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The city scratches the surface of the Bottom. +1
Tepid approval greets the city's long-delayed Shockoe Bottom Revitalization Strategy, commissioned for $150,000 back in 2009.
True, the more enthusiastic reactions to the November presentation in the Bottom could have been drowned out by all the debate about just how disruptive — or not — the area's night life can be, and how much — or little — City Hall should be involved. But another possible explanation for the lack of hosannas is that that the success of the strategy seems to hinge on the train shed.
Yes, the train shed. The large, underused thing connected to Main Street Station that looks like the product of an architect's brutalism-themed nightmare. Optimistic city officials hope to transform it from dead weight to economic engine, the centerpiece of a new creativity district.
Naturally, Richmond asks questions: How will the city attract development to a location that remains in a flood plain? And what about the nightclubs that attract all those black and allegedly unruly youths?
Yes, the study concluded that more study is needed. At least we get a shiny new train shed, even if it's empty.
That's more than can be said for its stewardship of City Stadium. News that a local developer will float a proposal to transform the property into mixed-use retail leaks in February. Nearly a year later, the City Council-proposed economic study, one of several pending economic studies still being, well, studied, has yet to be released.
We dive into dining from nose to tail. +5
Local chefs finally get to cook what they want — the gutsier the better. Offal — and it's not funny to pronounce it awful — makes an impact, and pork belly and braised beef cheeks are almost de rigueur on any self-respecting gastro-pub's menu. Chef Kevin LaCivita puts crispy pig ears in front of a Country-Club-of-Virginia-heavy crowd at the Blue Goat near Libbie and Grove. He gets a wary reception but a lot of chatter and a partly grudging realization that crab cakes aren't so exotic anymore. Chefs Philip Denny (Six Burner), Francis Devilliers (Bistro Bobette), Owen Lane (the Magpie) and Lee Gregory (the Roosevelt) dig deep into the nose-to-tail harvest, giving us the nasty bits in the tastiest ways, and another slow step forward in the culinary universe.
We take off the training wheels. +6
In December 2010 Richmond throws its helmet into the ring to serve as host to the 2015 UCI World Road Cycling Championships, a nine-day event that promises to draw hundreds of thousands of rowdy cycling fans. Nine months later a big bundle of joy arrives: The city wins its bid.
Yes, car-loving, suburb-surrounded Richmond has started its own race to become bike-friendly. The mayor appoints the city's first pedestrian, bicycles and trails coordinator, Jakob Helmboldt. The city starts stenciling 80 miles of bike lanes and shared lanes. And the Virginia Capital Trail between Richmond and Jamestown aims to be finished by 2014. The mayor even rides a bike to work one day! (Before riding in his SUV to a news conference later.)
Will bikes ever rule Richmond? It'll take time, says Craig Dodson, a cycling mentor to city youth and a former pro racer. He's encouraged by the focused, top-down efforts, he says; but the biggest hazard isn't the roads. It's "the motorists," he says. "Because they're so impatient." Be careful, guys — we don't want to become known as the city that ran over the next Lance Armstrong.
We become total fame bores. +4
Steven Spielberg's Lincoln movie comes to town. And for nine straight weeks we chronicle such things as: John Hawkes goes to Starbucks, Gloria Reuben eats a black-bean quesadilla and James Spader buys a frying pan from Pleasants Hardware.
We're sorry, OK? We can't help that the stars act so damn nice and normal while they're in town. They're just like us! With a few more millions.
Daniel Day-Lewis — Abe himself — hurls no autograph seekers down the Libby Hill Park steps. Joseph Gordon-Levitt invites no Virginia Commonwealth University undergrads back to his place for a pillow fight. (That we know of, though there were some late-night dance sessions.) And Tommy Lee Jones does not laconically shoot anyone.
Then everyone heads back to Hollywood. (Which is, of course, noted on social media: "On a plane with JGL and James Spader, leaving #rva for #dfw best plane ride ever," @eleano22 tweets us last week). Muttonchops are shaved. Cabins and cannons vanish from the State Capitol. Richmond returns to its normal, more depressing gossip.
We have to say, it was pretty cool while it lasted.