What will the next five years bring?
When we gaze into the future, it's safe to say that some of our history will inevitably repeat itself, but there will also be plenty of developments that will surprise and (we hope) delight us. Throughout this section and, for that matter, the entire Sourcebook, you'll find information on what's next for the Richmond region, offering a glimpse at what the coming five years could mean for everything from medicine and politics to higher education and the James River.
All Eyes On Richmond
World Cycling Event Prompts Creation of Other Signature Events
Target Date: 2015
Cycling's pinnacle event, the World Road Cycling Championships, will sweep through the city, bringing with it more than 450,000 on-site spectators, 1,500 athletes, 600 support staff and more than 1,000 journalists representing 500 media outlets from 35 countries who will broadcast the River City to a global audience of more than 300 million people.
"One of the great things about a bike race is that it doesn't take place in a stadium or on a track, it takes place in the city streets, and it's an opportunity to showcase the city in a way that few other sporting events can," says Tim Miller, executive director of Richmond 2015, the nonprofit organization that led the effort to bring the road race and individual time trial to Virginia. Some of the stars of the Tour de France have won previous world championships.
The event is expected to net the commonwealth $135.3 million in revenue, and Richmond alone might gross about $86 million.
"This is not a one-and-done thing," Miller says. "It's something that will pan out over the next [three] years."
The nonprofit is planning an annual spring gala that will serve as a fundraising and community-engagement tool for the race. The group will also stage an annual granfondo, an Italian-inspired mass-participation cycling event that he hopes will continue past 2015. "Think of it like a Monument Avenue 10K on wheels," Miller says.
The annual test races, which will start in 2013 and continue to 2015, will draw professional cyclists from all over the world, further adding to the race's economic impact on the city.
"The world championships and everything that surrounds it can really be transformational for the region," Miller says. —Anne Dreyfuss
The city channels attention to the waterfront with an eye on 2015
Target Date: 2015
Sometimes to make things better, you need to punch a hole through a wall. Or build a hill. Or complete a trail.
It accrues in increments, but in terms of cost, a set of phased improvements suggested for the riverfront, stretching from Belle Isle to Fulton and embracing Manchester, could reach $52 million. The comprehensive plan covers recreation, historical interpretation and public-access challenges.
The funds would come from a variety of sources: federal, state, public and private. Public hearings that harvested proposals this past fall were conducted by a consulting group of San Francisco-based Hargreaves Associates and the city's Department of Planning and Development Review.
The hole that's referred to above — actually a tunnel — could go underneath an expressway ramp in Shockoe Slip to unite 13th Street through to the canal. A hill created on a 10-acre tract behind the flood wall in Manchester would provide a grand river vista. There are several trails awaiting completion, including a short "missing link" that would connect Belle Isle with the flood wall. It would be all of 1,700 feet long but would open the way to the public. The Brown's Island dam walk that stops short of crossing the river could be completed. But the most important goal is completion of the Richmond link of the Virginia Capital Trail by 2015.
"This is when the international bike race is coming to town," says James Hill of the planning department. "That's a drop-dead deadline for us." It means extending the current trail from Great Shiplock Park and using defunct railroad alignments out to Rocketts Landing.
The initial attempt to get city administration approval for the riverfront plan will come in the first part of this year. To keep track of the progress, go to the Planning and Development Review page on Richmond.gov and click on "Master Plan and Other Documents." —Harry Kollatz Jr.
Star Power on Broad Street
VCU will add a high-profile arts center
Target Date: 2015
Three years from now, when visitors to Richmond hit the "gateway" intersection of Broad and Belvidere streets as they escape the frenzy of Interstate 64/95, they will set eyes on some serious bling with serious bang in the architectural sense.
If plans hold true, Virginia Commonwealth University will christen a 38,000-square-foot building in 2015 that will not only add to its top-rated arts school but also elevate Richmond's profile in the world of architecture.
The $32 million Institute of Contemporary Art will be packed with both function and form: almost 10,000 square feet of gallery space, a 252-seat theater, a sculpture garden, classrooms, a bookstore, a café with a complete catering kitchen and a spacious entry hall that can hold any manner of events.
"It's going to turn the capital of the Confederacy into the capital of creativity," says Joe Seipel, dean of VCUarts.
The center's four gallery spaces, he says, will be devoted to curated shows, with an emphasis on contemporary programming — for instance, interdisciplinary exhibits that combine art with themes such as engineering, genetics or even sports, drawing from all corners of VCU's expertise. The theater will allow for film screenings, he says, as well as avant-garde live performances.
Funding for the ICA is being generated from private donations, Seipel says, and VCU already has about one-third of its target amount. Groundbreaking will happen when the final dollar is raised.
Much of this building's star power will come from its architect, Steven Holl, who was recently named this year's winner of the American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal, one of the highest recognitions in the trade and the culmination of Holl's contributions to architecture.
VCU is expected to reveal Holl's design for the building in late March to early April, and when that happens, Seipel says, "it will be international news" in architectural circles. "It's a real big deal."
