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Business owners air frustrations as completion schedule announced at GRTC Pulse town hall

More than 50 people showed up, many of whom aired frustrations over construction and loss of parking, for a public meeting held by Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray to give an update about construction and completion of the GRTC Pulse bus rapid transit project.

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A crowd of move than 50 people showed up to a Town Hall meeting held Wednesday afternoon at The Broadberry held by Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray, representative of the 2nd District, to give an update on construction of the GRTC Pulse bus rapid transit project.

Many in attendance were business or restaurant owners and a number vented frustrations about the project, saying loss of parking and construction activities resulted in year-over-year losses. Gray had originally proposed compensating businesses for those losses, using a $3 million incentive bonus contractor Lane Construction would have received had the project wrapped before the end of 2017. Those funds, however, came from a federal level and can’t be used for such purposes, she said at the meeting, resulting in frustrated remarks from attendees, many of whom also felt misled about the project’s end date and the fact that the completion of work in 2017 was merely an incentive.

Another pot of money, $700,000 earmarked by the city for GRTC to operate the bus rapid transit line this year, was also cited as a potential revenue source to compensate business owners for losses. GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace, also in attendance, said a portion of that money had already been spent on hiring and training drivers on the specialized way the busses must “dock” to the stations in the median of W. Broad Street. The exact figure was not specified.

Gray proposed exploring other options to compensate businesses, including dipping into state or local funds, providing tax abatements, or arranging grants. No further details were available at press time, but she promised constituents to “leave no stone unturned” when it came to compensation options.

“You are not going to be able to reimburse the losses,” said Scott Garnett, owner of Lift Coffee Shop & Café in the city’s Arts District, adding that “it’s not a money grab.”

Trevor Dickerson/RVAHub

A representative of sister restaurants Max’s On Broad and Tarrant’s Café, both in the Arts District and not far from Lift, spoke without providing his name for the record, stating the restaurants’ sales dipped more than 25% year-over-year in 2017 versus 2016–a loss of approximately $200,000. However, he also cited the city’s closure of Brook Road in front of Max’s and the construction of the Maggie Walker statue last year as contributing factors as well. He didn’t mince words, saying the city “has screwed us” and compared the meeting to an episode of former NBC sitcom Parks & Rec.

The new GRTC busses will use smart technology to communicate with newly-installed traffic signals to prioritize their passage as they cross 53 intersections along their 7.6 mile route from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing. The service will run from 5:30 AM until 1:00 AM on weekdays; service begins at 6:00 AM on weekends.

While no official launch date has been announced, Pace says the new bus lines should enter a testing phase by the first week of April, with passenger service beginning by the end of June. Lane Construction’s contract on the project expires June 30th, 2018.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Starbucks adding new location at Libbie Mill development

Starbucks Corporation leased 2,490 square feet of retail space at 2363 Roux Street, according to leasing agents Pete Waldbauer and Nicki Jassy of Thalhimer, who represented the tenant.

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Starbucks is adding a location at the growing Libbie Mill Midtown development at Staples Mill and Bethlehem Roads in the Near West End.

Starbucks Corporation leased 2,490 square feet of retail space at 2363 Roux Street, according to leasing agents Pete Waldbauer and Nicki Jassy of Thalhimer, who represented the tenant.

The address places the new location near existing restaurant Shagbark.

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Scott’s Addition dance studio pivots to online streaming classes during pandemic

“The bulk of our members have stayed with us, owner Sandi Cauley says. “Former clients have returned and some friends from as far away as Australia are now jumping into classes, some of them trying us for the first time. If there’s a silver lining – that might be it.”

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On March 30th, Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order that shuttered all Virginia gyms and studios and mandated all residents stay home to “flatten the curve” of COVID- 19 cases. So, what are you supposed to do when your whole business is based on the in-person group experience and it gets shut down? You go virtual.

Although virtual fitness and on-demand classes have been out there for a while, most boutique fitness studios were not set up to do it and a lot of small studios have been scrambling.

“I’ve learned something new about executing it every day,” said Sandi Cauley, owner of TURN Cardio Jam Studio, “I’m sitting in webinars, grabbing online help videos and testing out new products daily hoping to deliver quality audio and video via our streaming provider. And then on top of it, l am like an air traffic controller coordinating with instructors, scheduling the class, streaming the class and then making sure the client got a great experience. It’s a lot harder than you think.”

TURN has been trying to stay true to its studio schedule providing clients with 15 various classes 7-days a week; everything from dance fitness and dance instruction to yoga and HIIT strength classes. They have even added family classes to incorporate workouts with teens and children. Members are given the added bonus of On-Demand classes to watch at a later time.

The business also rented out its equipment to members and clients; allowing them to take home weights, bands, BOSUS, and whatever else needed for an effective home workout. Next week, the studio will launch private lessons. Allowing anyone to book time with instructors to again get that one on one interaction and attention.

“Initially, we thought this could be a steep challenge, but we have gotten a lot of support,” explained Cauley. “The bulk of our members have stayed with us. Former clients have returned and some friends from as far away as Australia are now jumping into classes, some of them trying us for the first time. If there’s a silver lining – that might be it.”

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‘We’re Open’ sign program helps local restaurants signal takeout, delivery options

The “We’re Open” signs are a part of Richmond Region Tourism’s #TakeoutRVA campaign to help local businesses promote their takeout and delivery offerings during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 500 have been distributed.

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New green “We’re Open” signs are on display in the windows of local restaurants and craft beverage producers around the region to signal takeout and delivery options for customers.

The “We’re Open” signs are a part of Richmond Region Tourism’s #TakeoutRVA campaign to help local businesses promote their takeout and delivery offerings during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 500 signs have been distributed. Dining and craft beverage partners can also download graphics for social media at Richmond Region Tourism’s website.

Richmond Region Tourism is maintaining a list of restaurants and craft beverage purveyors offering takeout and delivery options at www.takeoutrva.com. Businesses can request a sign for their establishment by emailing Michael Spurlock at [email protected].

“Many of your favorite local restaurants and craft beverage purveyors are open for business and offering takeout, delivery or curbside pickup options,” said Jack Berry, President & CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “These establishments are a vital part of Richmond’s vibrant culture and we’re hoping those who can, will continue to support these businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.”

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