RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmonders weighed in on the plan to demolish the Richmond Coliseum and revitalize parts of downtown Tuesday. It was the city’s first in-person meeting to get feedback on the draft City Center Plan.
Project manager Maritza Mercado Pechin presented the plan at the Richmond Convention Center to the dozens in attendance and dozens more watching via Zoom. She emphasized that this was a draft and said the goal was to get input from the community before moving forward.
“Basically, the message is, we want to hear from you. We want your comments, whatever way that is easiest for you to give them,” said Pechin
Many who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, emphasized that they wanted the plan to be something Richmonders could take part in, reap the benefits of, and be proud of.
“Anything that’s going to cause the city of Richmond to spend money an enormous amount, or bond money an enormous amount, where is the return for the residents of the city of Richmond? That is my primary concern,” said Forgus, a small business owner.
The plan included tearing down the 50-year-old Coliseum and replacing it with an outdoor space that Pechin said was about the size of a football field. That outdoor space could accommodate city-wide events. But that’s not all.
The space stretches 26 acres from East Franklin Street to East Leigh Street and from North 10th to North 5th Streets.
Pechin said the goal was to make this a dynamic place that would attract residents, employers, students, and tourists. She said they planned to do that with the development of hotels, mixed-use residential space, and office space for the growing biotech science industries.
One community member who spoke Tuesday said he feared the city would fall back into old patterns.
“I would be remiss if I did not point out that the city has a history of mistreating African Americans in our community so when I hear the phrase mixed-use it kind of makes me wonder, what do you mean by mixed-use?” He said. “We can’t replace Navy Hill — all those things are gone forever. But we can move on from hill, that really addresses a pattern that this city has engaged inconsistently since its conception.”
The City Center Small Area Plan draft also looked at putting a fire station and Richmond public schools' high school in the city center as well. But community members who spoke during the meeting had a different idea for the school.
“You talked about this high school potentially being built —why not a technical or trade center? The city of Richmond’s technical center is sitting over there almost rotting,” said Forgus.
Peachin said the plan would create opportunities for housing including affordable housing in the area, the goal she said was to not only bring people downtown but keep them there.
“When you talked about the neighborhoods, I really feel like that’s low-balling the center of the city,” said Boatwright, who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting. “Yes, we should have a nice Bryan Park or a Forest Hill neighborhood, but this is the center of the city, and they should build off what is more grandiose within the city.”
Boatwright added that he wanted the area to be unique to Richmond and something people could be proud of.
Others who spoke Tuesday suggested connecting the city center with the river through the Fall Line Trail. Pechin said these kinds of comments were exactly what the city was looking for.
The city plans to collect comments until July 12, before reviewing them to bring to the city council.
Community members can submit their comments to Richmond300@richmondgov.com.