The South of the James Market will be able to stay in Forest Hill Park through the winter, following approval from the city and a nod from the neighborhood association.
Market organizers GrowRVA campaigned to allow the market to stay beyond its original Dec. 7 end date because it was having difficult finding a new location.Marketing director Stephanie Ganz says the market will remain there in a reduced capacity until spring.
“We're just going to try it out and see how it works for everybody,” Ganz says.
The Forest Hill Neighborhood Association’s president, Shannon Taylor, said some neighbors had raised concerns about parking and noise. GrowRVA agreed to limit the number of vendors to 40 and the hours from 9 a.m. to noon.
“Generally folks are pleased with the market presence at the park and nobody has voiced a desire to stop the market,” Taylor said in an email.
GrowRVA will also attend association meetings to “make sure we’re being good neighbors,” Ganz says.
The market will resume its full-scale, 100-vendor presence at the park in May.
Mayor Dwight Jones urged hundreds of business and civic leaders Wednesday night to lobby city council members to support his administration’s proposal to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom.
“We have a tough fight ahead,” the mayor said in a surprise appearance at the Greater Richmond Chamber Impact business awards dinner. The Chamber on Tuesday voted to support the plan.
“We all know what we are up against,” Jones said in brief remarks at the beginning of the program. “We’re up against old ways of thinking. We’re up against people who want to talk about the 6th Street Marketplace or Piedmont Airlines.
“ . . . I come tonight to ask you to help me. I want you to be engaged. I need you to call City Council members and ask them to vote for this plan. I need you to tell them to vote for new money for schools, to honor our past and build our future, to permanently transform this city. Vote for the future and not for the past.”
It’s still uncertain whether Jones has the support he needs from City Council to win approval for his ballpark proposal. And his plan faces vocal opposition from a legion of residents, activists and historians, who question nearly every element of the plan.
The mayor reiterated his administration’s position that Shockoe plan he laid out last week and which council committees are beginning to discuss this week is an all-or-nothing proposition. He also made it plain that the ballpark, no economic cash cow, is nevertheless key to construction of the infrastructure needed to build out the flood plain and spur development -- including a slave heritage and freedom site -- in the lowest parts of the neighborhood.
“Fix the flood plain in Shockoe. A new ballpark makes this financially possible,” he said. “Build new apartments, a hotel and Shockoe’s first grocery store. These things will create jobs. They will eliminate a food desert in the East End, and they will generate the revenue necessary for infrastructure. And when we do these things, it’s suddenly possible to commemorate Richmond’s heritage of slavery and freedom.
“But if we leave them aside, we’ll be stuck with the crumbling parking lots that we have now. That’s no way to honor our history and it’s no way for us to teach people about how we care about what has happened in our past. And when we do all of this, we can unlock the potential of the Boulevard.”
He went on to say the Shockoe Bottom plan is “the only plan that fixes the flood plain," frees two sites for development and generates nearly $200 million in revenue "for schools, neighborhood amenities like new sidewalks and street lights. … And because of the flood plain, because of the financing, we have to do them all together. People want to cherry-pick this apart and the whole project falls apart and people will have to explain why they left $200 million in revenue on the table.”
Richmond, Jones said at the beginning of his remarks, is on the rebound and, “is cool once again.” But, he added, with a 26 poverty rate, “we still have a long way to go.”
After the mayor finished speaking, Kim Scheeler, president and CEO of the Greater Richmond Chamber, urged the audience to get involved. Information placards emblazoned with “LovingRVA Starts Downtown,” were distributed at every table in the downtown Marriott Hotel ballroom.
Update: Two things have happened since we posted this. First, the person behind the Dwight Jones parody account on Twitter gave up pretending to be Jones and changed its handle to "Dwight the Blight." Second, the mayor's press secretary, Tammy Hawley, distributed this press release:
On Monday, November 17, 2013, a Twitter account under the username @MayorJonesRVA sent out its first tweet. The account holder is not Mayor Dwight C. Jones and is impersonating the Mayor in a public arena. This impersonation of an elected, government official is not appropriate and poses a dishonest voice to the public.
The Office of the Mayor is currently completing all necessary paper work to have this account removed from Twitter. For official news from the City of Richmond, please follow @CityRichmondVA.
Update No. 2: Ugh. Ok: Twitter suspended the account overnight and the people behind it apparently sent a video to the local CBS affiliate.
Let's never talk about this again.
Update: Dana Purcarescu, deputy press counselor for the French Embassy in the United States, sent the following statement:
"We regret that some elements of the previous travel advisory were discomforting to the Richmond community. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs faces the delicate challenge to provide useful information to our fellow citizens travelling to the US while avoiding to stigmatize specific communities; we believe the current drafting strikes a good balance in this regard. Thousands of French tourists visit Richmond every year. In 2012, 1,45 million French citizens vacationed in the US. The cities and neighborhoods singled out in our travel advisory are the most popular destinations, therefore it is our duty to inform the French citizens of some risks, in order to make sure they make the most out of their stay in the US and are looking forward to coming back."
