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.

— ∮∮∮ —

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.”

— ∮∮∮ —

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.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Zeke on said:

    $MM? Why, that’s just 1/4 a year’s debt payment on a new stadium in the bottom!

  2. Roger Talbott on said:

    If the mayor didn’t put aside money for the project where did the 4 million dollars come from?

  3. Jan on said:

    lol. classic richmond..

  4. Thomas on said:

    This is bad. If we want to seriously market the river as a destination, we need to complete at least some projects that will act as a catalyst, and the Dam Walk/ river terraces would have been a perfect jump-starter for investment. Why can’t we have nice things?

  5. Chris on said:

    A bridge that anyone can use or a football field almost nobody uses. I guess “priority” doesn’t mean what it used to.

  6. Scott Burger on said:

    No surprise here. Notice how Venture Richmond’s controversial plans go forward, but popular public plans do not.

  7. Scott Burger on said:

    The Mayor released a statement yesterday that suggested he was still going to support it, but a lot of people, including myself, are looking for more commitment.

    “Nobody is going to remember the mayor who put in the ballpark or the hotel,” White said. “But everyone is going to remember the man who had the vision for the river.”


  8. Michael Gilbert on said:

    Everyone “up in arms” is a year late on this.

    After reviewing the budget, the claim that riverfront funding being reduced and/or eliminated unfounded. Don’t get me wrong: I support more money being added to the budget for the riverfront plan, and believe it to be necessary, but the claim that projects are being reduced and/or eliminated is simply not true.

    The budget is done on a biennial basis. Last year was an “on” year, this year is an “off” year, so (as I understand it) the current proposed budget should only amend items from the adopted FY14-15 budget.

    Take a look at the adopted FY14-15 budget, specifically the CIP portion… pages 324 and 360 of the PDF:

    The adopted budget ONLY had riverfront funding for FY14, which we are in right now. Per the adopted FY14-15 budget, there were never plans for additional funding in FY15 and beyond.

    The reason riverfront funds do not show up in the FY15 amended budget, is because funds were never adopted for FY15 or beyond! That’s different than providing riverfront funds in FY15 (which would have shown up in the adopted FY14-15 budget), then removing them in the FY15 amended budget (where they would not show up) and vice-versa.

    The tell is comparing the adopted FY14-15 and proposed amended FY15 budgets: both are in agreement for riverfront funds. If one had funds for FY15 or beyond, and the other did not, then funding would have either been reduced and/or eliminated, or, added; but the documents would not be in agreement and both show no funding for FY15 and beyond.

    Many people have claimed there were spoken promises for additional funding: at the end of the day, verbal promises are as good as the paper they’re printed on.

    This is precisely why citizens need to take the time to review the budget as it is proposed and contact their council representative to voice concerns. Then take it to the council meetings and comment. Whining and complaining about this a year late, with nothing more than verbal promises in hand will yield similar results and responses from City of Richmond Administration. Again, I support added funding for the riverfront plan and implementation, but we all have to turn that support and desire into action – it truly does speak louder than words (or verbal promises).

    Michael Gilbert

  9. R B Moffett on said:

    Should not resolving outstanding adverse audit findings (some of which according to a recent report by the City Auditor have been ignored for a decade), correcting glaring mismanagement in the Department of Social Services which placed children’s lives at risk, remedying the myriad deficiencies in the academic programs in our schools and the years of neglect of maintenance of school buildings, correcting the shameful lack of necessary skills in the Finance Department recently reported by an external auditor, correction of deficiencies in the Finance Department’s billing processes and procedures, remedying deficiencies in the mechanisms for handling evidence in RPD, improving pay for our teachers, police, Fire, and EMS, and repairing badly neglected public infrastructure and measures to reduce poverty all take precedence?

    Nearly everything the Mayor suggests is essentially putting “lipstick on the pig” that is Richmond’s city government’s neglect of and fraud, waste, and abuse in providing crucial, core, city functions for which local government is primarily responsible.

    It is probable that an examination of the up to 10 years of ignored audit recommendations would reveal that if even half were implemented, the welfare of all of Richmond’s citizens would be elevated beyond our wildest imaginations.

    Entertainment and tourism, while they do add to the quality of life for some, are not satisfactory substitutes for a good education, prudent, and accountable expenditure of tax revenue, protections of citizens’ lives and health, and the existence of effective, cost-efficient core city services all of which are crucial to attracting and keeping employers who will provide jobs that actually pay a living wage.

    It is


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