Councilman wants to bring arts district downtown

Published: Oct. 31, 2011 at 4:52 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 31, 2011 at 9:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond could have a designated art district soon if the city decides to approve an ordinance.

It could encompass 27 blocks of downtown, including Jackson Ward. It's a creative thought with a distinct meaning: to make downtown the heart of Richmond.

"This gives us an opportunity to really concentrate our efforts on that area while allowing the arts business plan the mayor proposed to continue doing a larger economic development plan for the majority of downtown," said Second District Councilman Charles Samuels.

The proposed district should stretch along Broad Street from Belvidere to North Seventh Street. It will include both sides of Marshall, Grace, and everything in between up to Second Street. The Hippodrome Theater and Taylor Mansion developments are also in the plan.

Additionally, Samuels has proposed free incentives -- including permit fee rebates and other exemptions and waivers to attract more businesses and to keep the ones that are already here.

It's a good sign for Lift Coffee Shop employees who've been serving cups o' joe for about six years.

"To make this the arts district is to let people know they should come down here and they should walk around here and see the art because there are a lot of great galleries around here," said Assistant Manager, Tyler Payne.

Payne says she doesn't want the recent crime sprees during First Fridays Art Walks to hinder people from visiting. Councilman Samuels ensures bringing more businesses on the lower levels and having neighbors live above may help reduce the violence.

"If you get people there during the day and at night-feet on the streets- eyes on the streets, it becomes a safer environment, and a more friendly environment," Samuels noted.

Originally, Samuels says the Black History Museum was not left out on purpose. Next month city leaders will go back to the drawing board to include it in the art district proposal.

Samuels says right now, Virginia law allows each jurisdiction to have only one particular district. He plans on asking state law makers to let Richmond create more than one art district if other areas want to establish one.

It's an atmosphere  that city leaders hope will soon draw people in from all parts of metro Richmond.

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