River City Saunter tours Richmond redevelopment

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email
Posted by Shawn Maclauchlan

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Which parts of Richmond would you like to see fixed up? Local leaders got some ideas over the weekend.

They cruised around town to take a look at what needs to be done to revitalize Broad Street back to its former glory.

Organizers call it the River City Saunter - the tour looked at several areas that have been redeveloped into new apartments and restaurant space, but the tour also showed there's still plenty of work left to be done.

Broad Street runs through the heart of Richmond, and about 150 people spent their Sunday afternoon on a bus imagining a better future for the downtown thoroughfare.

One of the main issues facing downtown Richmond is transportation - local transit supporters say bus routes need to be improved to encourage people to take the bus downtown.

"What does it mean to have a walkable community if you have to park your car to enjoy it?" asked Sheila Lovelady. "We really need to create the full experience for the user so it's equally convenient to ride the bus as it is to drive your car."

GRTC says part of having a redeveloped downtown would be adding a dedicated bus lane down the center of Broad Street that would help buses get through the downtown quicker.

The tour also looked at several redeveloped buildings like the former fire station in Shockoe Bottom that now has loft apartments and restaurant space on the ground floor. That's a successful example, but the Central National Bank building off Third Street is a towering example of what still needs to be done.

Susan Nolan has lived in Richmond for five years. She says the tour was an eye-opening experience.

"It really showed us so many of the possibilities of what already has been done and what is in the process of happening. I think it gives a lot of reason for hope," said Nolan.

The designated bus lane down the center of Broad Street isn't a done deal, but if GRTC can get federal funding, they hope to have it done by 2015.

Transit officials are also looking into the idea of adding railcars down the road as well.

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