Richmond revitalization groundbreaking ceremony

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate what's being called the rebirth of downtown Richmond.

Abandoned buildings at 214 East Grace and 213 East Broad Streets are now being turned into retail and housing space.

The city is lending financial help to the developers. It's part of a new revolving loan program to help fill-in the gaps of rundown properties and spur new development.

Wednesday afternoon marked the start of rehabilitating the old and abandoned Morton Jewelry store on East Broad Street and a neglected building on East Grace.

"This will be converted to 21 artist live and work units and it's the first project we've financed  under what we call 'Art and Business Richmond' which is an arts and culture theme revitalization program that we're targeting to the greater Broad Street area," said Richmond CAO,  Peter Chapman.

Mayor Dwight Jones plans to designate 65 city blocks from Broad to Belvidere into an arts and cultural district.

"We want it to be the heart of the city. We want it to be a place where people are excited to come live, work, and play," said Jones.

The developer received a $250,000 loan from the city to help make the project a reality.

"This is part of our revolving loan program. We are providing gap funding, not all of it, usually they have a little money and are missing a little money and we are providing the gap funding, and once they pay it back we can give it to someone else," said Jones.

The city says it's all about taking distressed, vacant and blighted properties and turning them into something desirable.

"This is not going to be a quick fix. These communities were under invested so transformation will take time. We're working on this one property at a time," said Chapman.

The projects on Broad and Grace Streets are expected to be finished in August 2012.

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