What makes Carytown one of Richmond’s greatest places? What could make it better?
Inspired by Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Project, 100 Days to a Better RVA strives to introduce and investigate unique ideas to improving the city of Richmond. View the entire project here and the intro here.
- Idea: A locally owned hotel, a second anchor, and a “Richmond Walk of Fame” in Carytown.
- Difficulty: 2 — The “Richmond Walk of Fame” would be easy and cheap. The hotel on the other hand…
Carytown is one of the distinct assets that defines Richmond. The area houses fascinating retail, a wide variety of restaurants, and a cultural anchor in the Byrd Theatre–but Carytown oozes with potential to be even better. In addition to adding two-way streets, Carytown could add a locally-owned hotel, at least one more “anchor,” and a “Richmond Walk of Fame.”
The Delmar Loop in the University City part of St. Louis is the most impressive American walkable shopping district in the vein of Carytown I’ve seen. The American Planning Association named it “one of the 10 great streets in America,” and it offers a few valuable ideas for Carytown.
A locally-owned hotel
Joe Edwards, “The Duke of Delmar”, deserves plenty of credit for the revitalization of the area. His most impressive addition is the Moonrise Hotel: an urban hotel in the heart of the Delmar Loop with a small footprint but a big personality. Its rooftop bar, first floor restaurant, and event space keep it busy with weddings and other events while patrons book rooms for getaways, vacations, and nights after concerts at the neighboring venue.
A small locally-owned hotel that walks the line between classy, understated, a destination, and gaudy would be the perfect addition to Carytown. The Moonrise Hotel was partially financed by the New Markets Tax Credit Program which recently expired, but there are other tax credits available to incentivize development, and the city could help with permit logistics.
The Comfort Suites is the closest hotel to Cary Street.1 At over a mile away, it misses out entirely on walkable access to one of Richmond’s biggest destinations. The ability to host a family reunion, wedding after-party, or Bat Mitzvah reception in Carytown would benefit residents of Richmond and businesses in the neighborhood.
Carytown’s charm and value stems from its unique and diverse stores, but outside of the Byrd Theatre what are its cultural anchors? In addition to lacking a hotel, the area lacks a music venue, an effective outdoor gathering space, or non-dining place with that “it factor.”
The Delmar loop has the Tivoli Theatre (a 1924 movie theatre), Pin-Up Bowl (a small bowling lounge), The Pageant (a great music venue), and Blueberry Hill (a restaurant where Chuck Berry plays a monthly gig). Carytown doesn’t need to explode, but a small music venue or a quirky duckpin bowling alley on the west end of the area could strengthen the geographic identity while adding a great asset.
Richmond Walk of Fame
Almost all of Carytown’s aesthetic is derived from the facades of its buildings. Its design, streets, rushing cars, lack of green space, and surface parking do little to enhance its role as a walkable destination. The Delmar Loop, while dealing with many of the same shortcomings, has taken a few steps to enhance the walkable areas.
The St. Louis Walk of Fame which was founded in 1988 has more than 140 brass stars and informative plaques honoring St. Louis greats along the Loop. The list of inductees includes Maya Angelou, Bob Costas, Miles Davis, and many, many more.
Stars strike me as too derivative of Los Angeles, but Richmond could build a walk with brass inlays of the bateau boatmen or the Richmond skyline. Inductees would have to be nominated but could include John Marshall, Maggie L. Walker, Oliver Hill, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Ashe Jr., Ralph Sampson, and others.
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Planning always needs to find a balance between organic and design. Carytown’s draw stems from its organic feel and unique offerings. A hotel, second anchor, and “Richmond Walk of Fame” could enhance the area and strengthen its identity without adding another chain, another grocery store, or another parking lot.
Photo by: jimmy_ray
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