Doctor-patient gap will require new playbook
Target Date: 2017 and beyond
The future of medicine is more patients and fewer doctors to see them. This sounds like a dire prospect, but it may not necessarily be a bad thing.
With nearly 80 million members of the baby-boom generation (the oldest of whom are turning 66 in 2012) heading toward retirement age, coupled with major changes in health-care law and a number of longstanding federal policies that helped cap the number of new doctors entering the market over the past few decades, there's reason for industry concern. According to one 2008 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the country may be short 124,000 doctors by 2025.
"It's even worse than just doctors, it's also a huge shortage of nurses — and there's just not enough trained professionals to teach," says Sara Link, director of older adults initiatives at United Way Richmond.
Link and United Way are involved in efforts to ensure that Richmond's health-care community is prepared to confront the future as an opportunity, though, not as a crisis. The way to do that, according to Link, is to reconsider traditional health-care approaches.
Dr. Richard M. Hamrick, chief medical officer at HCA Virginia Health System, agrees. "There's going to be a [doctor] shortage," he says. "We have to rethink our care and delivery models."
Even if medical schools expand capacity by 30 percent, a recommendation in the AAMC report, Hamrick says physicians and other health-care workers will have to use resources efficiently to make up the doctor-patient gap.
Link says this is a major focus of the Greater Richmond Age Wave Plan, developed last year by a regional round-table of health care providers and senior-citizen organizations.
That round-table group is confronting difficult realities: In a decade or so, one in four Richmonders will be over 65 years old, and, Link says, 60 percent of male boomers live with chronic illnesses. The round-table's plan echoes concepts outlined by the Virginia Health Reform Advisory Council, the governor's panel that Hamrick is part of. Both reports de-emphasize doctor-to-patient communication in favor of teams of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and others. For example, nurse practitioners could get more leeway in diagnosis and treatment, still with doctor oversight. —Chris Dovi
Politics on Parade
Races heat up on national, state and local levels
Target Date: November 2012
If 2012 is the Chinese Year of the Dragon, expect plenty of fire breathing as statewide races heat up for both the U.S. Senate this year and the governorship in 2013.
Or if you ask Geoff Skelley, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, this is more likely to be the Year of the Negative.
"There's an incredible amount of partisanship in the country right now," says Skelley, calling the climate "pretty nasty," as exhibited by a December 2011 debate in the nearly marathon-length run-up to the November 2012 U.S. Senate election. Things got ugly both inside and outside the debate arena, he says.
"The fact that they had a debate in 2011 just seemed bad form, really," he says, noting that although former governors George Allen and Tim Kaine seem the likely nominees, neither had secured their party's nomination. The other half-dozen candidates still in the race were excluded. "It looks bad ... . And the debate was ugly. They threw positive out the window the moment they both declared," Skelley says.
And things aren't likely to be pretty in 2013 when the race for governor rears its head. In fact, there are already visible signs of smoke in that race as well — and just on the Republican side. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the perpetual political bridesmaid, and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — the interloper in this drama — seem destined to throw blows all the way from here to the nomination.
Bolling, a two-termer in the executive passenger seat, hasn't been known for a lot of political pizzazz in the past, but in the first few months of 2012 he seemed ready to show he's got spunk. First, with even party representation in the state Senate, he rejected a Democratic power-sharing proposal and voted for Republican-sponsored rules of procedures. Then, when called out by Cuccinelli over a dust-up over the Virginia March presidential primary ballot, he took a tough line and managed to force the usually intractable Cuccinelli to back down.
"I think this is the first time a lot of people have even noticed he's lieutenant governor, to be honest," Skelley says, noting that it's too early to speculate who'll win the battle for both the nomination and for the governorship. But, he notes, these latest developments hint at a fairer — if potentially spectacular — firefight.
Other big races in November 2012 include the Richmond mayor and all nine seats on both City Council and School Board. As of early this year, Mayor Dwight C. Jones hadn't yet declared his intent to run for re-election, but after a successful first term — at least relative to his predecessor, the pugnacious L. Douglas Wilder — his chances seem solid.
But that doesn't mean the misty crystal ball — actually a bevy of well-placed sources with loose lips — isn't already providing some titillating glimpses of possible mayoral and city election face-offs. As of press time (mid-January is way early to expect rumor-mill accuracy), city councilmen Marty Jewell, Bruce Tyler and Charles Samuels all were flirting with their chances at City Hall's second floor.
Council contenders yet undeclared include developer Charlie Diradour in the 2nd, former Justin French partner David Gammino in the 5th, former Richbrau proprieter Mike Byrne in the 4th, and School Board chairwoman Dawn Page in the 8th. Rumblings in the 3rd also point to a challenger, though the crystal ball remains hazy on that point.
