Riverfront plan gets $2.5 million boost

Adopted in 2012, Riverfront projects have been discussed but not implemented.

Update #2 — June 19, 2014; 10:05 AM

Good news for those that support the Riverfront Plan and specifically the Brown’s Island Dam Walk. It was announced yesterday that the state will be giving the city another $2.5 million to bring the total to $9.5 million for the Riverfront plan.

More from RTD.

With funding tight, planners had considered a phased approach to the project by doing the walkway first and then tackling the costly process of connecting it to trails near the flood wall and the SunTrust building on the river’s south side. With more in the coffers, Olinger said, the city can go “full bore” on both elements.

“We’re just going to kind of get it all done at once,” he said

Last month, the city Planning Commission requested that the bridge be named in honor of the late T. Tyler Potterfield, a senior planner with the city who was leading the dam walk project before his sudden death in late April. A resolution passed by the Planning Commission called the project one of the crowning achievements of Potterfield’s career.

Officials have said they hope to have a design completed by the end of the summer. Construction could begin by the end of the year.

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Update #1 — March 21, 2014; 8:28 AM

Mayor Dwight C. Jones today issued the following statement regarding the City’s proposed Capital Improvement Program for FY2015-2019 and Riverfront Development:

“It is clear to me after hearing from some very good friends who are aware of my ongoing commitment to riverfront development, that the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget put forth sends the wrong signal about the city’s intentions concerning riverfront development and specifically the Brown’s Island Dam Walk. I want to be clear: we are moving forward and it is my understanding that we are well on track to complete the Dam Walk before the World Road Cycling Championships come to Richmond in 2015.

“The city has approximately $4 million in unspent funds for this project, because of the initial funding that I included in my CIP for FY2013-2017. We are also anticipating grant funding in the amount of $2.5 million; meaning we may have as much as $6.5 million on hand. The Brown’s Island Dam Walk is a key project in this first phase of riverfront development and early conceptual plans for the Dam Walk estimated a cost of $2 million. This would indicate that we have ample funds on hand to move the project forward and is the only reason new funding was not included for the immediately approaching fiscal year. Staff has been hard at work to have this key project move forward in a timely manner and this is the information I’ve been relying on.

“Additionally, not including funding in the current CIP does not mean that more funding won’t be provided for another five years. That is not my intention. I am mindful of the fact that project refinements and technical requirements will likely push the need for resources higher. We present a five-year CIP every year and I fully expect that with the presentation of next year’s CIP, additional funding will be sought for riverfront development and other projects in the pipeline that will create new public spaces around our beautiful riverfront.

“This plan of action should have been conveyed in our budget, and it is unfortunate that the budget advanced without appropriate mention of our ongoing Riverfront plans. I look forward to working with Richmond City Council on this aspect of the budget as well as many others.”

Despite the statement there are some in the city that still feel the Mayor’s commitment is waning. Included among those is Paul Williams of the RTD and the river advocates he talked with in this article.

“I think for so many years, Richmond turned its back to the James River for so many reasons, pollution being one,” said Justin Doyle, outreach manager for the James River Association. “But now, we’re named ‘Best River Town’ (by Outdoor magazine) and people are finding themselves falling in love with the James River.”

“We feel like it’s extremely important for the city to commit funding, not only for the Brown’s Island dam walk but other Riverfront Plan sites,” he said.

“I feel very strongly on this issue,” said Ralph White, former manager of the James River Park system. “I like the mayor. I’m not in favor at all on this ballpark. I’m willing to swallow that bitter, bitter pill as long as there’s an absolute guarantee that things will be done along the river, and done right … and define us as different from other cities.”

But make no mistake, he said: “Our commitment to him was predicated on this commitment to protecting, preserving and enhancing the river experience in Richmond.”

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Original — March 19, 2014

There were plans, there were meetings, even impressive sketches of future projects such as the Brown’s Island Dam Walk. The only hiccup in this optimism of positive change along Richmond’s largest asset is that Mayor Jones has not put aside any money to fund these efforts.

There are hopes that the state will offer up $2 million that, in theory, will combine with another $4 million that the City has on hand so that perhaps the Dam Bridge can move forward.

Full story from RTD.

In the past two budget years, the city has allocated almost $5 million in capital funds to help jump-start the Riverfront Plan, an ambitious $60 million endeavor intended to increase access to the river and bolster its role as a lure for the city.

Hawley said Jones pushed for the initial $5 million and that the Riverfront Plan is a priority for him.

The mayor’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 doesn’t mention the plan.

“This is obviously extremely disappointing for the outdoor community,” said Chris Hull, a past president of the James River Outdoor Coalition, who promised a large grass-roots effort to get funding.

Related Post: Brown’s Island Dam Walk

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Richard Hayes

When Richard isn’t rounding up neighborhood news, he’s likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest craft beer.

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