Will Shockoe Bottom Get $4.9 Million Makeover? 

Norman describes the project as a "cathedral" walk marked by elaborate brickwork and lighting that compliments the $54 million Main Street Station across the street. "This is what $3 million will get you," Norman says.

But it may not be what the neighbors or other city taxpayers had in mind.

For nearly two years, residents and merchants of Shockoe Bottom waited in vain for significant help from the city in the wake of Tropical Storm Gaston. Its remnants flooded the Bottom Aug. 30, 2004.

As heavy rains pelted the city last week, and the James River rose to more than 18 feet, Shockoe Bottom merchants and residents were still wondering what happened to all the promises. Because of budget constraints, City Council didn't appropriate the money in 2005. Last week, City Council and the mayor passed a general fund budget totaling $617.6 million, and Norman says the drainage money has finally been allocated.

Meantime, the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association formally organized a few weeks ago, says Ian Kelley, a member of the organization and a Bottom business owner. The group wants to make sure city money actually goes for improvements in the Bottom and doesn't get cut or shifted around.

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson, whose 6th District includes the Bottom, says she's eager to follow the money too. She acknowledges recent "hemming and hawing" from some merchants and residents about the status of the talked-about-but-never-implemented city projects to improve drainage, fix sidewalks and install lights.

"I've heard of street lights and sidewalks being fixed," Kelley says, "but I haven't seen anything." S

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