River Road II construction to begin soon … … River Road II construction to begin soon … 

Street Talk

Work to Start Soon On River Road ShopsCanal Walk Sees Projects Come, GoWhat's Next? Ham Biscuits at the Debates?Spong to Cover Dems' ConventionCarytown Rent Crushes Co-op

Work to Start Soon On River Road Shops

A controversial shopping center planned for near the intersection of River and Huguenot roads could be under construction by the end of summer.

Sources say work to build River Road II, a project opposed by some nearby residents for fear of increased traffic tie-ups and accidents, could begin in 30 to 45 days.

"I think we've run out of luck," says Anne Sternheimer, whose husband, Mark, led a group of residents against the project when it was up for a vote in the Henrico County Planning Commission in 1998. "The traffic is unbelievable … and I can't think of anything that will be worse for it."

According to published reports, however, state and county traffic studies concluded River Road II would have little impact. Larry Agnew, a Morton G. Thalhimer vice president helping to lease the planned shops, says the "smallish" 30,000-square-foot center, on a 3.4-acre parcel across Huguenot Road from the existing River Road Shopping Center, will contain six to eight retailers. Agnew says he expects work to begin in 30 to 45 days.

River Road II developer Edward Lacy expects construction to take 10 months, but he is still waiting to receive a Henrico County building permit for the project. Pam Wilton in the commercial division of the county's building inspections office says that could take about a month if things go smoothly.

Lacy and Agnew would not say whether they have signed up any tenants. Lacy says River Road II will include national and "very upscale" tenants, and will not include any grocery stores, restaurants or other high-traffic businesses.

Rob Morano

Canal Walk Sees Projects Come, Go

Two commercial construction projects are moving ahead at the Canal Walk and a residential project has fallen through, sources say.

John "Jay" White, marketing director at Richmond Riverfront Development Corp., says the plan for apartments at the old Dominion Power Plant property on Brown's Island has been dropped. "There's still a lot of interest in that property," White adds. He expects Atlanta-based Post Properties Inc., which had announced plans for up to 300 apartments in a pair of buildings at the site, to seek an alternate use. On the residential upside, developer Lou Salomonsky recently announced plans for Canal Walk Plaza, a large residential and office complex at the block bounded by 19th, 20th, Cary and Main streets. He plans for condominiums and 90 high-rent apartments at the site.

Meanwhile, other developers say they're proceeding apace with commercial projects. Bob Englander of the Cathford Group says renovations are under way at the former Norfolk-Southern Corp. warehouse just north of the Canal Walk's Virginia Street Turning Basin. Crews also have broken ground on a new, 82,000-square-foot building nearby that Englander says is mostly "pre-leased." The warehouse and new building, to be linked by a glass-enclosed walkway, will house a Morton's of Chicago steakhouse and the headquarters for First Market Bank, among other tenants, he says. Work should be completed by next July.

Also near the Turning Basin, developer Margaret Freund of Fulton Hill Properties says she's pre-leasing space in the former Ladybird Hat. Co. building for "mixed-use retail with restaurants and maybe an office on the top floor." She and White say renovations could begin in late fall.

White also reports increases in event attendance of 20 to 100 percent over last year for various activities held this year at the Canal Walk and Brown's Island.


What's Next? Ham Biscuits at the Debates?

It's nice to know that once in awhile Republicans and Democrats can put aside the heated rhetoric and negative attacks long enough to take a cookie break.

That's what happened last week at a news conference called by the Democratic Party of Virginia to extol the senior citizen prescription-drug relief plan of U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb and dis the plan of his challenger, former Gov. George Allen.

In an impish little move designed to "pique the media's interest," Craig Bieber, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia, decided to hold the news conference right outside Allen headquarters at 801 E. Main St.

But Allen's camp got wind of the sneak attack and planned a mini-ambush of its own - but a sweet one. Like perfect Richmond hosts, the Republicans showed up with lemonade, iced tea and Entenmann's chocolate chocolate-chip cookies for their adversaries.

"If you're gonna come over, jeez, we wanna make you comfortable," says Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Gov. Allen's campaign. The devilish glint in his eye is almost visible over the phone.

The Democrats responded with equal aplomb — and dry humor. "I had a cookie … and it was quite good," says Bieber, who doesn't miss a chance to make a political point. "We were looking for additional prescription-drug relief from the Allen campaign, which we did not get. But I did enjoy the cookie."

The good-natured foes do agree on another point: The press corps gobbled most of the refreshments.

— Janet Giampietro

Spong to Cover Dems' Convention

Unless Al Gore announces Kathie Lee Gifford to be his running mate, the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles Aug. 14-17 promises to be another conventional convention.

But Bishop John S. Spong thinks there will be plenty of excitement. At least he's hoping for some: The retired bishop will be covering this year's Democratic National Convention for the online magazine BeliefNet.com. Spong is the former rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond from 1969 to 1976 who rose to national prominence as a bishop with the Diocese of Newark, N.J., and is known for his outspoken and controversial views on religion. Until now, he has expressed opinions only on religion and church politics, but will now write about his political observations and opinions formed while at the convention.

"It should be exciting," says Spong, admittedly glad to be covering the Democratic Convention.

Last month Spong was the target of ballyhoo for joining that other more controversial site, ThePosition.com, as a regular columnist writing on issues that deal with sex and religion. Spong's column is aligned — at least on the Web — with other topical articles by the director of the Renaissance Transgender Association, a founding member of Feminists for Free Expression and a veteran porn star/writer/director.

But at the four-day convention, being held at the Los Angeles Staples Center, it's all politics for Spong.

"I'm excited about this new adventure," says Spong about his political writing. "The election always helps us to see where the country is."

Brandon Walters

Carytown Rent Crushes Co-op

Sue Henshaw knew the money was tight at …But is it Art?, the well-respected arts co-op in the heart of Carytown, but she never thought she and the 20 other member artists would have to move out in just two weeks.

The heart of Carytown is precisely the problem.

To be there, you've got to pay the piper, read: landlord. "It was horrible," says Henshaw.

The co-op gallery's rent more than doubled in a year, a move the co-op tried to stop in court. A mediation agreement called for the landlord and the artists to meet each other half way.

At first the group of artists agreed to try to meet the increased cost. But soon they realized it was just too much to absorb. "Everything happened so quickly," Henshaw explains. "People had to work more hours. Here we are 20 artists who don't know anything about accounting."

Milton Sharp, gallery manager for the commercial art gallery Phenomenon in Carytown, says he was surprised by the abrupt move. But he's hoping his shop might benefit from the addition of at least a few more artists.

One of those artists is Barbara Dill, who started the co-op eight years ago. Already Dill's turned wood and Jim HcHenry's sculptures have moved to Phenomenon. Judy Leffwich is likely to join the group soon with her painted glass. "Please don't say we're a co-op," jests Sharp, though altogether serious. "We're a totally for-profit gallery."

So far, no plans have been made to start another co-op, and Henshaw says it's not likely for a while. "We have no assets and no energy left."

Some artists have begun looking into galleries like Phenomenon or art spaces like Shockoe Bottom Arts Center.

"All the artists come to me," says Sharp, indicating the need for his approval. And so far, of the more than 40 who once belonged to the disbanded co-op, only three have approached Sharp. "We'll make the space if they're good," he says. "Down there they took everybody."



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