Improving Richmond Virginia

By Dom Nozzi

April 23, 2008

In the spring of 2008, I served on a volunteer citizen team offering suggestions to the city of Richmond about improving the city.

As I noted at one of the meetings, I wanted the team to consider recommending strategies that would attract and retain a high-quality workforce.

I urged the team, among other things, to “think outside the box” a bit, as was stated by someone during the introductory comments at an earlier meeting.

I am interested in promoting the attraction and retention of a quality workforce (along the lines of Richard Florida and his Creative Class) via quality urban design. I believe one important way that can be effectively done, as Florida would surely agree, is by restoring and nurturing a charming, walkable, hip, vibrant urban experience for those who might consider living and working in Richmond.

I wanted the team to recommend what I would call a “Think Outside the Box Urban Design Toolkit”. Elements could be such things as:

  1. Have the City start incrementally uncovering the goldmine that is found under many of the asphalt streets in the urban area. Namely, daylighting the brick and cobblestone that remains hidden by asphalt.
  1. Urge a speedy and comprehensive implementation of the impressive, quality-inducing downtown master plan prepared by the Dover-Kohl consultants.
  1. Identification, restoration, protection, or creation of a charming, walkable, community-building, civic pride-promoting town center or neighborhood. Is Richmond Cary St downtown Jun06there, in other words, a “there there” in Richmond and its surrounding “Edge Cities” that is unique, and a source of civic pride?

The first item might entail meeting with, say, the City traffic engineer to determine the practicality of incrementally doing this in appropriate locations. The second item perhaps involves meeting with City Planning Staff. The third item would possibly mean having the team visit examples of a walkable town center or urban neighborhood that may exist or be planned in Richmond and surrounding Edge Cities.

For Richmond, as the Crupi report indicates, this could include Shokoe Slip and Shokoe Bottom. Additionally, it could include the Fan District, perhaps.

Richmond can have a wonderful future. If it focuses on promoting walkable charm.

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