Tuesday, May 26

Exploring Richmond

The wife and I were joking that whenever we visit some city, all we ever do is walk around and eat. It's true. A little like hiking, only a different setting and much better food. Our last day trip was to Richmond, Virginia. Here's the annotated journey of an outsider taking a peek in.

The downtown is not much different than many other mid-sized cities' downtowns. Lots of steel and glass, parking lots and garages. Richmond was chopped into pieces with Interstates, leaving historic neighborhoods like Shockoe Bottom with an almost eerie I-95 overpass towering above it. The ornate Main Street train station is still served by AMTRAK, and it's set to host a new high-speed rail line in the near future.

What's great about Richmond are its many walkable neighborhoods. We meandered around Carytown, the Fan, and Oregon Hill. Each of these neighborhoods have an eclectic combination of row houses and detached houses of all architectural variety. The streets are quiet and nicely treed, with a central commercial strip never far away. Boulevard Street is actually a real boulevard. My general impression is that at least many parts of these neighborhoods are mixed-race, although I know none of them are in the predominantly black sections of town.

This pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle Park is tucked away under Highway 301 across the James River. Given that it wasn't completely obvious how to get from the neighborhoods to the bridge, I was amazed at how popular it was on an overcast day. The whole area is a fascinating combination of industrial grittiness and natural beauty.

Belle Isle itself was loaded with all kinds of people playing on the rocks in the James. Most people were there to lounge around, but mountain bikers and kayakers were well represented too. The Richmond side of the waterfront is not very accessible - cut off by rail and highway - but the city has compensated by opening up a couple of islands for use. Brown island to the east of Belle Isle is host to Friday night concerts in the summer.

Short Pump isn't Richmond, but it's in the metro area. Just barely. Yet an incredible amount of mixed-use density is being built out here off the intersection of highways 64 and 295, and a new-fangled "towne centre" style mall. If some tangible connection with the city of Richmond were ever established, this node of development may have promise. Some of the design here is nicely done in my opinion. However, the required automobile is only thinly hidden from view.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

Hope you enjoyed your visit! We're working on a really exciting downtown master plan, take a look: