An elevated ‘bridge park’ planned for RVA

To make RVA stand out, planners are working on creating an elevated park above the James River. It would be the world’s first.

Several eyebrows raised last Sunday when two people championed a “river park” in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Such a thing would be the first of its kind in the world–and it would be right here in Richmond.

Months ago, the op-ed authors, Ella Kelly and Mike Hughes (the latter, the president of The Martin Agency), originally proposed converting the old Huguenot Bridge into a park, replete with walkable path and elevated landscaping. Within days, hundreds of emails flooded their inboxes from donors, architects, landscapers, and others supporting the idea, some offering help to make it happen.

Unfortunately, existing plans to raze the bridge were already set in motion by the city. Stopping those wheels was virtually impossible. But as Kelly and Hughes wrote on Sunday, a new site is on the table.

I spoke with someone associated with the new nonprofit group BridgePark that wants to bring an elevated park stretching over the river to RVA by 2015. While not ready to make their plans public yet, they did say that the new bridge would connect downtown Richmond to Manchester.

Poring over in-house renderings with him, I saw a concept that would build upon the HighLine concept in New York. However, whereas the High Line serves as a walkway, stretching one mile atop an abandoned railroad line through the lower west side of Manhattan, the proposed river park will be a wider structure. This will allow for more diverse use (e.g. cycling, concerts, farmers markets), and will be the first bridge park in the world.

Although not finalized, the bridge will express a modern aesthetic and will use environmentally-minded materials. Organizers have even retained ten tons of the Art Deco railings from the old Huguenot Bridge for incorporation into the structure.

Bridge Park is putting together a board that will include representatives of the governor’s office, mayor’s office, general contractors, commercial developers, and others. It hopes to announce a complete design in the coming weeks.

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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