RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond neighborhood groups fear a rezoning proposal could change Broad street’s look.
The proposed rezoning is part of the next phase of the GRTC Pulse Corridor Plan. The package of proposed ordinances that could allow 20-story buildings on Broad between Belvidere Street and Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
Yet, under the Pulse Corridor Plan adopted in 2017 height limits were set at 12 stories. The RVA Coalition of Concerned Civic Associations, a group of seven civic associations fear the package of proposed rezoning ordinances means more structures like City Hall, which is 19 stories, looming over Richmond’s historic neighborhoods.
“There is no benefit in high rise construction,” said Jonathan Marcus, the President of the RVA Coalition of Concerned Civic Associations.
The group says they have been left out of a process that could dramatically impact their surrounding neighborhoods and they fear that with the pandemic, the public hasn’t been able to engage in the plans that could permanently change the city.
“That could actually start shadowing our neighborhood, that could actually start making the historic value of the neighborhood change drastically as well,” said Jerome Legions, also with the Coalition and President of the Carver Area Civic Improvement League.
Legion worries about overcrowding.
“We have to really be concerned with the delivery of basic service, the delivery of emergency service and the tax on our infrastructure,” he said.
The B-4 rezoning aims to increase density and encourage transit use along the pulse line. Mark Olinger, Director of Richmond’s Planning and Development Review told 8News:
“The city is land-locked and we have been advocating in the Pulse Corridor Plan, smart growth, through utilizing the tools available to us to create great neighborhoods, and provide for a level of density to not only support the Pulse, but to provide a resident base and an employment base to support access to the kinds of services people say they want in our neighborhoods.”
Olinger also added over 100 acres of the area actually has been zoned B-4 since at least 1976.
“People just don’t construct 20 story buildings on the theory of, if you build it, they will come,” he said. “The market isn’t that deep to support that scale of construction and I am aware of no plans for such construction in that corridor.”
Yet, The Coalition says the point is it could happen under the proposed zoning.
The groups stressed they are pro-growth, pro-density.
“We’re absolutely in favor of greater density, mixed-use, transit-oriented development,” Marcus said.
However, they believe that can be done by constructing more mid-rise buildings spread across a wider footprint.
“This should be a master plan and not a spot check here there,” Legions said.
The neighborhood group legally tried to block a City Council vote on the rezoning with an emergency injunction. A judge threw it out the request.
Council continued the vote earlier this week but could vote on the issue next month. In the meantime, Olinger says there was a scheduled special meeting in September to talk about the rezoning with the broader community.
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