Local organizers of the 2015 UCI Road World Championships reassured downtown merchants and employees that the upcoming cycling races would not cut off access to their businesses.
“Downtown will be open for business. We cannot stress this enough,” says Monica Callahan, Richmond 2015’s community engagement director.
About 50 people attended Tuesday's hourlong meeting at the Richmond Public Library on the ongoing planning for the races. Planners from Richmond 2015, the local organizing committee, encouraged employers to go about business as usual, but could not provide specific details about what streets would be closed until the event’s traffic management plan is finalized.
The plan, which will also detail satellite-parking locations outside of the city, as well as shuttle service to and from downtown, is “98 percent done,” says Paul Shanks, Richmond 2015’s spokesperson. Organizers say the plan will be released in mid-July, but first must be vetted by each participating locality, as well as state and federal agencies.
The nine-day international cycling event is expected to draw roughly 450,000 spectators to the region between September 19-27. The lion’s share of those spectators is expected during the last three days of the event. Richmond 2015 has worked with city and county agencies for the last three years to prepare for the event, which organizers estimate will pump some $158 million into the state’s economy.
Reaction among business owners at the meeting was mixed.
Dirk Graham, owner of Bottoms Up Pizza in Shockoe Bottom, says he’s worried the event will be bad for business, particularly his delivery service, which makes up 20 to 30 percent of sales. Graham’s restaurant will be enclosed by the elite men’s race course, which he worries may limit customers’ access to the building.
“I know this is designed to bring notoriety to the city, but if it hurts businesses, it causes concern,” Graham says. “I can’t afford to close for a week.”
Renae O’Reilly, owner of Edible Arrangements at 1106 E. Main St., says she hopes the influx of temporary customers will be a boon for business. “I’m more excited than worried,” she says.
Richmond 2015 chief operating officer Tim Miller and Richmond Police Department Captain Will Smith instructed several attendees to schedule individual follow-up meetings to address their concerns about street closures and parking.
Richmond 2015 has held more than 150 informational events in the last year to get the word out about the Worlds. An additional 12 informational meetings are scheduled in August, seven of which will be held in the city.