Echo Harbour Bounces Back 

Who knows why the developers chose Echo Harbour as the name for the riverfront development down from Church Hill, but given the many walls the plan has bounced off of since it was filed, the name seems quite apt.

It's been four years since George Ross proposed the mixed-use project on Dock Street in Shockoe Bottom with office towers, condos, restaurants and retail. The proposal emerged from the city planning department last month and is under review by the city administration, according to the city's Web site and the project's lawyer, James W. Theobald. (City spokesman Mike Wallace, however, says the project is still being reviewed by the planning department.)

The official holdup has been questions from other city departments about access for emergency vehicles, how to manage the flood plain and logistics around relocated sewer lines, Theobald says. Echo Harbour also has become a flash point for civic activists who worry it will degrade home values in Church Hill by spoiling the view of and cutting public access to the river.

To counter critics, language has been added to the project's Web site: “The developers of Echo Harbour have re-situated the building as far to the west on the site as possible, designed a 100-foot view corridor between the buildings, and substantially lowered the height of the structure on the east end.”

Theobald and developer Ross presented the project to downtown boosters Venture Richmond on April 9 and have been making the rounds trying to drum up support among civic groups.

According to city planning staff, under a standard timeline City Council would introduce the project's permit April 26. The Planning Commission would hear the proposal May 17 before sending it back to City Council the following week for approval. A project of Echo Harbour's magnitude, however, could run into further delays.

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