Fight over Echo Harbour and view of James battles on

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A key vote by the Richmond City Council could have a major impact on the controversial Echo Harbour project.

Developers want to put a mixed use development along the James river in front of Libby Hill Park in Church Hill. But a deadlocked voted last night means the project could face stricter height limitations.

It is said William Byrd believed the view from Libby Hall Park looked like Richmond, England. Below the park is where Echo Harbour would go and how high the buildings would be is at the heart of this debate.

Libby Hill gave Richmond its beginning. Residents here now worry their park is nearing its end.

"It's tragic that they want to build something to cover this particular view," said Charlotte Lucas, a resident of South Richmond.

"They're taking away access to the river for normal Richmond people," said Diane Worthington, a resident of Church Hill.

Echo Harbour is a five acre, $150 million project for luxury condos, a hotel, office space, shops and restaurants.

Last night city council voted not to change the Downtown Master Plan, which recommends building heights of four to six stories above the flood plain along the east end of the river.

Echo Harbour proposes heights ranging from six to 11 stories.

"It's not going to be historical anymore. It's going to be a commercial view of Richmond Virginia," Lucas said.

"It's not appropriate. It's Miami Beach. Why do we want Miami Beach? What do we  as Richmond have to sell," said Church Hill resident Eugenia Anderson Ellis.

Residents worry the project would also block access to the river. The developers say they have a legal right to build.

"We've also pulled back to the structure back to the west. We have adjusted the heights trying to respect the view of the bend in the river," said Echo Harbour attorney James Theobald.

According to the developer, this plan will create nearly $3 million a year in tax revenues and up to 850 jobs.

"This entire project has been developed with public access in  mind. We've agreed to provide an extension of the Capital Trail, the Canal Walk," Theobald added.

The developers are seeking special use permit from the city to build. The application is before city staff and could be before the planning commission and then city council for a vote this fall.

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