Shockoe Bottom economic revitalization

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Where does Shockoe Bottom go from here? That's the question city leaders are asking as they look to revitalize the area's economy. Now they're examining the suggestions of Richmonders, separating dream from reality.

No one said breathing new life into Shockoe Bottom's economy would be easy. David Napier of the neighborhood association has sat through meeting, after meeting.

"I think that now everybody has come to the conclusion that it's been studied enough," he said. "It's time for action."

That action has proved challenging. What makes the Bottom unique also makes it difficult to develop. Most of the area is in a floodplain. Napier said he would love to be able to implement the ideas of those like Cynthia Brown, who we caught up with on her lunch time visit.

"Part of the attraction to this area is that the architecture is so old and historical," she said. "I think that's something they could play up."

The problem is federal requirements won't allow the buildings on many Shockoe blocks to be replicated in areas near Broad Street because emergency access would be restricted.

So what is possible? According to Napier, only one idea stemming from three days of meetings last month is actually realistic and affordable. That involves changing the 17th Street Farmers' Market.

Vendors suggest revamping the setup to create an all-weather roof.

Two bays would remain uncovered. That space would act as a sort of community meeting place. The two back bays would have roofs that would allow for a year round market.

Tim Christian, whose family has been selling vegetables from Hanover County for years, said the market is an important community fixture here.

"It could be a lot better," he said. "It's a nice place, a nice area, but I think it could be a lot."

Christian is hoping for the best, especially since this is an idea that wouldn't take a large private or public investment to carry out.

"Change is good sometimes you have to roll with it and see what happens," he explained.

The city has hired a national consulting firm to help develop the revitalization strategy for the Bottom. A draft plan is expected in January.

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