Ideas Continue for Park Over River 

click to enlarge A local group dreams of building a public park on a bridge across the river using these railroad piers.

Scott Elmquist

A local group dreams of building a public park on a bridge across the river using these railroad piers.

A group that wants to build a park on a bridge over the James River says it plans to release a design proposal by the end of the year. In the meantime, a similar but unrelated effort is taking shape in Washington.

Richmond BridgePark Foundation hoped to have its initial design work completed this fall, its president, Ted Elmore, says. But the date was extended because the group is still toying with concepts.

The group behind the 11th Street Bridge Park in the nation's capital, which would connect the Navy Yard with a park over the Anacostia River, is moving forward with a plan by an international design firm, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, and its landscape architect partner, Olin.

In Washington, a nonprofit group collaborated on the bridge park with the city, which has earmarked more than $14 million for the park. The total cost is projected to top $27 million.

When the idea for a Richmond bridge park was floated by ad executives Ella Kelley and Mike Hughes in 2012, it was conceived as "the world's first bridge of its kind."

Kelley and Hughes died in 2013, but Elmore and others picked up the project after their deaths. Elmore says the Washington iteration won't affect plans in Richmond. "I think it just gives us a good precedent for what we're trying to accomplish here," he says.

Supporters of the bridge park propose using 1838 stone railroad piers that traverse the river and Brown's Island. The idea is separate from the Tyler Potterfield Dam Walk, which the city is building several hundred yards away to provide a river crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. The Dam Walk is fully funded and expected to open next year.

Elmore says BridgePark still is working with members of the community, the city and Virginia Commonwealth University students to refine its proposal. The final project could look much like initial mock-ups, which depict a span of green space dotted with benches and trees. Or it could be completely different, Elmore says.

One idea that's come up is to convert lanes on either side of the Manchester Bridge into park space. There are four lanes in each direction, which Elmore says leaves ample room for a ribbon of park that would offer river views.

"At this point we're exploring what makes the most sense in light of the dam walk getting started," Elmore says. "We want to keep the conversation open."

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