According to France, Richmond went from dangerous to safe over the weekend.
Richmond, Baltimore and Philadelphia are no longer listed among cities that France’s Foreign Ministry cautions its citizens about. The change appears to have occurred some time between Friday and Monday.
Peter Kirkpatrick, co-director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s French Film Festival, said he was among those calling the French Embassy asking it to reconsider. He says the advisory was probably based on old crime statistics.
“I called a few people I know,” Kirkpatrick says. “I don’t know if that did it or not, but most of them had the same type of impression that this (listing) was old information.”
The revised list also softens warnings about Cleveland and Washington, D.C. While it previously cautioned travelers to avoid D.C.’s Union Station at night and avoid Anacostia entirely, it now states to be careful in Northeast and Southeast.
The travel advisories came under scrutiny last week after the Washington Post published a roundup of which cities other countries have deemed unsafe.
The French Embassy has not responded to several requests for comment.
So far, we’ve heard a lot about Mayor Dwight Jones’ proposal to redevelop Shockoe Bottom, but not so much about his plans for the corresponding mixed-use development on the 60-acres owned by the city on the Boulevard.
The city is relying on the latter to generate the bulk of the estimated $187 million in revenue the city is projecting it will make from the two projects over the next 20 years.
So what’s the city planning on the Boulevard? Jones only touched on the subject during his speech announcing the projects: "This will mean changes for the Boulevard, of course," he said. "We'll have to come together as a community to determine what that should look like."
But according to documents obtained by Style, the revenue projections Jones announced Monday are based on a development that includes:
The financial services firm that prepared the projections, Davenport & Co., estimates the development will generate between $12.2 million and $13.6 million in annual tax revenue. By comparison, the 750 apartments, 100-room hotel and 65,000-square-foot grocery store planned for Shockoe Bottom are only expected to generate between $1.8 million and $1.9 million annually.
That, combined with an expected $2 million in revenue from baseball at the stadium, falls short of the $4-million annual debt service the city would be paying on the ballpark for the next 30 years, as the Times-Dispatch reported today.
It’s unclear if the city has secured letters of intent for the Boulevard development as it has for the Shockoe Bottom plan. Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but she has said more information would be available at City Council’s finance committee meeting on Thursday, Nov. 21.
Here’s one list of six major East Coast cities Richmond probably doesn’t want to be on: the French Foreign Ministry’s rundown of dangerous areas for tourists.
As reported in the Washington Post yesterday, the French Foreign Ministry includes Richmond on a list of American cities (and the entire state of Florida) with known travel concerns. The specific warning? “Également, ne pas visiter le centre-ville à pied.”“Don’t visit downtown on foot,” France’s Foreign Ministry advises. Hurtful enough, except the Post’s butchered translation as “Do not visit the city on foot” turned the discussion at Richmond.com to how poorly the French must view Richmond’s transportation infrastructure.
VCU French Film Festival co-director Peter Kirkpatrick, who verified the correct translation, is not happy about the list. The more than 20-years running festival works in collaboration with the French Embassy.
“Bizarrely, this list includes Richmond when in fact the ‘Who’s Who’ French Film industry find Richmond to be the place to come in the United States,” Kirkpatrick says.
The French Embassy, while polite, has not responded to a request for comment.
A suit filed against the Richmond School Board alleging some members colluded to redraw district boundaries may be headed to trial.
During a hearing today at Richmond Circuit Court, attorney Charlie Schmidt said his client, Kimberly Johnson Jones, was blindsided by the changes surrounding the board’s decision to close Clark Springs Elementary. She alleges 1st District School Board Representative Glen Sturtevant led a “bad faith” campaign that violated open meeting laws to move more students into the William Fox Elementary district. As a result, Schmidt says Clark Springs became a casualty to make the numbers work.
“What Mr. Sturtevant did was step over a line and do the job of the administration,” Schmidt said. “Sturtevant and other board members tallied their votes and traded political favors before the public process.”>
Attorney Jim Guynn, with School Board Chairman Jeffrey Bourne at his side, argued for dismissal primarily based on the fact that Jones’ daughter’s district, Overby-Sheppard, never changed during the course of redistricting discussions. With an open-enrolled student at Clark Springs, Guynn argues Jones doesn’t have standing as an aggrieved party.
“There are few political decisions more hotly debated than messing with schools,” Guynn said. “With all due respect, it’s not the court’s job to second guess.”
While the School Board has been asked not to comment on the litigation, support for either side seemed to follow the 5-4 split vote on the decision to close Clark Springs. Second District Representative Kimberly Gray, who voted to close the school, sat stone-faced as Schmidt aired allegations against Sturtevant, who was not present. Fifth District Representative Mamie Taylor, who still vocally opposes its closure, nodded in agreement with many of Schmidt’s points.
