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To Jumpstart Canal, Reynolds Project Must Clear Hurdles 

Ever since development of the downtown Canal Walk began in the early 1990s, city planners envisioned the Reynolds Metals plant, which bisects the path that runs past the Lady Bird Hat Factory up to 10th Street, as a key to helping the area bloom into a continuous river walk and an economic engine for Shockoe Bottom.

WVS Cos., the same development group that built the high-end, mixed-use development Rocketts Landing, and Fountainhead Development LLC, which developed Plant Zero Art Center in Manchester, announced earlier this year that they planned to redevelop the property into apartments.

Last week they cleared the first major bureaucratic hurdle with the city when the planning department officially asked the city administration to launch the approval process for the rezoning the developers have requested.

Reynolds announced in fall 2008 that it would close the aluminum plant on land zoned for light industrial use. The developers want the city to rezone it for commercial and residential use, with plans for commercial space on the ground floor.

Because of the property's location along the canal, the plan will need more than the city's approval. When efforts to redevelop the canal began in the early '90s, the Richmond Riverfront Development Corp. formed as a private partner for the city, hammering out certain building and design restrictions. Richmond Riverfront has since merged with several other booster organizations to form the downtown civic super-group Venture Richmond, so the builders will have to secure the blessing of that organization as well.

Residents of the neighboring Vistas on the James tower sent a letter to Venture Richmond supporting the overall goals of the development, but voiced concerns that a proposed new structure will be too tall.

The rezoning process is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

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