On Friday’s Open Source radio program [podcast] with host Will Snyder, Andrew Moore, the director of urban architecture for Glave and Holmes, talked about the draft downtown Richmond riverfront redevelopment plan for the James River.
“Hard not to be a cynic…but frankly, its a pretty good plan,” Moore said. “I’ve been impressed with the process. Hargreaves Associates does really good work, from what I can tell and they seem to have a really good handle on what it means to be in Richmond.”
Snyder posed the question about why it has taken Richmond so long to take action and take advantage of the asset that is the James River and Moore said “it could just be a reflection of how things move in Richmond — you know, decades, generations….but I think there’s been a couple of key factors in Richmond that have contributed to the attention that its getting now.
“One being the increase on environment in general,” Moore continued. “The other aspect is a general raising of the bar of awareness of urban design and environment issues.”
“I have to say that Hargreaves in their plan, looked at it systematically…at the ecology of the river, not just from the natural standpoint but also how it relates to the neighborhoods around it. I think the best example of that in the plan is in Manchester, where they looked at the Reynolds South site.”
What about reconnecting with the river and not walling it off? “One of the biggest aspects of the plan…is the redevelopment of Brown’s Island. And what they are doing there — which is pretty interesting — is stepping down to the river and in the canal. If you go to Brown’s Island right now, you feel like you’re on an island — you’ve got this inaccessibility all the way around it, so I think that’s an example of where they are going in the right direction. Steps down, terraces down to the water…makes it more accessible for recreation, kayaking…and on the river side…getting you right down on the riverfront.”
What was missing in the plan, Snyder asked Moore. “I think that it danced around some of the hot-button issues, like how high should development be around the river?,” Moore said. “I’m sympathetic to the avoidance of that question, but I think for it to be a really effective plan…maybe they should have come down on one side or the other on that one. “The other part of the plan…there’s not a lot of how this is going to happen in the plan. There’s costs associated with it…but how’s it actually going to get done?”
Would it be valuable for the City of Richmond to set up a non-profit fund raising arm that essentially is the James River Redevelopment non-profit and be able to tap into some of the corporate funds maybe that would help cover the costs, Snyder asked. “It’s an interesting idea,” Moore said. “I think that what we are seeing around the country is creative ways of linking up private and public money, so that the public-private partnership…has a lot of merit and would be interesting for Richmond.”
What do you think is a realistic timeline Snyder asked Moore. “We know that we’re in tough economic times — that’s shorterm. The longer term is going to be a visionary question, a leadership question. How much is the current administration and the city going to be able to build momentum and maintain momentum on a given plan.”
What would Moore like to see done first? “I think that the Brown’s Island thing is a great headliner. That’s already in people’s knowledge of a place to go on the river, its already got running events, so implementing those connections down to the riverfront seems to make a lot of sense and that’s definitely priority one.”
Open Source is a weekly show on WRIR that takes a look at local issues and brings folks on the air for discussion and Q&A. The show airs Friday mornings at 10 a.m. on 97.3 FM and streaming at wrir.org. You can grab a Podcast of the show in the early afternoon. Call in at 649-9737, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @RVAOpenSource