibrant because they’re always changing and that cities benefit from greater density- when done right.

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