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The James at River Bend AKA Pear Street

The James at River Bend AKA Pear Street is a proposed 13 story condominium community at intersection of Cary and Pear Streets. The design includes 3 levels of underground parking and approximately 32 units, with total number and size variable “based on sales and marketing considerations.”

The developers are seeking an SUP to allow for the development, as the property is currently zoned M-1 which does not allow residential use.

  1. 01 James at River Bend SUP-9711_REVISION 2_Final Plans (PDF)

The James at River Bend from Cary Street

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 9.17.09 AM

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Alex 02/04/2014 at 9:51 AM

Fits right in. I don’t see what the fuss is about…


jean mcdaniel 02/04/2014 at 10:28 AM

This drawing SERIOUSLY distorts the available plot of land available for this development. The plate from the City is very small, the drawing is way more than 13 stories and after construction begins, the builder can add several more stories if he so chooses.

At the presentation to the CHA a while back it was pointed out that the (decidious) Ginko trees would block the view of this building. They seem to be missing? Also, it was stated that the building would be camouflaged with “hanging gardens”. I saw this used to stunning effect in Arizonia but we do not have a climate that allows for that.

I do not trust this as a true representation of what is to be built.

CH Resident 02/04/2014 at 10:57 AM

Dictionary definition of: camouflage: “to disguise something in order to mislead somebody, often somebody perceived as a threat”.
No amount of hanging gardens or Ginko trees will camouflage this…. Get Real!
Why camouflage – what shouldn’t be there.
This building is wrong in height, scale and compatibility.
Just because you can – doesn’t mean you should …..

Jujube 02/04/2014 at 11:08 AM

Awful. I vow to stand on the hill and pelt it with rotten eggs.

jean mcdaniel 02/04/2014 at 11:18 AM

CH Resident

I am in total agreement with you. The “Richmond on the James” AKA Dock Street falls in the same catagory!

The hanging gardens in Arizonia were used as an enhancement to a well done, well placed project. They were not used to disguise, but to enhance.

There is nothing as unsavory as mutton dressed as lamb, AKA a woman with too much makeup, and wearing her daughters clothing.

Neighbor 02/04/2014 at 11:30 AM

I like it.

Alex 02/04/2014 at 12:20 PM

This and the Echo Harbor development are prime examples of asshole architecture. Basically the idea is to take a view that had been broadly enjoyed and block it off making it private and then charge a premium to enjoy a nice view.

The city needs to develop clear standards on permissible building height but I’m not holding my breath for that.

Coffee 02/04/2014 at 2:13 PM

A surface parking lot on Main Street – how tragic, for that and many other reasons

Coqui 02/04/2014 at 4:34 PM

The renditions of the Pear St high rise condo on this chpn post were provided to the city by the developer and are part of the application to have the zoning changed.

Pierce Macdonald Powell 02/04/2014 at 5:13 PM

I grew up in Church Hill and still love it. For the benefit of the discussion here, the images of the project came directly from the project application. The link to the project plans is on this page, above the photo simulation (01 James at River Bend SUP-9711_REVISION 2_Final Plans). It may take a little while to download but it is worth a review. The plans state that this building has a roof elevation of 237 feet above sea level. The top of Libby Hill Park is about 145 feet above sea level. Lastly, the City has not yet approved this permit and there is still time to improve the design, such as lowering the height. The Planning Commission and City Council meetings are tentatively scheduled for March. This is the best time to contact City Council, while there is still time to negotiate with the developer.

Cadeho 02/04/2014 at 9:36 PM

Surprisingly, I like it…

Don O'Keefe 02/05/2014 at 5:17 AM

Yes! Please let this dream come true. Good architect, interesting building, very positive effect on walkability, residential density, safety, and complete streets in the east end of Shockoe Bottom. Buildings like this help to combat the destructive suburban style development exemplified by the near by grocery store and CVS. Although many seem to be unaware of its location, it does not block the view that named Richmond which faces east from Church Hill. Nor does it block the skyline from Libby Hill. Personally, I think it will add to the view greatly. Even if one does not have a personal affinity for it’s form and placement, the project’s positive effect on the safety, walkability, sustainability, and cohesion of surrounding urban streetscape and parkland should be recognized and, in my view, applauded.

JessOfRVA 02/05/2014 at 7:23 AM

Pierce Macdonald Powell makes an excellent point. That height difference is what absolutely sets me against this.

Michael 02/05/2014 at 7:36 AM

Two words come to mind. Hell No!

BAF 02/05/2014 at 8:03 AM

@16, please explain why the grocery store and CVS are “destructive.” If you are going to have dense residential, those residents need some retail, it would seem.

East Grace 02/05/2014 at 8:43 AM

The height will absolutely affect the viewshed. You may not be able to see it very well from the angle of the rendering, but it will stick up like a sore thumb. That beautiful sunset that was recently posted on this site would be mostly blocked by this building. If you go back and look at it imagine the building there. The height of the building is between that of the water tower and the smoke stack. Many, many people use this park. They come there to enjoy a beautiful view that is unique in Richmond. And most of them are not near by neighbors, many not even from Church Hill. I do not think most people object to the building, just the height of it. And I was at that meeting when the developer spoke to the CHA. He made a point of saying he was going to live in the penthouse. Kind of makes this building a big middle finger to the rest of us.

