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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Random Thoughts on a New Downtown.

This post was actually written before the previous post, but I felt my proposals needed some background. I think the economic foundation of new downtown is being laid. I think we need to do more to make sure downtown is not just a haven for the childless, the young, and the wealthy. Here are a few of my thought as to how to make downtown an integral part of the entire Richmond community.

  1. Downtown after church - An exciting and vital downtown is within the living memory of tens of thousands of Richmonders. Not only that, these people has spawned (excuse the piscatorial imagery) two to three generations of offspring who’s cultural and familial roots are in historic Richmond. These "kids" in large part have little first had knowledge of the richness of their urban heritage. These people are the greatest untapped resource that could fuel the renaissance of the city. These are people who grew up with fond memories and a sense of ownership of their city and their neighborhood. These are refugees of the "Armageddon" that has devastated city life over the past 50 years it’s time to bring these people back downtown and now the time is ripe to do that.
    Paint the side of the new Police Headquarters. The police sculpture on the side resembles an art deco sphinx tacked on featureless 5 story brick wall. Well police headquarters is never going to be an architectural masterpiece, but it certainly could blend in to the city landscape better. What about using the space for a mural? It would make a great art project for VCU. I kind of like the idea of painting a 3D false building front on the wall, with windows, ledges and architectural detail. It could turn a white elephant into an attraction.
  2. Monroe Ward Business Association - This would have been an oxymoron just a short time ago, but the area is posed to take off. Monroe Ward needs its own voice in the future of the neighborhood. It's been a bastion of residential living that has survived the storm and even grown during it. It's got a string of highrises dating back to the 60's, a core of restored residential buildings done in the 90's, has key Richmond institutions such as the Main Library, the Commonwealth Club, the Downtown YMCA, but very few other amenities. This is changing. Pearly's is now open nights and weekends, Pennylane has moved in, some other new restaurants and clubs have opened, but it’s just a skeleton of an infrastructure. A small investment of time, money and planning now will pay off big and as more businesses, independent and mainstream move in to service the neighborhood. These are the kind of developments that can anchor the future of the neighborhood. This are could be more than just a hodgepodge of buildings and businesses, but a cohesive attractive neighborhood.
  3. Clean up Monroe Park - This should be a high priority for the city, the university and the surrounding neighborhoods. Monroe Park is one of the most underutilize assets in the city. Today the parks main use is a shelter and a feeding cite for the homeless. It sits at a critical position along a gateway to downtown, surrounded by Virginia Commonwealth University, high rise dorms and apartment buildings, several large churches and a concert hall. I can think a few things that more poorly represent the city than this park. A dollar value needs to be put on the damage this does to the image and economy of the city or in a positive light, how much it would add to the image and economy if this park were cleaned up, patrolled properly and fully developed. There is too much to say for this one post. I plan on developing this idea more fully in a post dedicated to Monroe Park.

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