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About the Pear Street project before Council on Monday

City Council is scheduled to consider 2 ordinances relating to the proposed Pear Street project at their next meeting this Monday, June 9.

The two ordinances would together authorize a Special Use Permit allowing a condo development on the northernmost lot in the block bound by Pear, Dock, and Main Streets, and close an unused portion of East Cary Street.

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Portion of Cary Street to be closed
Portion of Cary Street to be closed

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Because the proposed use of the land does not match the current zoning of the property, a Special Use Permit (SUP) is required for the project to be built.

The land is currently zoned M-1 Light Industrial, which does not allow residential uses and limits building to 45 feet in height except under certain specific circumstances. Rocketts View SCP LP would like to build a 16-story building, with up to 65 condominiums.

Developer David White says that the only way that the project will work financially is if they are allowed the extra height.

Rocketts View SCP LP bought the property in December of 2001 for $131,250. The 2002 the property was assessed at $40,900. The assessment jumped to $197,000 in 2007 and then to $750,000 in 2013.

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Opponents of the project assert that the scale of the development puts it at odds with surrounding buildings and would have a negative impact on the view from Libby Hill Park.

Stewart Schwartz, founder of the Partnership for Smarter Growth, calls the development “one of the most significant issues currently facing the neighborhood. […] I don’t think you can overstate the spiritual and economic value of Libby Hill Park to our community. Or the importance of the public stake in open, inclusive planning that resulted in the Downtown Plan and Riverfront Plan.”

For the record, Partnership for Smarter Growth has not taken an organizational position on the project but has a history of strongly supporting the Downtown Plan and the inclusive public planning that it represents.

River View Advocates have been tracking the project since early on, and have led the fight against the proposal under the 180RVA banner (Facebook / @180RVA). 180RVA includes “residents from across the city, and two statewide groups, Scenic Virginia and Preservation Virginia”.

180RVA has a Change.org petition with just over 1,300 signatures. The group is organizing supporters to come to the next City Council meeting and show their opposition ot the proposal (“please wear something GREEN so they can see we are united”).

They are also joined by the Church Hill Association, whose membership voted in May to oppose the project – a decision preceded by greater-than-usual division in the ranks of the association. A dispute, in part, over funding opposition to the project led to the resignation of much of the CHA board in August 2013.

A letter from the 180RVA to the Richmond Planning Commission in late March 2014 laid out their concerns about the project:

  • Fails to meet the standards for granting of a Special Use Permit as set forth in the City Charter;
  • Fails to Conform with the City’s Downtown Plan; Master Plan; and Zoning Ordinance;
  • Will forever mar the historic and panoramic views from Libby Hill Park;
  • Disrupts the historic integrity of the Shockoe Valley and Tobacco Row Historic District […]
  • Would set a major precedent for granting SUPs for similar high-rise structures on nearby parcels from 25th Street to Rockett’s Landing;
  • Fails to study or even consider traffic from the proposed Echo Harbor development, (“Richmond on the James”), Rocketts Landing or the subdivision projects in Eastern Henrico.
  • Fails to consider the a recent project modification to approximately 60 units averaging only 800 square feet, indicating a possible shift from high-end units to an apartment building.

180RVA’s latest volley, a letter from attorney Andrew McRoberts, focussed on the Special Use Permit process itself and argues that Council may lack the legal authority to approve this particular SUP.

While one gets the idea that they would perhaps prefer to have have the land go undeveloped, 180RVA’s official stance is that they are only asking for any development to match the scale and height of the adjacent Tobacco Row buildings. Tobacco Row is zoned B-5, which allows residential use but limits height at 5 stories.

Members of the group, themselves longtime residents active in the neighborhood, counter the suggestion that Church Hill is inherently opposed to development with a list of projects that have been shaped by community involvement.

“If [Church Hill Association] had not spoken up, there would be a plastics manufacturing facility at 25th and Franklin, with forty foot tall silos holding plastic pellets to be melted down into industrial size brushes for street sweepers, ” says Marion Macdonald, one of the stalwart guardians of Libby Hill Park.

“If CHA had not spoken up, instead of the Charity Square condos at 25th and Franklin, there would be service station full of rubbish and dumpsters.”