Cadeho 02/05/2014 at 9:05 AM

Good point East Grace. It would be better as a 6 story building.

Morgan 02/05/2014 at 9:36 AM

@BAF–yes retail but in an urban form. what is there now is not “dense”

Heather Dinkin 02/05/2014 at 11:39 AM

The buillding is out of scale with its neighbors and most certainly will block the skyline from Libby Hill Park. It will in fact shadow the park. The lot is in the middle of a line of 3, 4 or 5 story apartment buildings.
That height is fair and reasonable.

Lucy Payne 02/05/2014 at 11:43 AM

I think we can all agree that it is the height that needs to change. The architectural merits are not wonderful either but let’s focus on not letting it ruin the view from the hill. It took 50 years for Churchill to again become a widely desirable place to live and do business. We cannot let all these developers encroach on what is beautiful and special about this area. They are coming from all sides.

Thomas 02/05/2014 at 11:54 AM

“Too tall” is not a problem. If anything we should be encouraging density like this. Unless you pansies would rather keep your little parking lots. Let it develop, why does everything have to be shot down around here?

East Grace 02/05/2014 at 12:23 PM

This building is really not about density. As I understand it the building will only have about 30 units – all very high end. Those top floors that will block a view owned by all Richmonders will be owned by a handful of people paying a million dollars or more. If opposing that makes me a pansy, so be it.

edg 02/05/2014 at 1:37 PM

Is there any organized opposition to this proposal, specifically the height? From my experience, I have found my complaints to council are not taken seriously when presented individually. It takes an organization to be heard.

Thomas 02/05/2014 at 1:45 PM

Fine, I agree they should make it apartments instead and made it a little more mixed-income friendly, however I think making this corridor dense will be better than the state it’s in. Besides, does anyone have any better ideas? While you guys have visions of some “grand riverfront park”, the site is currently an eyesore. Nothing grand or celebratory of our riverfront at all. At least someone is actually making an effort to make it better than what it is now.

Brent spencer 02/05/2014 at 1:48 PM

It will not block the view at all. It is also about 20 floors too short to cast a shadow on the hill.
As for sunsets, it is a little know fact that the sun moves across the sky throughout the year. If the setting sun is blocked, one can either move several feet in either direction to see it (Church shill residents have difficulty with scale but I can assure you that the sun is bigger than this building) or come back in a few days when the sun sets in a different position on the horizon.

Next Friend 02/05/2014 at 2:11 PM

No one can say that the view looking in the direction of Pear Street has been anything other than industrial since colonial times. Tyler’s slides confirm that.
The “view owned by all Richmonders.” Please.

Dave 02/05/2014 at 4:16 PM

I couldn’t agree more Next Friend (#30). While the view of the bend in the river has significance in that it inspired the name of our city, the view south is awful. I have never understood what people see that I don’t that is sooo beautiful. Williams Bridge on that building and I-95 South…WTF. Build this, build the stadium, build it ALL…please let Richmond move forward and actually become something relevant again.

Justin 02/05/2014 at 5:07 PM

This should be green space . Why let a hundred people and develepors have the river ,when that space belongs to the citezens ?

Thomas 02/05/2014 at 5:14 PM

It’s nothing but another ugly, empty, barren land. Don’t make it more green space nobody’s going to use.

Next Friend 02/05/2014 at 5:31 PM

@32 Justin what are you even talking about? The citizens don’t own this property. The citizens need to buy it if they want to own it. Why let a dozen loud people and some non-profits that hate everything have a property they didn’t buy?

Mary Ashburn Pearson 02/05/2014 at 5:45 PM

The Partnership for Smarter Growth (PSG) has been following this issue and has collected more information about the project on our website:

Justin 02/05/2014 at 6:28 PM

@ next friend , not totally researched on this . But I was thinking the city aquirred the land a couple years back. That’s why I think it belongs to the citezens.
Please inform me If I don’t have the facts .

Don O'Keefe 02/05/2014 at 7:45 PM

In response to number 19, I’m talking about the experience of walking by vast swaths of surface park. I tend to think that horizontal scale is a bigger problem for Richmond neighborhoods than vertical density. Consider the average footprint of historic buildings in Church Hill as apposed to that grocery store. No doubt, a grocery store is needed, I am just disappointed by the for it takes and what it says about our urban environment. As for the height of this project, I think it’s quite good.

Aud 02/05/2014 at 9:10 PM

That building is ugly.

Next Friend 02/05/2014 at 10:39 PM

@36 Justin. This Pear Street thing is and has been private property, Justin. Echo Harbor is also private property. Come on guys, the links are at the top of this post. If you want to be an informed opponent, you can also look at the Partnership for No Growth’s page link above for a one-sided aggregation of materials posing as an independent forum.

