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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Downtown on the verge

Downtown development has gone into high gear. At my most optimistic it I don't think I would have predicted the level of development now going on in Richmond. It seems like new major projects are announced each week and that is not an exaggeration. Here's a short list;

  1. Renovation has started on the Central National Bank building, the city's oldest skyscraper. This 29 story art deco building has been sitting empty for 5 years. The secondary impact of this investment will be substantial.
  2. Fencing and construction barriers have gone up around the old John Marshall Hotel. This used to be one of the city's grandest hotels, but also has been sitting empty and mostly unused for many years. Plans are to turn this into very upscale condominiums. This sort of luxury housing is virtually non-existent downtown, or at least used to be.
  3. A new 20 story residential tower on Brown's Island. This will be in addition to the just completed mixed use development that is just being completed on Brown's Island. This development, which is virtually sold out, was almost rejected by an anti development revolt in the City Council 3 years ago. Now it looks like it will be the catalyst for an exciting entertainment and residential district.
  4. Toad's Hall - A major new nightclub which will attract tourist and residents from throughout the region. This is another side development that can be credited to the success of the original Brown's Island project. This will sit right on the canal turning basin and breathe life into the Canal Walk. This beautiful spot has been waiting for something like this. 5. Mixed use 20 story development on Main St, between 5th and 6th street. This is another major private investment within site of the river. Plans call for shopping, offices and residential units on the top floors.
  5. A major urban developer has purchased an entire city block from 3rd to 4th Streets, between Main and Carey and plans to build the first new movie theaters in the city of Richmond in 30 years. I can literally see this location from where I am sitting right now. This will no doubt be more than your average suburban multiplex. I expect a top notch entertainment complex with restaurants and a parking garage.
  6. Developers have also secured a major investor in the Miller and Rhoads Hotel project. This Richmond landmark sits directly across the street from the Richmond Convention Center and right next to the future home of the Virginia Center for the Performing Arts. The Performing Arts Center is still in the fundraising stage.

All the momentum being generated by these projects can only bode well for this. Now if the Mayor will only jump on board, I think the project will be a cinch. I have only mentioned the major projects that are either currently underway or have secured major funding. There are literally dozens of smaller projects underway throughout downtown, most of which are within a 5 or 10 minute walk from where I live. The curtain is being raised on a new downtown. This is not just a pipedream any more. This is a new era for the city of Richmond.

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