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Shockoe Study Still Under Wraps; Other City Plans in Logjam 

The city’s long-awaited plan on how to develop Shockoe Bottom has been marked “return to sender.”

After receiving the final draft of the study, two weeks ago the city sent the document back to be reworked by the company that created it, Bay Area Economics.

It lacked concrete plans for improving tourism and economic development, according to sources — which was the why the city commissioned the $150,000 study a year ago. It was intended to be a road map for bringing money to the neighborhood, not just an examination of its assets.

“An implementation-focused economic revitalization strategy is key to success,” said a September 2009 memo from Peter Chapman, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for economic and community development.

David Napier, president of the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association, guesses the city didn’t like what it got. He was one of the many business owners and residents who participated in community meetings and interviews with Bay Area Economics. Nobody outside of City Hall, to Napier’s knowledge, has been allowed to review the document the company created. “For my taxpayer dollars, I think we should have seen the study,” he says. (Style Weekly’s formal request to view a copy was denied because, the city said, it’s still a working draft.)

Several other studies are in the works for crucial and controversial sites in Richmond, prompting outspoken Councilman Marty Jewell to ask: “Where the hell are we going? And when are they going to pull the trigger on anything?”

Here’s where things stand:

City Stadium site studies: On hold. After a redevelopment flap in the spring, council requested two studies — one examining the site’s use as a stadium, and one exploring its “highest and best use.” But the request for proposals didn’t go out in July as scheduled. According to Jewell, Chapman says the delay is “because of other priorities, quote-unquote.”

GRTC site study: Ditto. Nothing will happen to this coveted property on South Davis Street until at least 2013. In June, the mayor’s spokeswoman Tammy Hawley told the Times-Dispatch that the city would solicit ideas from the public on what would fit well there, but wouldn’t purchase the land.

Riverfront design plan: In development. This plan, to be delivered by April 2012, would govern the creation of public spaces on both banks of the James River, from the Robert E. Lee Bridge to Ancarrow’s Landing. In April the city awarded the $490,000 contract to Massachusetts-based Hargreaves Associates.

North Boulevard plan: In development. In the spring, Councilman Charles Samuels held three meetings to collect residents’ and business owners’ wish lists for Scott’s Addition and the Boulevard north of Broad Street. The final plan is to be used to help attract businesses to the area.

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