The association would represent the area from 12th to 21st streets and from Broad to Canal streets, a region home to about 300 businesses. For the past few months, a committee of the biggest stakeholders in the area residents, developers and business owners have met every Wednesday to discuss their plan of action. It's premature to officially announce the association's existence, says Jay White, committee founder and director of Word Marketing and Income Development Solutions, but he says he's optimistic it'll come together. "There is so much momentum right now," he says.
Convincing the city to aggressively promote the area is the association's main goal, says Andy Thornton, co-owner of the home furnishings store La Difference. The area's got everything tourists want, Thornton says: music, food, entertainment and parking. And boundaries don't matter, he says: "They don't care if it's the Slip or the Bottom or what it is."
Thornton says he hopes the River District Association will be at once a goad for City Council and a supporter for innovations in the Shockoe area, like this summer's music, plays and boat rides along the canal.
Other goals of the association are simple. For example: getting the city to clean up streets and vacant lots, especially in the Bottom. "Go into Shockoe Slip and you can almost eat off the sidewalk," observes Tyler Thompson, owner of the nightclub Sauce on East Main Street. "Go into Shockoe Bottom and it's an entirely different story." Community leaders also want to see one or two more police officers stationed in the Bottom, Thompson says.
The new association won't replace the current merchants' or community groups in the area, explains Kathy Emerson of the 17th Street Farmers' Market. But people in the area need a united voice as the boundaries between the Slip, the Bottom, the riverfront and the rest of the city fade, she says. "We're downtown Richmond, and we all know that."
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