Eugenia Anderson-Ellis says directly, “180RVA is not opposed to development. We are opposed to piece meal decisions that ignore a careful planning process which involved hundreds of citizens over many weeks. The Downtown Master Plan and the subsequent Riverfront Plan are marvelous examples of democracy at work.”

Anderson-Ellis also provides backstory for the current fight. “Jefferson Mews was to have been a high rise for subsidized housing. Imagine what that shadow would have done to the surrounding blocks, and see what an beautiful addition that block is to the neighborhood as built in scale with its surroundings.”

“The Superior Building would have been torn down, had we not protested. The City would have lost considerable tax dollars and we would have been stuck with an ugly suburban style grocery. ”

Follow the action at Monday’s City Council meeting. Come down in person, watch on tv (WCVW 24/Comcast), or follow along on Twitter at #rvacouncil.

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The James at River Bend from Libby Hill

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180RVA
180RVA
6 years ago

The comment about the assessment of the property:

Yes, the land value of Pear St did increase in 2013 by $563,000 to $750,000. Interestingly the property next door, Shockoe Watch Apartments also owned by David White was re-assessed following it’s renovation. That 2012 land value was at $1,300,000 but in 2013 it was reduced to $765,000 – a reduction of $535,000. Perhaps the two assessments were re-considered at the same time, as the net land value changes zeroed out.

Eric Morton
Eric Morton
6 years ago

Hi. My brother lives in this neighborhood with his wife Liz. We enjoy Libbie Hill Park and the great views it has to offer. Please do not let this project go forward.

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

How can the developer not make this work financially without completely trashing the view? He paid $130K and has been content to sit on it for years until now. You could build row homes and make the math work at that land price.

Even if this true, his ineptitude shouldn’t mean we all have to suffer the loss of a public view.

East Grace
East Grace
6 years ago

The developer has said he plans to live in the penthouse. If for some horrible reason they do build Echo Harbor he needs the height to be able see over it for himself and to be able to charge top price for the rest. The Style piece a few weeks past had it right – it is about greed, for money and the view.

Courtney Cotton
Courtney Cotton
6 years ago

Courtney Cotton liked this on Facebook.

ray
ray
6 years ago

Pear Street is one of those issues that can really help define a campaign for Mayor which is significant since several Council members are supposedly thinking about running.

Do you stand with the developers — David White and Lewis Salamonsky — or the environmental / smart growth / good government activist crowd and all their allies and supporters?

In other words, do you go with the money or with the people?

Amy Lindell Holler
Amy Lindell Holler
6 years ago

Amy Lindell Holler liked this on Facebook.

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

Dear Honorable Members of City Council, You may be SHOCKED to discover, as I discovered today through the Freedom of Information Act response below, that the city administration failed to even order an appraisal of the valuable city property that is proposed for sale for-a-song to convicted felon Louis Salomonsky and his partners by Ordinance 2014-71. This ordinance, with the Mayor as its patron, is before City Council on June 9th as part of the Mayor’s proposed give-away package for Salomonsky’s outrageous16 story tower at a location where only 5 stories is authorized by the city’s Master Plan. According to… Read more »

Amye
Amye
6 years ago

Please save this beautiful view where thousands of RVA couples have fallen in love, gotten engaged, or had their wedding pictures taken (or all of the above!)

Hillage Idiot
Hillage Idiot
6 years ago

#7, IF this is true….City Council, please do not approve this SUP.

Mars
Mars
6 years ago

Where do we click to sign a petition in support?

Steve
Steve
6 years ago

Uh, I hope I dont tick everyone off but I love that view as much as anyone and would love to see a thriving downtown city as part of it. That means people, that means density, that means hight. I dont find those artist renderings very inspiring, but we need towers in the bottom because population requirements are simple math. I know many are content with the status quo but like it or not the bottom should be the center of richmond, bustling with life, worthy of world class interest/visitation. We killed Echo Harbour, the recent Bottom Development Plan, now… Read more »

Melissa Pocock
Melissa Pocock
6 years ago

You can access the petition via 180RVA.com.

Progress doesn’t always equate to bigger and grander.

