Richmond’s Riverfront Plan turns 4 years old in November, and as that date approaches, construction crews have been putting the finishing touches on the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, a river crossing from Brown’s Island to Manchester for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users.
For Mayor Dwight C. Jones, who will leave office in January, the $11 million project is a major step toward fulfilling one of his administration’s goals. “It’s not just good enough to have a river in the city,” he says. “We need to get people on the river. We want them to feel it.” Although many people already enjoy use of the river, others feel disconnected from it, he says. “Our job has been to try to connect the citizens to this wonderful asset.”
The 10-foot-wide bridge, seen as a symbolic link joining the city’s north and south sides, is named for a city planner who managed the project until his death in April 2014. City officials expect to hold a dedication and opening ceremony before year’s end.
The next big riverfront project will be Lehigh Terraces, a public open space at the site of the former Lehigh Cement Co. plant that’s in the conceptual planning stage. It’s also where Stone Brewing Co. plans to open its World Bistro and Gardens.
Mark Olinger, the city’s planning director, says the expansive Riverfront Plan is an evolving 20-year vision. “Once you get started,” he says, “you may find other projects you haven’t even thought about that make more sense than what we’ve got in here because the way people use the river has changed.”
The plan is divided into three priority levels. Here, we highlight projects in the first level, and others that have been expedited.
Click upper-right corner to expand (Infographic by Sarah Lockwood)
1. Missing Link Trail
No timeline or cost estimate
The original $400,000 project to create a paved pathway along the Norfolk-Southern tracks will have to be revised because of safety concerns. Planners hope to come back to it because it would allow connection to 21st Street and points farther west along the river’s south bank.
2. Tredegar Green
This Venture Richmond project involved building a Second Street connector (Brown’s Island Way) and creating an open public landscape on 3 acres connecting the Virginia War Memorial to Tredegar Iron Works.
3. Public Art Project “The Path Untraveled” by Joshua Wiener
Timeline: scheduled to be complete by the end of 2016; see our progress post here.
The Public Art Commission selected Colorado artist Joshua Wiener’s plan for eight 17-foot ring structures. In his proposal, Wiener said that the artwork suggests new perspectives and attempts to connect nature with civilization.
4. Potterfield Bridge (originally called Brown’s Island Dam Walk)
Planned Cost: $2 million
Current Estimated Cost: $11 million (including more than $3 million from the state)
Timeline: scheduled to be complete by the end of 2016
The first major riverfront project, this reconstructed bridge will become another way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the river. The 10-foot wide span from Brown’s Island to the SunTrust bridge in Manchester will include three overlooks and will be handicapped accessible and well-lit.
5. Haxall Canal
Safety Cost: $160,000
Terraces Cost: $1.75 million
Fountain Cost: $980,000
These projects are not on the immediate horizon.
6. Reynolds South Streetscape
Cost: no estimate yet
Streets that had been private are returning to the public grid as mixed-use development takes place at the former Reynolds South property. Developers are beginning streetscape work; the plan calls for a combination of public and private funds to ensure cohesiveness and public accessibility. One or more pedestrian bridges will connect to the Manchester Floodwall.
7. Mayo’s Island
Planned cost: $16 million
No timeline. The city would need to acquire or lease the land.
The short-term plan includes a nature trail along the island perimeter, ramps and pedestrian access to the water. The longer-term vision is a 16-acre park. “It’s a game-changer on the waterfront,” says Planning Director Mark Olinger.
8. Chapel Island Access Trail
Planned Cost: $830,000
No timeline has been set, but this will be the next project after Lehigh Terraces. A universally accessible shared-use trail will connect 14th Street to Great Shiplock Park. Over time, playing fields and other activities could be added.
9. Manchester Canal
Cost: no estimate yet
Timeline: likely within the next five years
The plan calls for Improving pedestrian access along the canal and Walker’s Creek, an area hemmed in by the floodwall and railroad tracks, perhaps by widening the existing path/creating a boardwalk, adding pedestrian-scale lighting and other amenities.
10. Low Line
Cost: $1.2 million (including $200,000 from the city and $100,000 from CSX Corp.)
Timeline: The project is expected to be half finished by the end of 2016.
The nonprofit Capital Trees is planting trees and shrubs and removing invasive plants on the linear 5.5-acre strip along the Kanawha Canal and the Virginia Capital Trail. The site connects a recently enhanced Great Shiplock Park with Richmond’s Canal Walk.
11. Kanawha Canal
Planned cost: $210,000
Safety features such as life preservers and ladders would be added to allow use by small watercraft such as kayaks and canoes on the lower canal between 17th Street and the lock gates at Great Shiplock Park.
12. East Riverfront Transportation Improvements
Cost: $7.9 million
Original plans for improvements to the streetscape, estimated to cost $380,000, have been superseded by the need to relocate Dock and Water streets, and close Wharf Street, to accommodate the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. The city’s Department of Public Works is overseeing the project. Construction is expected to start early next year and be completed in time for the launch of the Pulse bus rapid transit (BRT) service in October 2017.
13. Lehigh Terraces
Planned cost: $2.55 million for landscaping and removal of silos. (This amount is certain to change.)
The silos came down in 2015 at a cost of about $300,000. The construction of a park and river terraces on the former Lehigh Cement Co. site is the next big riverfront project. A conceptual plan should be ready for consideration by the Planning Commission and City Council by late 2016 or early 2017.
Sources: Riverfront Plan and city officials, Venture Richmond