Residents offer input on Richmond's improvement plans

By: Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - They call it the River City and now officials are concentrating on how to make that a reality. They plan to develop the riverfront area to maximize access, use and appeal.

At a meeting Saturday, city planners updated residents on the improvements. Their plan is all about how to connect the river to the city, neighborhoods within the city to one another, and then those areas back again to the James.

The waters of the James River flow freely but some Richmonders don't think there's a free flow of traffic to one of the city's main attractions. Chandra Smith is on the Richmond City School Board but attended the presentation as a resident.

"The river is over there and we as citizens very seldom get to interact," she said.

The goal of improvements and new development is to counteract that thought.

"You have to literally get out of your car, walk over some branches some times to get to the river," Smith said. "Those are very simple changes that we can do to allow me to say 'ok I don't have this difficulty to get to this beautiful river."

Brooke Hardin of the City Planning Department explains they're taking a holistic approach, concentrating on far reaching projects like the city street map.

"Things like one way streets," he said. "I can see the river down there but all the cars are coming at me, I can't quite get there."

Both sides of the river will grow, but the city says it focused on Manchester first. Because of the original zoning, officials had to take permit requests on a case by case basis. It took a lot of time to get moving with development. A simple re-zone to mixed-use-development opened the door, and now we're seeing the beginnings of revitalization on the southside of the river.

There are also new districts with restrictions on where and how you can build. One such restriction makes it so skyscrapers won't block the view of the river, another area establishes a buffer zones, while another sets height limits. Hardin says it's all part of taking a look at the bigger picture.

"We're going to have an understanding of how all this fits together," he said.

And if you're driving through the city, you also may notice different types of signs leading you to the various attractions. The city is working on a comprehensive approach. The funding is already available to start implementation once a plan is complete.

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