Jason Paul Smith
Jason Paul Smith
6 years ago

Jason Paul Smith liked this on Facebook.

Dave
Dave
6 years ago

Well said Steve!

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

Isn’t the lot next door also owned by the same developers? If so, how was it that they’ve been able to be profitable with a three story or so building on that spot? If the economics are wrong, they could bulldoze that one and build a wide five story complex across the two lots.

This is clearly all about monopolizing the view plain and simple.

Mars
Mars
6 years ago

@ Steve, I’m in full agreement. I was looking for a petition to voice my support, not opposition. I feel like those of us in support need to have a voice also. Please sign this and spread the word. I hope not to have to buy an entire domain like 180rva just to share my opinion. http://chn.ge/1p1O5jr

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

@7 – I didn’t realize until now that this guy:
http://kontradictions.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/salomonsky-richmond-is-a-ghetto-of-people-making-30k-50k-a-year/

was involved with the project.

FormerLibbyHillResident
FormerLibbyHillResident
6 years ago

Actually, “smart growth” is high density development versus the sprawl we see in the “burbs”. I think the tower fits into the environment quite nicely. I’m still amused that we have changed the argument from the “historic view” to the “panoramic view”. When I lived on Libby Hill, a few of the houses that were younger than mine, blocked my “panoramic view”. Should I have insisted that they be torn down? As Rocketts is developed in Henrico County, the historic view will be lost. Take a look at the development plans for that project. And a note related to the… Read more »

edg
edg
6 years ago

I do not support the tower. Just wanted to chime in to show solidarity with the rest of us that think this is out of scale for the area.

Don O'Keefe
Don O'Keefe
6 years ago

I am in support of the Pear street development and believe it will positively impact the view, increase the walkability of the neighborhood, and be a positive move for sustainability in Richmond on a number of levels. I hope the council will follow the recommendation of the panning commission and allow this project to go forward as it should.

Melissa Pocock
Melissa Pocock
6 years ago

#17 “When I lived on Libby Hill, a few of the houses that were younger than mine, blocked *MY* “panoramic view”. Should I have insisted that they be torn down?” The view from your residence belonged to you. The view from Libby belongs to many. The Farm Fresh on 25th and Broad, what lack of selection are you referring to? I shop there quite often. For me, the panoramic view is symbolic marriage of Richmond’s past and present – two landscapes, nature (river bend) feeding into the industrial environment (city skyline). This is what makes it breathtaking to behold. Not… Read more »

ray
ray
6 years ago

Ed Slipek gets it:

http://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/ripple-effect/Content?oid=2068122

I would enjoy a point by point counter by his “ArchitectureRichmond” associate, Mr. O’Keefe.

RVAtransplant
RVAtransplant
6 years ago

Development is great if it is done with integrity. But developers that take advantage of the system putting profit over people should absolutely be stopped. This same developer (that served federal prison time for bribing city officials) did a project at 18th and Cary. He took advantage of the historic tax abadment by attaching an apartment complex to an historic pump house (after tearing down 3 of its 4 walls leaving only the face). And he’s tax free on it for 10 years. That is ridiculous. Developers taking advantage of these tax breaks and making shady deals will not help… Read more »

chpnfan
chpnfan
6 years ago

Re-posting from Alex. You’ve got to listen to the audio

http://kontradictions.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/salomonsky-richmond-is-a-ghetto-of-people-making-30k-50k-a-year/

…. he notes with optimism that “minorities moving to the counties” because of a “declining school system” will finally bring rich, childless empty-nesters into the city, making it richer than the counties.

Neighbor
Neighbor
6 years ago

No. 17 is correct about the grocery store. CHA fought that development with great fervor – many in the membership were opposed to any grocery store since Carytown was close enough.

I don’t love the proposed building – I think it’s unattractive and out of proportion. But let’s be honest. The view of the river as it now exists is not exactly pristine. It would be nice to see improvement down there.

Quantious
Quantious
6 years ago

My wife and I took our engagement photos there. It would be such a shame to lose the most beautiful view in the city.

JTSam
JTSam
6 years ago

GREEN IS THE COLOR FOR MONDAY’S CITY COUNCIL MEETING !

