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James River Park Master Plan is released into the wild and ready for review

With over 600 acres of land in the middle of the city, the James River Park system needs a path for its future growth. The path is laid out in the James River Parks Master Plan that was released last week.

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The James River Park Master Plan is the result of a thorough public comment period with guidance pulled directly from over 2,000 surveys and 10 public meetings held at every voting district in the City of Richmond which began in January.

Last Wednesday the plan was released. The plan is an 80-page document created by land development group VHB and landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates through funding from Friends of the James River Park.

James River Park covers over 600 acres and as you’d expect the needs for various areas are quite varied.

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Though the plan has more than 50 recommendations, it will be constrained by budgetary availability. Therefore, the plan recommends six focus areas where funding can be immediately directed and will be asking survey respondents to choose their priorities.

Kirt Rieder of Hargreaves presented those focus areas — expanding transportation access, creating greenways at Pump House and Reedy Creek, creating a Pony Pasture Education Center, refurbishing the Reedy Creek Welcome Center and rehabilitating Pump House Park.

As you’d expect from an 80 page document there is a lot of information to take in. The document is well laid out and you can easily find the parts that most important to you. The Master Plan is not set in stone and changes are expected as projects are implemented. Those changes are dependant on input from the users of the park which is collected from a survey.

Find the Master Plan AND the Survey here:  https://jamesriverpark.org/draftmasterplan/

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Downtown

New report finds Virginia Capital Trail generated $8.9 million in local economic activity last year

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

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The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation recently released an economic impact report by the University of Richmond in collaboration with the Institute for Service Research, the findings were significant.

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

The full economic impact report can be found here.

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Community

Venture Richmond Spruces Up Downtown

There are 126 new hanging baskets installed along Broad Street from Belvidere to 12th Street in the Arts District and in the Shockoe neighborhood. Just one of the new beautification projects from Venture Richmond recently completed.

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Venture Richmond just completed efforts to enhance the downtown area including Canal Walk and Brown’s Island.

They’ve been funding beautification projects in the downtown area since 2013. Over the years they’ve worked with

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Capital One volunteers, and Virginia BioTech Park volunteers.

“Beautification projects are critically important to Downtown and its gateway neighborhoods. They help to inspire civic pride, create a sense of place and enhance the environment for businesses, residents and visitors, as well as attracting bees and butterflies to our urban areas,” said Lucy Meade, Director of Economic Development and Community Relations.

This year’s beautification projects included:

  • 126 hanging baskets installed along Broad Street from Belvidere to 12th Street in the Arts District and in the Shockoe neighborhood
  • 24 planters on Broad Street, 3rd Street, and 5th Street
  • 13 planting beds in the 400 block of East Grace Street
  • 5 medians including two blocks of Broad St. from Foushee to 1st Street, 3rd Street and I-95 ramp; 12th and Canal streets, and 14th and Dock streets (last two complete in early July)
  • 300+ annuals planted along the Canal Walk and around the Headman Statue on Brown’s Island

In addition to items above, the Clean & Safe Program’s contractor, Community Business Group (CBG), a local minority-owned firm, has been providing the “essential service” of sidewalk cleaning seven days a week throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, they have collected 269,000 gallons of trash and leaves.

​Following damages that occurred to businesses during recent protests, Venture Richmond and CBG launched a new Graffiti Cleaning Pilot Program as part of Clean & Safe. Property owners and businesses in the Downtown Service District area can request help removing graffiti by emailing [email protected].

Another item you’ll see soon is social-distancing circles on Brown’s Island to help visitors mantain social distancing.

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Business

Venture Richmond teams up with city for “Picnic in a Parklet” program to assist businesses during reopening phases

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

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Venture Richmond has announced a new initiative, “Picnic in a Parklet,” a program designed to assist Richmond restaurants and other businesses with Phase 2 and 3 of Forward Virginia. Through this new partnership with the City of Richmond, business owners can receive design and permitting assistance for their requests for more outdoor space, particularly parklets.

Parklets are outdoor patio spaces constructed in the on-street parking lane of the street in front of a business that can function as an area for customers to gather and/or take to-go orders and eat outside in a physically-distanced environment. Parklets are, by definition, public space; but, restaurants can offer lightly packaged to-go orders for people who simply want to dine in the parklet in front of the restaurant.

“Transforming our use of public space innovatively and sustainably requires partnerships just like this one,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “By linking the business and design communities, this program will expand the city’s growing network of creatively designed public spaces.”

Business-owners who are interested in temporarily converting an on-street parking space adjacent to their storefront into a parklet will be connected with Venture Richmond to better assess their needs. If a parklet will be helpful and appropriate, Venture Richmond will work with the American Institute of Architects Richmond Chapter (AIA Richmond) to connect businesses with a certified architect for pro-bono parklet design services. Venture Richmond will assist the applicant through the steps needed to obtain a permit from the City of Richmond.

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

Unless otherwise specified or revoked, parklet permits are valid for three years. All requests within Richmond City limits will be considered.

Requests for parklets can be submitted through the RVA Strong website. General information about parklets can be found here, and more information about the City of Richmond’s Parklet Program can be found here.

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