School Board seems the likely wild-card race, with as many as five of nine seats up for grabs. Perhaps the biggest buzz surrounds Mayor Jones' son, the Rev. Derrick Jones, who seems a likely shoo-in to replace Page. Oh, and then there's what may be a comeback bid from Reggie Malone. — Chris Dovi
Spit for Science
Target Date: November 2017
One in five Virginia Commonwealth University students are moderate to heavy drinkers, consuming five to seven drinks eight to 15 times per month. "This is not atypical," says Ken Kendler, director of VCU's Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics. Last year, VCU was awarded $20 million from the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to conduct a study that looks at how genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of problems related to alcohol use and emotional health. Kendler teamed with VCU associate professor Danielle Dick to start the project during the fall 2011 semester, collecting DNA saliva samples from about 60 percent of the VCU freshman class and combining the samples with an emotional-health survey from the students. Kendler and Dick recently submitted a request to the NIH for five more years of funding. If they receive the grant renewal, they will do the same study with the 2012 and 2013 freshman classes, following all of them until 2017. The results of the study will be used in prevention and intervention programming to improve the health of college populations, Kendler says, adding that he is optimistic that the grant will be renewed. —Anne Dreyfuss
From a library to a student center, universities need space in which students can spread out
Tarfet Date: 2012-2017
Regional universities will be digging into renovations in the next few years.
In April 2011, Randolph-Macon College kicked off a $100 million initiative focused on upgrading residential and athletic facilities. A new student center will go up in place of the current center, which is slated for demolition this month. The new center will include a movie theater, a balcony and dining services with an open cafe.
This fall, Virginia Union University will break ground on a new $14 million living and learning center, which will consist of two residence halls anchored by a community conference center. And by 2017, Virignia State University plans on opening a new multipurpose center.
In response to a need for study space, Virginia Commonwealth University is planning to renovate the James Branch Cabell Library in Shafer Court at the heart of campus. The library was designed in 1975 to accommodate 17,000 students and store a maximum of 1 million volumes. Currently, it serves about 32,000 students and houses more than 2 million volumes.
The $47.5 million project would add 82,000 square feet of new construction and 80,000 square feet of improvements to the existing building. A four-story, triangular-shaped addition would include a glass-enclosed entry, in alignment with Shafer Court. VCU submitted a request for planning funds to the 2012 General Assembly.
"VCU's new academic commons and library on the Monroe Park Campus will have the most prominent spot on campus of any library building in Virginia, and more students will use it each day than any other library in the commonwealth," VCU librarian John Ulmschneider says of the project, which is slated for completion in May 2015.
In the fall, the University of Richmond will unveil a $5 million student center that includes a pavilion building for use by all students and eight cottages for sororities. The center will provide additional meeting space for student groups, faculty and staff, as well as off-campus groups.
In spring 2013, the university anticipates beginning the development of its South Campus with the construction of a 176-bed apartment-style residence hall, which will replace half of the existing townhouse-style apartments. —Anne Dreyfuss
News Flash: Weather Expected to Change
Target Date: 2017
Except that, when it changes, it will really change. We do like WRIC-TV's chief meteorologist, John Bernier. Honestly, we do. Nevertheless, we tried to lure him into a sucker's bet: Please tell us the weather for the next five years so that we can make all of our wardrobe choices right now and be done with it.
Too much of a veteran to take the bait, Bernier obliged us with only one very measured, definitive prediction: "Over the next five years, we will see an equal period of light and dark."
But in the realm of bona fide trend-watching, he had more to say. Forget the Mayan calendar or debates over climate change's true causes; the data give our prognosticator the only crystal ball he needs.
"We are seeing what I could best describe as a wider pendulum swing," he says. "When we have hot events, we're getting hotter. When we have stormy events, it's getting stormier."
As a relatively recent reminder of this helter-skelter cycle, Bernier points to a period of "incessant drought" that hit the region from October 1999 to August 2002. Then, he says, "the pendulum got flipped the other way, and we got 5 feet of rain in the next 12 months ... which made [Hurricane] Isabel so devastating."
Trees' root systems were weakened by the drought, and then the soil was made soft from constant soakings. Add one tropical weather event, and you have a recipe for toppled trees and downed power lines. Some Central Virginians lost power for weeks on end.
With that in mind, "drought could become more common for us if we are trending warmer due to natural and/or manmade phenomena," Bernier says, later adding, "The extreme seems to be becoming more ‘normal,' and that's going to affect how we live."
If humans actually take such knowledge to heart, how then do they apply it to everyday life?
For starters, he says, it's not exactly paranoid behavior to consider things like flood insurance or even earthquake insurance — or simply scouring policy terms to understand the exceptions.
On a grander scale, the meteorologist says weather extremes could run headlong into seemingly positive economic trends, like housing growth. If population grows — especially to the west of the region — so do
"There is going to be a point at which we have stretched the envelope way too far as to the weather resources we have," Bernier says.
In other words, that thing about saving for a rainy day works both ways.
Oh, and your friendly weatherman has one other piece of advice, especially regarding hurricanes: "If its name begins with ‘I' and it's female and it heads toward Richmond, run for the hills." —Jack Cooksey