The suggestion Paul Goldman (pictured above) made to close off Carytown to motor vehicles and bicycles has been getting lots of reaction around town and within the local blogosphere. Some are applauding mayoral candidate Goldman’s knack for coming up with fresh ideas. Others aren’t so sure it was actually meant to be taken seriously. OK, I’ll […]
The suggestion Paul Goldman (pictured above) made to close off Carytown to motor vehicles and bicycles has been getting lots of reaction around town and within the local blogosphere. Some are applauding mayoral candidate Goldman’s knack for coming up with fresh ideas. Others aren’t so sure it was actually meant to be taken seriously.
OK, I’ll play along with this what-if game with those who have fallen in love with Goldman’s bold new vision for Carytown.
Here we go: We, the new city planning experts, will take tax money that could go to repairing the potholes in the streets and building a new jail, etc., and we pour it over Carytown for a makeover. First thing, we close Cary St. off to motor traffic (I can’t imagine actually prohibiting bicycles, so we’ll skip that for now) the entire length of Carytown.
When the merchants of Carytown squawk, saying that plenty of their customers have said they will simply stop coming to Carytown if they can’t park on the street, they will be told to love it or leave it.
When the neighbors who live a few blocks from Carytown, say they can’t park near their house anymore because shoppers are parking four or five blocks from their destination, we’ll tell them to build a garage in their back yard.
Next, we build a few bridges over Cary St. to carry motor vehicles north and south, similar to the three bridges over the RMA that already exist to the south of Cary in that same area. We build another parking deck, or two. We convert Ellwood into a two-way street west of the Boulevard, and, so forth. Lots of new signs will need to be put up.
Then we landscape Cary St. from North Boulevard to Thompson St. into a park-like space with lots of trees and flowers. We put some tables and benches around. We put some playground stuff in place for the kids.
There’s a spring under the Byrd Theatre. Maybe we could liberate that little stream and have water flowing through this retail Shangri La.
Since I have no idea what all that would cost I won’t even try to guess. But it would all be money spent on an idea that no one knows would actually work for the merchants. And, that’s what Carytown is — a collection of shops and a movie theater in a neighborhood.
Well, good intentions aside, it would be a big gamble. Would Carytown then bring in more tax revenue to The City? Would the merchants do better or the same?
Or, would it be a monster-sized flop, something like what happened with the last taxpayer-financed effort to build an urban shopping center within Richmond, the 6th Street Marketplace?
If it does turn out to be a fizzler, how much would it cost to undo the makeover?
My thinking is that if somebody wants to take an area of Richmond that is in real need of change, a makeover, and convert it into a green space, and hope new shops will spring up along the rim, that would be one thing. Maybe a good thing. But when you want to disrupt the traffic pattern to and from an already thriving retail area, you are taking the chance of killing that retail area.
For all the tax money that has been spent on trying revive retail in Downtown Richmond, so far, there has been little success to show for it.
Consequently, I have little faith in the power of city planners to grow or even maintain such things. Cities can build large public facilities and schools. Retail is another matter.
The name “Carytown” is less than 30 years old. Creating the concept of Carytown was something that was established by the initiative of individuals. Chief among them was Jay Rostov, the father of Tammy Rostov (of Rostov’s Coffee & Tea).
It took cooperation among the merchants and a lot of perseverance. And, it took cultivating customers who were willing to walk, ride their bikes, or drive to the stores. It all worked, in part, because no government planners were calling the shots.
So, I say Paul Goldman’s bright idea for Carytown was mostly a publicity stunt. And, it worked, because here we are talking about it.
– Words and photo by F.T. Rea