*Pic: What 17th and Broad may look like in the future. "You know, if we add a few trees and wipe up the dirty condoms and blood stains from the sidewalk, people might stop fearing for their lives around here...."
After a long night of bartending down in Shockoe Bottom, I sat down with the owner of the bar and had a drink. We got to talking about Richmond's new downtown master plan (click on the link for pretty pictures of what it may look like when it's all said and done.) As a property owner right on the edge of where some of the work will be done (behind the train station, 17th and Broad, that general vicinity), he feels very strongly and very optimistic about the plan and about the extreme growth that he forsees it bringing to the steadily declining Shockoe Bottom area.
He envisions more restaurants, more nice businesses, and of course a more aesthetically pleasing downtown area (look at the imagery in the fake pictures and you'll see this for yourself.)
First this shocked me that the owner of the bar was so civic minded. He's no doubt a smart business man and clearly money motivated, but he never has given me any indication that he cares about what happens beyond the front doors of the bar, except for when we're up on the roof using a CO2 tank to shoot aluminum bottles towards the train station. Up until that conversation I believed that only community bloggers and the beareaucrats knew anything about the master plan.
Second, as dumb and as easy as it sounds, simply cleaning the Bottom up and making it more appealing to the eye would do wonders for the area. Growth and new business would certainly be a more long-term fix, but for the short term, I think we should clean the area up a bit. You know, sweep some things under the rug for a time, at least until new business and increased rent prices drive people out (It's gentrification and it's already happening...deal with it.)
I'm not really sure if I see my future in Shockoe Bottom, but I'm down there now 5-6 nights a week right now. I walk all the streets at all hours and I see the area for what it is, a beautiful, historic, slightly worn down neighborhood. It's clear that if Richmond wants to compete with other burgeoning cities, then the focus should be on Shockoe.
...And in an effort to save the city money and time, lets just forget about the additonal master plans for South Richmond and instead we can build a giant electrified wall separating Old Manchester (sorry Brie) from the James River and Downtown. We'll then invite muralists to make the wall really pretty so instead of looking at the eyesore which is now South Richmond, we can instead look at giant paintings of famous Richmonders such as D'Angelo (before he got fat), or Dirtwoman. Then South Richmond could be turned into a modified urban training ground for soldiers about to be deployed to Iraq...this of course is after we empty our cities prisons and drop all of the inmates behind the giant, colorful electrified wall.
And some of my readers think I'm only concerned with getting laid... Psh... I'm providing solutions to the problem here people!