Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vision for Richmond

There is no point dwelling on Richmond's many missed opportunities. It only makes sense to look at what it is at the moment and paint a vision to what it could become. As an Architect who has spent the past 30 years in design and planning, there is so much opportunity to make this an incredible place. Here are the assets I see:
1. Richmond has an incredible story to tell about the political and social history of our country. Frankly, it is the story of our country. While it has many tragic elements to it, the story is important to tell and is of great interest to most people in the US and many abroad. I find that those who have always lived in Richmond don't have an adequate appreciation for this and therefore don't understand its potential value. Let's put money into those things that will tell the story; it will bring tourism dollars into the area for years to come and perhaps change our own outlook at the same time.
2. The James River flows is an underutilized asset. Having a particular fascination for cities and their interface with rivers, it is obvious to me that the James could be a much bigger part of our urban life. We should do more to utilize this asset - make it cleaner and make it more accessible. These are not opposing goals.
3. VCU is one of the great assets for the city and we should figure out a way to use this resource to make the city stronger. At the moment, VCU is thought of as an island - and often a nuisance to some. An obvious place to start is a cooperative effort with the city's public schools. It is a shame that the city schools send so few graduates to VCU each year. . Let's leverage the various fields of study taught there to engage with the city's youth. Both will benefit from an alliance
4. Architecturally, Richmond has a treasure of old buildings that records our values and behavior in the past. It has many urban neighborhoods that are pedestrian-friendly, safe, and are highly desireable places to live. With that said, we should find a reasonable balance between preservation for preservation sake and un-checked development. Let's identify what has historical or real architectural significance and celebrate it. Let's understand why certain communities work and use that knowledge to make all neighborhoods in the city great places to live.

These four items are tangible, workable concepts. With some vision and community cooperation, Richmond can become a place where people want to come to visit and also a place where they want to come to live.

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