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Community weighs in on City Center proposal in Richmond

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 11:30 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The community got a chance to weigh in on Mayor Levar Stoney’s efforts to breathe new life into downtown Richmond.

Neighbors said they’re glad they’re getting the opportunity to partner with the city on what could be when it comes to the “City Center” proposed development. While some are immediately on board, others believe there are kinks to iron out.

“What we’re trying to do with this plan is to bring people back,” said Maritza Mercado Pechin, with the City of Richmond.

“I remember downtown when it was thriving and downtown was the anchor for the region, everybody came downtown,” Councilwoman Ellen Robertson said.

The mayor said it’s time to bring the community to the table.

“I love this vision of green space downtown. It really needs it,” said neighbor Dan Lawrence.

A group gathered at the Richmond Convention Center to hear more about Stoney’s City Center plan. It seeks to revitalize the areas between Broad and Leigh Streets, as well as 5th and 10th streets with new developments of homes and businesses. A new hotel, a new high school and a new City Hall tower are all possibilities.

“New buildings that represent the downtown prominence. This is the hill, so if you build a building on top, it will have some height and you’ll be able to see it from the highway and you’ll be able to say, ‘there’s Richmond,’” said Mercado Pechin.

It calls for getting rid of the Richmond Coliseum.

“Tearing down all these buildings, well then you’ve got the expense of rebuilding them in a city that’s tight on finances,” Lawrence added.

“What does opportunity look like for small and minority business? What does that look like because I am a small business owner here in the city of Richmond?” said neighbor Sulaiman Forgus.

He says while bringing in new development, don’t push others out.

“I’m primarily speaking of the Gilpin Court community,” said Forgus.

“A moment ago you reflected on the houses that used to be east of here…VCU took all of that. All of that used to be African-American homes and communities, same thing happened to Navy Hill, same thing happened to Jackson Ward, same thing happened to Randolph, which is where my family is from,” said neighbor Emmett Jafari to the city representative.

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson said not to think of the current plan as a done deal. She wants to hear from residents because this could be a work in progress to get it right. She says even she has some changes she would like to see along the path to revitalization.

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