February 12, 2003 News & Features » Cover Story



The Richmond Convention Center for getting the ball rolling.

A tentative, gosh-we-hope-this-works kiss goes to the newly expanded Richmond Convention Center and, for that matter, the whole billion-dollar business of downtown development.

For a few years now, we've crossed our fingers and held our hearts in hopes that what city officials and investors promise will come true -- that Richmond will become a gem on the James. Or, more importantly, a marvelous magnet of a place where you long to be and be seen.

Yet we have our concerns. No doubt city officials and civic consortiums hate it when we bring up 6th Street Marketplace or even question what's going on at the Canal. But we can't help wondering what will happen when the convention center kicks off its official inaugural opening later this month and there's not a whole heck of a lot in place to go along with it. Estimates are, it will take at least a few years to get auxiliary resources -- things like hotel space, parking, retail, arts and entertainment facilities -- in place to support the tens of thousands of conventioneers who, we're told, will surely be pouring into town. What will happen in the meantime? Will throngs of people visit our city, see one gigantic construction site and ponder: Geez, no matter the dearth of places to stay, park, eat and play now, this place will rock in a few years? Perhaps -- if they're visionaries. Or they could think we had the right idea but a dullard's dream of realizing it. Who knows? Maybe there's more credence to that "If you build it they will come" Hollywood conceit than some of us realists are inclined to believe.

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