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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Richmond's Riverfront Marketplace

I rose early this morning to attend the presentation at Plant Zero by the Project for Public Spaces. Rachel Flynn emceed the program, but quickly gave way to Ethan Kent of PPS. It was an engaging presentation, far too detailed to recount here, but there were some basic concepts worth passing on.

There were lots of examples given on waterfront projects that enhanced public interaction with the water each other and had tremendous economic impact on their communities. Almost all of these involved public/private partnerships, mixed use developments that were part park and part private development including condos, shopping and recreation. The idea is to raise the profile of the river, lake or bay concerned to the benefit of that body of water. The more people that interact with the water, the more they value it and are willing to invest in it's protection.

The Power of Ten

This is the concept that any place, community or destination must have ten competing uses to sustain it. These could be dining, rafting, shopping, entertainment or other uses. Each of these would compliment and compete with each other offering the public a raft of choices and reason to return again and again. This formula has been replicated around the world. At the end of this article is a sampling of project that were facilitated by PPS. There were many others shown during the presentation.

What is lacking here.

It is just these kinds of competitive choices and access to the river that we now lack. The idea is that private investment and mixed use riverfront development will shut the public out is just wrong. The opposite is true. It was clear from the presentation that well planned development can open up access to the river, raise it's profile and make it a more valuable commodity to the public at large. It is a win, win, win situation. The public benefits, the river benefits and millions of dollars of private investment bring jobs and people to the city. I tried to make just the same case in The River Reserve, last week's back page in Style.

With such a development we would lose nothing of what we have today. This is not about one project. It is about an approach to riverfront development that benefits everyone. We don't seem to be able to accomplish anything in this city without attacking each other personally. To get the best possible outcome we must include all the stakeholders, including business, investors, the public and the planners. I don't believe we have done that to date and it is high time we did.

Not all of this squared with the Downtown Master Plan behind the discussion, but PPS made clear these were decisions that we had to make. I think we should look at what they have shared with us. We have a tremendous resource and the opportunity to put a stamp on the city that will last for generations. Look at what has been done elsewhere. We can do just as good or better here.

Some of the waterfront projects that PPS has worked on include:

- Providence Foundation --Providence, RI
- Southwest DC Waterfront--Washington, DC
- The Cleveland Waterfront--Cleveland, OH
- Port of Melbourne Place Management--Port Phillip, Australia
- Mill River Park - Stamford, CT

Read the summary pdf document entitled "How to Create a Great Waterfront." River

Project for Public Spaces web site.

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Jeff E. said...

Wait... so a few benches and a path aren't the most sound way to develop the vacant sections of our riverfront? I wonder what it will take to get this through to people? I couldn't agree more with the assessment that a public/private partnership will increase accessibility AND encourage economic development all the while raising the profile of the James River. We already have an unspoiled riverfront park in the James River Park system. The undeveloped riverfront areas near downtown and to the east must have a commercial aspect. We need a good riverside boardwalk with shops and restaurants overlooking the river. Thanks for attending and giving us a summary of the presentation.

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