Rose Center Advising Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on Advancing a Shared Vision for Shockoe Bottom
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — The Rose Center for Public Leadership, jointly operated by the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), is working this week with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to advise the city on synthesizing and implementing a shared vision for Shockoe Bottom. The City of Richmond seeks to leverage existing investments in the area and honor its history to create a new destination district that supports the protection of its cultural and historic heritage, goals for economic development, and environmental sustainability.
“We are excited to welcome this team of national experts who are generously donating their time to help us explore the exciting possibilities and unique opportunities in this part of our city,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “Our goal is to find ways to protect and honor the significant historical nature of this area while promoting its growth and opportunity given environmental challenges. By creating partnerships and working together, we are poised to find a solution that will create a compelling destination for our residents and our visitors.”
One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Shockoe Bottom is a 129-acre district within the Shockoe Valley just east of downtown along the James River between Shockoe Hill and Church Hill. Much of the district has been razed and paved over; the tunneled Shockoe Creek beneath it is also a combined sanitary and storm sewer conveyance. But there has been significant investment in Shockoe Bottom in the last two decades, including:
- The renovation of Historic Main Street Station
- An archeological dig at the Lumpkin’s Jail site (once the nation’s second-largest slave holding facility)
- The Richmond Slave Trail (a self-guided walking trail of the history of the movement of enslaved Africans to and through Richmond)
- The City of Richmond has enlisted the Smith Group JJR to lead partnership efforts to develop a museum at the Lumpkin’s Jail site.
Shockoe Bottom features numerous surface parking lots and vacant storefronts. Property owners are reluctant to develop or are asking for higher sales prices than the market will currently bear. Much of the district still lies within the FEMA 100- and 500-year flood plains, making sustainable infrastructure an important (and potentially costly) consideration for any future development.
With a history of several unrealized efforts to revitalize the district, the Stoney administration has asked the Rose Center to help it find a way forward that balances community interest in the preservation of its historical sites while creating a viable economic platform to create growth and opportunity that can help fund the infrastructure needed to support all types of development in the district.
“Through nine years of work with other large cities on their development strategies, the Rose Center has developed some familiarity with the complexity of urban development,” said Jess Zimbabwe, Founding Director of the Rose Center. “We hope to bring that expertise to help the City find an approach in Shockoe Bottom that responds to the community’s interests, market conditions, sensitive environmental implications, demand for economic growth and new housing development, and the need to preserve and tell the story of these historical sites for future generations.”
The Rose Center’s mission is to encourage and support excellence in land use decision-making by providing public officials with access to information, best practices, peer networks, and other resources to foster creative, efficient, practical, and sustainable land use policies. Each year, the center’s Daniel Rose Fellowship program invites the mayors of four large U.S. cities to select a team with land use decision-making authority to receive technical assistance on a local land use challenge. This year’s fellowship class is from the cities of Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Virginia; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Tucson, Arizona.
“Local leadership is critical to achieving revitalization that meets the needs of residents and leads to better economic outcomes,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities (NLC). “We look forward to working with Mayor Stoney through the Rose Center to help Richmond meet its goals and ultimately create a new destination district for the city.”
“The Rose Center has an excellent track record of helping cities reinvent themselves to be more vibrant, livable and successful,” said Urban Land Institute Americas Chief Executive Officer Ralph Boyd. “Shockoe Bottom is a treasured part of Richmond’s heritage and identity, and we look forward to working with the city on ways to revive this area. We’re confident that together, we can come up with solutions that provide an economic boost through new employment opportunities, and which ultimately benefit all residents of the community.”
Mayor Stoney’s team includes his designated Rose Fellows: City Councilmember Cynthia Newbille; Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Operations Robert Steidel; and Jane Ferrara, Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Economic & Community Development; who are assisted by project manager Ellyn Parker, Public Art Coordinator at the Department of Planning & Development Review. They will be joined by a panel of visiting experts assigned assembled by the Rose Center.
The panel will be co-chaired by the Richmond Rose Fellowship team’s faculty advisers: Andre Brumfield, Principal & Design Director for Global Planning + Urban Design at Gensler in Chicago; and Colleen Carey, President of The Cornerstone Group in Minneapolis. The panel will include Rose Fellows from the other three cities in this year’s class: Michael Akerlow, CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Utah; Daniel Bursuck, a lead planner for the City of Tucson’s Planning & Development Services Department; and Brent Sobczak, President of CASTO Communities in Columbus. Rounding out the panel are subject matter experts Karen Abrams, Program Officer for Equitable Development at The Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh; Lisa Beyer, Senior Design Associate at Alta Planning + Design in Oakland, California; Christopher Coes, Director of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors at Smart Growth America in Washington, D.C.; Martine Combal, Vice President for Public Institutions at JLL in Washington, D.C.; Bryan C. Lee, Jr., Director of Design at Colloqate in New Orleans; Federico Maisch, a technical consultant in civil engineering and hydraulics from the Chicago area; and Ashley Wilson, the Graham Gund Architect at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C.
Mayor Stoney and his team will brief the panel, who will then tour the district and meet with community representatives and advocates, business and civic leaders, and other stakeholders to share their local knowledge and perspectives. Drawing upon their professional expertise and experience, the panelists will apply the information gathered during the study visit and present recommendations for how the city, its partners and stakeholders can achieve their goals. Richmond’s expenses to participate in the program — including the panel’s visit — are underwritten by the Rose Center to ensure objectivity during the process.