A small town with a growing school is getting a facelift. Ettrick could see new shopping, restaurants--possibly even a big hotel. It's all part of a long term vision- one on showcase right now.
Officials with the non-profit consultant group ULI TAP (Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel), put together by the Urban Land Institute of Richmond, are presenting plans for how to improve the area around Ettrick and Virginia State University. We all know it's a growing campus- now officials are trying to plan ahead for helping the town grow with it.
Thousands of students go to school at Virginia State University, but to put it simply, this is a college town somewhat lacking in town draw.
"I think there's definitely a need for some retail. How do you incorporate it within the university and the town? That's one of the things we're working hard on and certainly more housing," said Chris Corrada, a consultant helping with planning.
It's why this panel of leaders is considering how to make Ettrick better for those living here and those going to school here.
"Commercial retail opportunities, traffic amenities that we can add to the community, improvement of the town- gown relationship," said Robert Turner with VSU.
Here are some early ideas. Between Second and Third Avenue, the university is tearing down houses, preparing for a multipurpose cultural center - a facility we're told that will also serve the Ettrick community.
On Chesterfield Avenue, they envision a mixed use facility with housing on top, and shops or restaurants on the first floor- similar to Broad Street near VCU.
And then there's Simms Hall. People talking today have discussed maybe making it a hotel, or possibly a condo unit or to have restaurants in it. All of that is yet to be determined.
But the bigger picture is much clearer- VSU keeps growing and it's important for the county to plan around that growth.
"We're trying to create a college town. Right now we have a town and a college. How do we bring those together and create a college town somewhere down the line," said Corrada.
Officials also pointed toward the importance of enhancing the train station in the area- they say it's a key transportation resource for students traveling from up north.
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