The Source for Richmond Architecture and Design Information

Current: Hargreaves Plan for River Development

In mid 2011, the Cambridge office of the internationally renowned firm Hargreaves Associates was awarded a $490,000 commission from the city for a (re)development of Richmond’s Riverfront. The firm has already undertaken successful riverfront plans for cities including San Francisco, Louisville, Houston and others. This month, the final draft of the Riverfront Plan was unveiled.

The target area includes the portion of the river from the Robert E Lee Bridge to the Henrico County line and Ancarrow’s Landing. Intending to build off the framework of the 2009 Downtown Master Plan, the plan focuses on accessibility and recreational uses. The plan is ambitious, calling for a wide range of improvements, including more public art, bike paths, completion of the capital trail, rowing clubs, revamping of watercraft sports, and cultural venues. Accessibility is also a common point of the proposal, through developing new pedestrian bridges and various completions of old trails to Belle Isle, Browns Island and Mayo Island. Other designated areas of focus are Chapel Island, Manchester, Tobacco Row, Ancarrow’s Landing, and the Tredegar Green. A prevailing technique used in many locations along the river are terraces, easing the level of descent from recreation to the water’s edge. The proposals are comprehensive, covering ecology, land acquisition, possible roadway change and future urban development.

Despite the wide aims of the plan, Hargreaves emphasizes that it will function as “a single, unified, cohesive system,” and that benefits from subsequent riverfront investment will spread to other neighborhoods of the city. To break up the magnitude of Hargreaves’ vision, the plan is divided into three priorities. The first, headlined by improvements to Mayo Island and Brown’s Island, is estimated at 35.4 million dollars.

Mayor Dwight Jones acknowledged that “The Richmond Region exists because of the critical role the James River played in our history” and acknowledged the importance of this plan with a $5 million addition to the Capital budget in 2013 and 2014.

Unlike countless past riverfront development strategies gone unrealized, the energy brought about by Hargreaves’ plan will hopefully lead to implementation. Before releasing the final plan, the firm completed a series of three popularly attended town meetings to discuss and edit their strategies. You can find all of their presentations online here:

Photos courtesy of Hargreaves Associates.

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