One local designer’s vision to prepare downtown for the UCI Road World Championships

Posted at 12:49 PM, Dec 19, 2014
and last updated 2015-08-03 12:01:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The day will arrive before we know it; people around the world will arrive in Richmond to watch one of the world’s biggest and most elite cycling competitions.

The 2015 UCI Road World Championships aren’t until late September (273 days, 10 hours at the time of publication), but preparations for the influx of hundreds of thousands of fans are already underway.

While the city has plenty of historic charms, it isn’t without its vacant buildings scattered around the course, a course that will be packed with people.

Local businessman, and recognized designer Micheal Sparks has an interesting idea he hopes can be in place before the big day: fill empty storefronts with pop-up shops.

“A shop that comes in on a short term lease,” Sparks explained. “That short term lease could be one day it could be a six-month lease.”

Sparks was able to successfully integrate into the Richmond dining scene the supper club pop-up trend happening in bigger cities. With a group of partners he launched The Underground Kitchen, a secret society supper club that has been wildly successful, and in various  locations all around the city.

The temporary retail stores would help revitalize the area and bring new life, he believes.

“It`s desolate and we need to change that,” he said. “We want to bring in clothing; we want to bring in national brands and local brands.”

He said many retailers are already on board with some downtown building owners.
“There is no reason that some of those shops can`t become temporary shops downtown,” Sparks said.

He said an important piece of the plan still needs some work.

“We need to get financed that`s one of the big challenges,” he said. “We`ve been funding it ourselves, independently, but I think it`s time for others to standup and help.”

“It’s to represent Richmond, and represent who we are," he added.

Sparks said he hopes that after temporarily leasing the vacant buildings, the retailers will enjoy the space and stay in downtown Richmond permanently.