Erie R. What 02/05/2014 at 10:50 PM

What more can you want? “Green” space, vertical density and a nice footprint:

Lucy Payne 02/06/2014 at 1:41 AM

I do not know who is speaking here because most are screen names but are you all residents of Historic Churchill? Do you not love the neighborhood because it is filled with beautiful old houses? Don’t you all love that this is a part of the city where the architecture and history has been preserved? Isn’t that the draw? Why would anyone want to see this sub par architectural development be a part of the landscape? What is down there now is whatever. I grew up on Churchill and I could not tell you what is down there. It is not obtrusive. All the people that complain that is ugly surprise me cause who looks? What you see is trees and river and an old smoke stack and now “the brave”. How is it such an eyesore? It is mostly nature grown over some old building and train tracks isn’t it? It is the stuff of Ed Trask’s paintings.
What are the benefits of this “density’ for the residents? Do people seek out “density” when looking for a place to live?

Next Friend 02/06/2014 at 7:46 AM

People who move here seek a neighborhood with character surely, but they also want the conveniences the city is supposed to have. Density equals goods and services – restaurants, stores, offices. Those things enhance character and add the vitality that the buyers of the present and future want. Church Hill is located in the center of a City, not on the distant fringe like its namesake. If you want a village, go rent Miss Marple. You are otherwise shooting yourself in the foot because the people who want to buy your houses one day want vitality.

BAF 02/06/2014 at 9:03 AM

@41. It is not that anyone would want to see this as part of the landscape. It is that we do not own said landscape and that the person who does is acting legally.

Time and again there are comments on here bemoaning projects because residents find issues big and small, but everyone acts after the fact. People who care about the viewshed and whatnot have had decades to acquire the property, push for zoning limitations or advocate for city or state conservation. Apparently no one did. The property and the viewshed was there and everyone just assumed nothing would change. But change is inevitable unless you proactively prevent it. No one did here. We may not like the outcome, but the time to act is likely past.

East Grace 02/06/2014 at 9:28 AM

My guess is that people who want to buy in an historical neighborhood with trees and parks and green space don’t want to end up in a place that is congested and “dense”. The wonderful thing about Richmond is that if offers alternatives. If you want to live where there is little or no space given over to vegetation you can move downtown or the Bottom. There are great services (except maybe a grocery store) and a lot going on. It’s perfect for some people, but not everyone. Personally I think it is exactly that village feel that attracts most people to this area. They don’t want to be in the burbs, but they don’t want to live downtown either. We have great restaurants (best in the city actually!) and stores without having towering high rises. Again, I think most people don’t oppose something being built there, just not so tall.

East Grace 02/06/2014 at 9:35 AM

If you buy property to build on, you should buy property zoned for the kind of building you want to build. My guess is that the zoning that is in place is there to protect the viewshed and to keep future buildings inline with existing architecture. The builder knew this when he bought the land.

Dave 02/06/2014 at 9:37 AM

At Lucy (#41)…I live in the Chimborazo Old & Historic District in a house built circa 1890. I love the historic character of the Hill, it’s one of the reasons I live here. If they were building this within the limits of the Hill that would be a different story. I don’t expect things beyond the limits of our historic neighborhood to be in compliance with something that would be built within the neighborhood. If you’re not moving forward you’re falling behind. It’s time Richmond accept this fact…

Lucy Payne 02/06/2014 at 1:13 PM

Preservation is not about owning the land. If the neighbors who came to Churchill in the 60’s and 70’s did not respect the history and beauty of the neighborhood it would not be as desirable as it is today. City dwelling is about getting along and accepting that your rights end where another’s begin. It was a common cause to save old houses that made it what it is today. Sure people could have come in and torn down houses and built new ones but they did not because there were people and institutions that stopped them.

Seems to me that the developers are trying to tag onto what has become the #2 neighborhood in the city but in the process don’t want to respect the residents that came before and legal or not this is “criminal”.
Why is it such and argument to simply lower the building?

Lucy Payne 02/06/2014 at 1:21 PM

I am also curious (#42)what conveniences “density” is going to bring to the neighborhood that are missing now cause we have “restaurants, stores, offices”. Does not seem like this one ugly obtrusive building is going to bump up the numbers too much anyway but can’t it just be a lower building?

BAF 02/06/2014 at 4:53 PM

Given the current M-1 zoning of light industrial, what is the condition of the parcel. Does anyone know if there is an environmental abatement issue for the land?

Looking at the regs, you can’t do housing in M-1 without an SUP. You CAN do a massive adult bookstore though. Flashing neon. “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” signs. That should be good in the viewshed and it would be by right! And hey! No pesky condos.

I am going to be rich….

Pierce Macdonald Powell 02/15/2014 at 12:15 PM

One issue that has not been raised yet in this discussion is Richmond’s Master Plan, Riverfront Plan and Downtown Plan. Development here must be consistent with both the zoning of a parcel and the Master Plan/Downtown Plan. Policies/laws in the Downtown Plan require development to be compatible in scale with surrounding buildings. The Riverfront Plan requires development to protect scenic views of the James River. A lot of the extreme alternatives to the Pear Street condo tower (GIRLS, for example) would also not be allowed by these plans. The Pear Street condo tower is inconsistent with zoning, the Riverfront Plan and the Downtown Plan. The property owner knows that and is pushing this project anyway.


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