SHOULDN’T GOOD OLE “SAL” & dah RVA Mayor have to SIT… http://t.co/JdNgLxysmt

MoKarnagexvx
MoKarnagexvx
6 years ago

See all yall on Monday at City Council!!! No giant tall buildiiings!!! http://t.co/CEVfWpmiwi

Shauna Mullan-Smith
Shauna Mullan-Smith
6 years ago

Shauna Mullan-Smith liked this on Facebook.

crd
crd
6 years ago

@24, please tell me when CHA fought the grocery store. I’ve lived here for years and have no memory of that. My memory is that we fought the destruction of the Superior Building, not the grocery store. We welcomed both the grocery store and CVS down there at 25th and Main.

RVAtransplant
RVAtransplant
6 years ago

@23 thanks for the clip. Salmonsky is a piece of work. My family and I moved here almost 3 years ago from the Midwest. Most of that time has been in the West End (would not have been our pick, my mother-in-law chose the place lol). Since moving to VA I have hated it. Seriously hated it and have never been more home sick. Around the beginning if the year we looked at our finances and decided we have to relocate somewhere more affordable if we ever hope to purchase a home someday. We decided to start really looking at… Read more »

ray
ray
6 years ago

crd is right. There was no “fervor” against the grocery store as #26 claims, people were excited about it coming here. To say otherwise is just making stuff up.

Neighbor
Neighbor
6 years ago

The membership was more than willing to lose the store in favor of no change at all. To say otherwise is simply making stuff up.

crd
crd
6 years ago

Correction, it is @26 (not 24) that says “CHA fought that development with great fervor – many in the membership were opposed to any grocery store since Carytown was close enough.”

We did NOT do that. Thank you Ray @30. Come on folks, stick to the facts. We fought the destruction of the Superior Building, and they didn’t tear it down.

Bill 3
Bill 3
6 years ago

RVAtransplant – great post and welcome to the neighborhood!

RVAtransplant
RVAtransplant
6 years ago

Thank you Bill! We are really excited about the move and hope we can contribute to the community.

Neighbor
Neighbor
6 years ago

Please. No one in the CHA cared a bit about the Superior Building until the grocery store was proposed.

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

Dear Honorable Members of City Council, According to Section 15.2-2008 of the Code of Virginia, for the right-of-way and easement to be purchased by the abutting property owner: “The price shall be no greater than the property’s fair market value or its contributory value to the abutting property, whichever is greater, or the amount agreed to by the parties.” This state code section is referenced in part 2(d) of the attached Ordinance 2014-71, which is before City Council on June 9th. The property involved in Ordinance 2014-71 is of tremendous “contributory value to the abutting property” because the 16 story… Read more »

crd
crd
6 years ago

Don’t bother showing up on Monday, it’s going to be postponed.

Mr. Pool, I for one appreciate your postings.

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

Amended to become a five story building as it should have been all along?

Karen
Karen
6 years ago

Alex, let’s hope so!!!

RVAtransplant
RVAtransplant
6 years ago

Maybe it’s just because I am a somewhat-newcomer to Richmond, but I just think it is insane how the city just keeps letting this developer get these deals. I try to be a well informed resident and the things I have learned researching the last several years of development in the city…seriously I felt like I should have been eating popcorn reading this stuff! I just can’t believe that this guy goes to prison for bribing city officials, loses one of his tax exemptions because he completely took advantage of the system and they still seem to just throw these… Read more »

crd
crd
6 years ago

@42 Transplant, you’ve got a good grasp, particularly in your description of the developer. To answer your question in the last sentence of first paragraph, nope you’re not missing anything at all. There might be more if you put Dwight Jones in the picture, but you’ve described the developer who went to jail pretty well.

@25 chpn fan, thanks for pointing out the audio, I just listened to it. Incredible.

SWalor
SWalor
6 years ago

RT @mattrock: I strongly encourage friends who enjoy the Libby Hill Park view to join me in opposition to … http://t.co/QaEC3l9Glw

Lora
Lora
6 years ago

I’ve read from several sources that the Pear Street papers have been postponed, but as of 10 minutes ago, the online agenda for tonight’s meeting still showed them as active. Has anyone gotten verification from the Clerk’s office that the papers have been postponed?

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