Monday, July 23, 2007

Adam Says: Not So Fast Downtown... Let's Check That Attitude At the Door.

Allow me to be cynical for a moment. I went down to Planet Zero tonight to check out the Downtown Planning Thing with the Deal, and let me say that it is really great to see ideas flowing so readily. I have to admit that I am excited to hear so much talk about public transit, green space, and most importantly ascetics. I, as much as any, would love to see Richmond mature into a cross roads of north and south, where the past meets the future, a place know as much for its open mindedness, culture, and environmental friendliness as it is for its banking, and civil war artifacts.

However I have heard this song and dance before... I remember the buzz about the river walk, and how it was going to be as successful here as it was in San Antonio... that really hasn't worked out... so let me give my list of concerns and you can decided if I am totally off base.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but it is not necessarily a recipe for success. Honestly why would anyone visit a city like New York if they could actually visit New York... So why are we trying to pattern ourselves after other successful cities instead of looking to bring out own originality and more importantly finding a niche that Richmond can hang its hat on.

How long can we suppress capitalism? in a perfect world we could balance Richmond's art and college vibe with its serious business side, but sooner or later the money will talk and many of these high and lofty ideals that are floating around right now will be smashed in favor profit... does Richmond have the stomach to say now to corporate greed and yes to a higher goal?

Finally, money. How much would this cost? And then how long will it take to complete? Or at least how long till we get to a place were we see results? The dollar number has to be huge... and the amount of time it would take to complete some of these ideas would far out last our attention spans... so by the time one project would be complete we would all be sick of paying for it with our taxes and we would all be sick of hearing about it...

Can we succeed as a city? Yes! Is this a great step? Yes! Is this a real solution? Probably not.


  1. Good thoughts, and pretty on-target overall. I'd only add or suggest that we wait and see what the outcomes of the planning process are. I spent some time with some of the planners from Dover Kohl and the city yesterday, and they recognize the need to really focus in on both some short-term goals and some ambitious long-term plans -- and to make sure that they make economic sense. I really feel this team "gets" why a lot of ambitiously stupid projects in Richmond's past failed, and want to avoid those mistakes.

    The proof, though, will be in the pudding. Especially if the pudding is made of congealed "green space" along the James River...

  2. I feel like we went to different presentations.

    The one I went to was about the value of good, solid, pedestrian-friendly urban planning, with the goal of GUIDING the continual (and increasing!) investment into Richmond's downtown to make maximum use of the history, architechture, and surrounding geography. Then, as we have the money and the need, we can add on the additional pieces of the puzzle that require capital investment, like greenspace and public transport.

    It sounds like the one YOU went to was about ripping out downtown and replacing it with a New York City theme park.

    Is NYC-land a real solution? Absolutely not. Is urban planning? I'd say, without question.