A decision on whether the case will be allowed to proceed is expected in 45 days.
The South of the James Market wants to make Forest Hill Park its permanent home, but they’ll need Richmonders to help.
GrowRVA owner Karen Atkinson has put up a petition asking for support for the market to stay at Forest Hill Park beyond its scheduled December 7 end date.
The market has moved elsewhere during past winters, most recently the Patrick Henry School. But construction there has forced Atkinson to look for other options.
“We are on track to stay there, but we really need community support,” GrowRVA marketing director Stephanie Ganz says. “It’s where everybody knows to go and it’s convenient.”
Ganz says city officials want to see support for the market staying in Forest Hill because some have raised concerns about traffic issues. The Parks Department has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The petition has received about 700 signatures so far. And regardless of the outcome, Ganz is confident the market will remain open through the winter.
“It absolutely will happen,” Ganz says. “The only question at this point is where.”
University of Richmond’s student newspaper, The Collegian, reports that a third-year law student who served on the school’s honor council is a registered sex offender. The paper says it's uncertain how he gained admission when it's unlikely he could be admitted to practice law in Virginia:
Zachary Jesse, a third-year student at the University of Richmond School of Law, has been involved with the Moot Court Board, repeatedly served as a justice for the Law School Honor Council and is a recipient of the law school’s most prestigious, $30,000 John Marshall scholarship.
He is also a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual battery in 2004.
It is unclear why a registered sex offender was admitted on scholarship to the law school when it is unlikely that someone with that offense would be allowed to practice law in Virginia. The current dean and the man who was dean at the time of Jesse’s admission both declined to comment about such a student being admitted. read more…
The Collegian reports that Jesse and his lawyer declined to comment. The assault took place while Jesse was a student at the University of Virginia. Charlottesville’s The Hook reports that Jesse was a 19-year-old sophomore at the time:
On the night of August 19, the victim, a 19-year-old second-year UVA student, "pre-partied" with her roommates and friends and drank at least one margarita and several shots of tequila at her Brandon Avenue apartment before heading to a neighbor's apartment for a party.
Just hours later, she testified at a mid-December preliminary hearing, Jesse raped her while she was slumped over a toilet in her own apartment. read more…
Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones introduced his proposal to put a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom with much fanfare Monday, but it still faces an uncertain fate in City Council. Because it will require the transfer of city property, the mayor needs support from seven of nine council members to make the park a reality. Here are some early predictions about how the vote is likely to shake down.
Five likely yes votes: Jon Baliles (1st District), Kathy Graziano (4th District), Ellen Robertson (6th District), Cynthia Newbille (7th District), and Michelle Mosby (9th District).
These council members generally are supportive of Jones, and the mayor has put together a plan that – at least on paper – is politically safe: He says it will create 400 jobs and generate $200 million worth of tax revenue over 20 years, thus helping to address the city’s 26 percent poverty rate. On top of that, the business community is behind it. No matter what questions are raised about the analysis behind the numbers – and there will be questions raised – more jobs and tax revenue make it easy for council members to explain their support to skeptical voters overwhelmingly opposed to the concept.
Jones’ plan also addresses the area’s slave history by providing for the development of a slave heritage site. It may not be enough for some opponents who say the narrow strip of land under consideration doesn’t adequately convey the enormity of the trade here. But for the purposes of most council members, it not only addresses the issue, it achieves the creation of a memorial area that many leaders have sought for over a decade.
One likely no vote: Parker Agelasto (5th District).
Agelasto has made it clear in the past that most of the people in his district don’t support the proposal and that he, too, is unlikely to support it. Elected less than a year ago, Agelasto has turned out to be a frequent critic of the administration and (in its eyes) an annoyingly prolific asker of questions. No one is likely to spend much time trying to win him over.
Three toss-ups: Charles Samuels (2nd District), Chris Hilbert (3rd District), and Reva Trammell (8th District).
The mayor’s team needs to persuade at least two of these council members to get on board.
Trammell is unpredictable and no fan of the mayor, but she also represents a district that faces high poverty rates and lacks amenities -- for example, sidewalks -- that other districts have. If she’s persuaded this plan really will broaden the tax base and create jobs, then she might support it.
Hilbert’s background is in finance and he’s said his support depends on how good the numbers look once he sees a detailed breakdown. He’s also said he’s concerned by the vocal opposition some respected historians have expressed about the plan. Hilbert was a holdout on the Redskins training camp, but ultimately, he voted for the deal after the administration agreed to put more money toward schools, one of Hilbert’s priorities.
Council president Samuels is not a fan of the idea. He’s the council member who two months ago tried to head-off the administration’s ballpark announcement by calling for a city-wide referendum on the issue. That didn’t happen, but Samuels has repeated that his support will depend on what his constituents say. He could be swayed by Sen. Tim Kaine’s decision to back the proposal. The former mayor and city councilman came from Samuel’s district, still lives there and is well respected.