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Monday, April 06, 2009

New Market for the First Market*

*aka Baseball. the Bottom and other market related activities

Some people see irony in the fact that the 17th St Market used to be known as The First Market. So that means the Ukrops put the First Market out of business by building all those damn grocery stores, then stole the name for their own bank, which they turned around sold to some other robber baron bank. It's all very sordid.

The post is not related to that story. Well maybe a little.

First off, there is a new market and a new blog to go with it. The newly established THE MARKET UMBRELLA AT CROSSROADS, owned by Karen Atkinson is located at the Crossroads Art Center, 2016 Staples Mill Rd and is a climate controlled (read indoor) year round market. Hooray for Karen, who is behind two or three other European style markets. I'm looking forward to checking it out on my next foraging expedition in "near" Henrico county.

Our oldest and "first" market, the 17th Street Market, is nearly as underused as the rest of Shockoe Bottom and now it lies smack dab in the middle of the newly expanded flood plain. Well it's long past the time that this old market got a new face and as wonderful as Market Umbrella might be it can't match the history and tradition of 17th and Main. Anybody ever been to the Eastern Market in DC or some of the other great city markets around the country. Now's the time for some creative thinking and some action to save this landmark from obsolecense.

The East Market on Capital Hill

My idea, stolen from a former vendor, is to rebuild the market as an indoor/outdoor year round market. Imagine a 2 or 3 story market, rebuilt on the footprint of the old market, with sliding door facing the outside for pleasant weather, and and indoor climate controlled market that would open the market up for small shops, booths and food vendors. Imagine a fish market with a refrigerated display case or a tiny bakery with killer pastries. Imagine some more and fill in your own blanks.

Now comes the snag. None of this will happen without a solution to the flood plain issue. It's not the only solution, but we have a proposal on the table to do just that. It's also a solution that could draw 1/2 million consumers to Shockoe Bottom between April and September. Now I've been told that none of these people will eat, drink or spend money anywhere but inside the ballpark, a ballpark that will virtually open up into the market. A ballpark that is just steps away from some of the most interesting dining in Richmond, 3 blocks from the James River and surrounded by condos and apartments, not mention 60,000 downtown workers nearby.

If you're satisfied with the status quo or can find tax money to restore Shockoe Creek and support yet another park, some public/private partnership solution needs to be found. Before you condemn such a partnership as CORPORATE WELFARE or another cynical plan to rob the taxpayer, consider that any major construction project built anywhere involves taxpayer funds invested in roads, police, street lights and sewers. There's not a lot of difference here except that this provides great fodder for CAVE people Citizens Against Virtually Everything. Not that there aren't at least two sides to every issue, but these folks never consider any other side than there own and anyone who feels differently can go (you fill in blank). Their main tactic is to be so unpleasant and persistant you'll either give up or keep your mouth shut.

I've experience some of their courtesy first hand, but this isn't about me or them. It's about a chance to change Richmond for the better and to make downtown the regional draw it should be. I've talked to former residents whose children and grandchildren have never visited downtown, much to their chagrin. There is a lot of goodwill residing in the counties and people are just looking for the chance to share the Richmond they once new. Don't tell me suburbanites won't come dcwntown. I'm one who's lived for the past ten years. Myself and many others have staked out a home in Richmond and are tired of waiting for it to succeed. No time like the present.

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mark b said...

I've been staying out of ballpark fracci (?) for the most part, but I like the synthesis you're talking about here.

Take the market idea, Add in GRTC's ongoing efforts with the Station to the ballpark's *concept* of bringing dynamism to the area and there's the basis for a Richmond learning experience on meshing several lifestyles and demos with investment. Groceries are a tough haul without cars, difficult without busses that are more perosnal cergo friendly. Ball games would be nightmares without a more evolved/sophisitcated traffic management system than anything I've heard mentioned. Then, incent those behaviors - incent the ball park and transit and retail to amplify each others efforts by setting aside dollars in tax forebearance or grants to seed their connections, digitally or organically. This is not a weird idea when we consider that many construction budgets in other cities set aside 1 or 2% to public art $ or channel monies to easements and other "hard" infrastructure tweaks.

But this is precisely the job of leadership in this, or any town, and, as we're currenttly staffed or configured, it seems there's no purchase order or job description that has someone playing dynamist or ringmaster. Flynn or Welliver or Wingfield? Seemingly uninterested or outmatched by the challenge I guess.

Paul Hammond said...

A few thoughts on your comment.
1. I'm not a fan of the GRTC Xfer center as proposed. If correct, I've heard 1600 busses as day would rould though it, 1600! I'm for improved mass transit, but Gee-god, can you imagine the congestion and noise that would make.

