Shockoe Bottom businesses say they can improve their neighborhood and they've got some key players behind them to make it happen.
"The more attractive and more vibrant the community is, the more people are going to come to downtown Richmond," said Andy Thornton of La Difference Furniture Store, which has been in the area for 15 years. "We needed a large space. We wanted it to be downtown. We're huge advocates of urban areas."
Thornton is glad he made the choice, but says there could be some improvements.
"There's high fencing, broken fences, dead fritters, it just isn't necessarily an experience that you say, ‘Hey, I want to park my car and spend a lot of time,'" he said.
So, the City is partnering with businesses in a competition for anyone to submit the best new design plan for the area.
"We'll definitely yield something much more creative and interesting than if we in a room decided to come up with something on our own," said Chrystal Neal with the Chamber of Commerce.
Baskervill architects are taking note. Their concerns range from safety to navigation.
"Lighting, walkability, just a more friendly type of environment," said Bob Tierney. "Late in the evening, there's been some crime in the area."
They are already creating their submission, which would tie the train station to the Canal Walk and be a very inviting place for people to walk.
Organizers say you don't have to be an architect to dream up a better Shockoe.
"You can draw something on a poster board, you can cut out magazine articles or you can actually draw something if you're talented in that regard," Neal said.
Any master plan is welcomed to eliminate blight, encourage artistry and a vibrant atmosphere.
"Hopefully if we do this right people will say, ‘That was phenomenal. Who would've thought that would be the answer?'" Thornton added.
Tuesday is the deadline for anyone to say they're interested. Then on Thursday, participants will present their plan at Main Street Station. The first place winner will get $1,500.
There will be judges helping choose the winners, but the public is also invited to vote for the People's Choice winner through text messaging on-site. The contest begins Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
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