The Downtown Master Plan has been on the back burner during the recession, but throughout the development of the 2009 revision, there was much excitement and anticipation. I’m specifically interested in the James River and how the riverfront development plays into the plan. The next three graphs are from the Downtown Master Plan [PDF]. Please post your […]
The Downtown Master Plan has been on the back burner during the recession, but throughout the development of the 2009 revision, there was much excitement and anticipation. I’m specifically interested in the James River and how the riverfront development plays into the plan.
The next three graphs are from the Downtown Master Plan [PDF]. Please post your comments on the plan:
The James River is Richmond’s “great, wet Central Park.” The James River is the historic heart of Richmond, giving the city its original reason for being. Today it continues to serve as a dramatic centerpiece for the city gathered along its banks. The James River provides natural contrast to the intense urbanity of Downtown, and green relief from the pattern of masonry buildings and paved streets. Over time, the James River’s role as the heart of Richmond’s industry and commerce has
evolved. Today it is known instead for its unique recreational opportunities, such as rock-climbing and nationally recognized kayaking.
Allow residents and visitors to fully enjoy this unique natural feature by creating a series of clear connections to the riverfront. Although the James River is the geographic center of Downtown, it is difficult for residents and visitors to directly reach the waterfront. One obstacle to accessibility is the layering of infrastructure that lines the riverfront, including the canals that George Washington surveyed, the railroad lines built on top of the canal tow-paths, and the recently constructed floodwall. Another challenge to riverfront access is the fact that many Downtown streets simply do not continue to the riverfront, which was traditionally a place of heavy industry. Some of the streets that do extend to the river are elevated bridges, thus they are separated from the waterfront and do little for river access. Thus, a key strategy for improving access to the James River is to create clear, pedestrian-oriented connections between city parks and the riverfront. This will diversify recreation opportunities Downtown and provide new ways for residents and visitors to experience their city. Moreover, it will establish dedicated pedestrian ways through the city, enhancing new modes of transportation. A more hands-on, up-close experience of the river will be possible with the creations of a low pedestrian bridge across the river that allows users to enjoy the rapids and engage in recreational activities such as fishing.
Develop a comprehensive system of natural open space along the river and create green connections between city parks and the riverfront. Richmond has a significant amount of natural open space lining the banks of the James River; however, much of this natural open space is found in isolated pockets. There is currently no continuous public pathway along the length of the riverfront, although the Canal Walk has provided a much needed linear connection near the water. A key obstacle is that much of the riverfront today is privately held, and many areas are restricted for public access. The City should work with private property owners to
assist in the creation of a continuous public waterfront along the river, a feat that has been achieved in cities such as Austin, Texas and Norfolk, Virginia. Where possible, additional waterfront park land should be acquired and made available for public use. Where this is not possible, clearly marked pathways should be created to connect Downtown’s riverfront parks, allowing visitors continuous access to the waterfront and an engaging experience of Downtown’s natural features.