2. This is not Major League Baseball. We are talking about crowds of 3,000 to 6,000 on most nights during early evening hours. It would a traffic surge, but not on an epic scale.

3.I think transit could and should play a part, but a less intrusive one. Smaller shuttle busses could run all the time and larger buses during peak demand, but I don't think we should throw all our transit dollars into this expensive basket.

Either way, thanks for your contribution.

ShockoeBottomDweller said...

Interesting take on events.You being the minority voice of the discussion and all.(That being the biggest joke I have ever typed)I really love how spindoctoring a subject is performed in this case. Anti-progress,Caveman like, and GRTC is the monster that is going to clog the streets.( the fact they will take the ballpark parking has nothing to do with it) all interesting views have to hand it to you that is forward thinking at its best. Keep up the work like I have to say that.
Thumbs up good luck really (no sarcasm here just admiring conviction just because we are on opposite sides of things does not prevent me from complementing)

Paul Hammond said...

I'm not sure how to take all that, but I'll accept the compliment.

Scott said...

VCU could have reverted the historic City Gymnasium building (corner of Cary and Linden) back into the indoor farmers market you describe. That is one of the original uses of that building. Oh well.

Paul Hammond said...

We still have a chance to do this one right. Maybe we can get some Obama bucks for it, but nothing's going to happen till we solve the flood plain issue.

Thanks for stopping by.

mark b said...

I don't have the numbers at hand, but I shall get them from my partner who's more plugged into the stats. What I do know is there are routing and flow aspects that don't turn shockoe into the feared Potomac switching yard with rubber wheels. And, besides, I'm viewing those rails as being a build to the shift--steel wheels is coming and the facility is a catalyst, or should be, to thinking in terms of integrated transport for RIC.

Yes, I know the numbers on seats. But this is America. 2.5 ppl per car. Try adding 1500 cars to a quarter mile circle around the park for twilight/rush hour baseball and I'll take the franchise for folding chairs to watch the cursing and fender benders.

Maybe we're looking at these things differently, I dunno. To me, it's smart to parcel an idea like SC out into Day/Night, Weekdays/Weekends. The sustainabliity and amentity demands change and the street dynamics shift. "Intrusive" in my experience often means ill-thought out and added-on. Transit is intrusive by nature on this or any cobblestone-informed grid and scale. That's why GRTC needs incentive/direction to synthesize with the bricks and mortar guys.

Paul Hammond said...

Try adding 1500 cars to a quarter mile circle around the park for twilight/rush hour baseball

I thinks it's just another challenge, not insurmountable, that can be addressed with creative solutions. Sure it won't go without problems. They'll be bad days, and there will be congestion. With some planning, resources and manpower we'll get better at managing a limited problem, but some inconvenience and traffic will come as part of the package. Our challenge is to minimize it.

Richmond's not going to switch to mass transit unless a suitable balance is struck between the cost of driving and the value of riding. We're not even close to that price point yet.

If I haven't already said it here, I'm a big fan of public transit. The main reason I don't use it now is because I walk to work. If they start playing games downtown, I'll take a shuttle or walk to the bottom. I'm not paying 5 or 10 bucks to move my car 12 blocks.

Kevin said...


I like way you are saying. In my humble opinion the ballpark in the bottom is the perfect place for it. And if executed properly, the city can make it simple. Create a ballpark village. Meaning the open-air market is part of the stadium on game nights and anything purchased from there can be brought to the games or consumed on the premises. Furthermore, look at Glendale, Arizona for the perfect example of how building a village outside the stadium and "Re"vitalize the night life. After a game 6,000 rowdy fans have just been released into the market, and chances are if the bars are open many will stop in.

mark b said...

There ya go, Kevin. Crown jewels are just hard to wear everyday. A real Economic Development office would say--show us how you're going to thread your project into the neighborhood and improve QOL even on non-game days, and out of season, and we'll back you to the hilt. This one started by backing from the get go, hence suspicion and friction.

FanGuy said...

Mark B, in fairness though, the idea of a development like this in the Bottom has been kicking around for the better part of a decade. It's not like the economic development office got behind the idea overnight. The proposal has been fine tuned many times over the years, and I think it now constitutes the economic development project that the Bottom deserves. If this was just about baseball, I wouldn't support it. I am not a HUGE baseball fan, but I do enjoy going to games in a fun atmosphere. I support this project because of what I believe will be it's broader impact on the Bottom, downtown Richmond, and the greater Richmond region. For that very reason, I would not support a new stadium on the Boulevard or any other pseudo-suburb. If it can't be built downtown, I don't want it built in the City -- the counties can have it -- but it will truly be the City's loss (and ultimately the region's loss), IMO.

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