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East End News

Echo Harbor update from 180RVA

A guest post by from 180RVA

Echo Harbor, also known as “Richmond on the James,” popped up again on March 23rd at City Council. CHPN posted a short notice about a City Council agenda item to approve an agreement between the City and the landowner to move the City’s combined sewer overflow pipe from the center of the property to the waterfront. However, many of you may have wondered about its significance. The RTD reported on the debate that ensued at Council that evening:

The Council also voted 8-1 Monday to allow the developer behind the planned Echo Harbour project on the James River to relocate a combined sewer overflow pipe to make the site more favorable for the planned high-rise buildings, which would consist mostly of office space with some retail and restaurant space. The developer will move the pipe at its own cost. […] A group of Church Hill residents and preservationists asked the Council to delay voting on the relocation of the pipe. The opponents suggested it was impossible to build on top of the pipe and that by agreeing to move it, the Council would be choosing development that could jeopardize river views over preservation. A representative of the developer, USP Echo Harbour LLC, characterized it as a routine request to relocate a public utility on private property, adding that moving the pipe closer to the river would allow the inclusion of a linear park along the riverfront rather than having the buildings pressed tight against the water’s edge.

Members of 180RVA, which includes statewide organizations Scenic Virginia and Preservation Virginia in partnership with Church Hill residents, met with Councilwoman Newbille a number of times seeking a continuance so that they, along with national conservation groups, could negotiate with the developer and raise the funds necessary to purchase the land for a park as called for in the 2009 Downtown Plan. The day of the hearing, they learned that the Councilwoman would not be requesting a continuance. By then it was too late to inform the other Council members about the significance of the ordinance, and as is frequently the custom, the Council members deferred to their colleague representing the district. A number of provisions in the Downtown Plan speak of the importance of protecting riverfront parkland and key views, including The View That Named Richmond. The Downtown Plan references this parcel several times, including a specific recommendation in Section 4, p. 4-47, to purchase it for parkland:

Acquire unique properties for open space along the river that: The City should actively work to acquire properties for public open space along the river. As the revitalization of Downtown continues, and as more people begin living and working in the area, the need for open space will swell and new signature spaces along the river will need to be made available to all. Now is the time to realize that key properties are limited in number and for the City to actively pursue the purchase of these properties. Properties to acquire include those with historic, scenic, wildlife, or recreational values, among others. In particular, the former Tarmac property parcel and the Lehigh Cement Factory on the north side of the river and Mayo Island in the center of the river should be purchased. The City should purchase the properties at fair market value and negotiations with these various property owners should begin as soon as possible. (emphasis added)

We are frustrated that instead of working to preserve the land and the panoramic view as called for in the Downtown Plan, the City has spent months negotiating with the developer to have the City’s Combined Sewer Overflow pipes moved in order to facilitate development of the parcel. At the same time, why spend City money to remove the Lehigh Cement towers from the panoramic view, only to add a line of buildings of equal height and much greater density? In addition, the City is investing $8 million into the Stone Brewing Bistro at Intermediate Terminal. Why on earth would we encourage inappropriately tall development to the west that will certainly obscure the views of historic Tobacco Row and much of Downtown for Stone’s patrons? Undaunted, we will continue to seek negotiations with the developer and to raise the funds necessary to purchase the parcel and preserve the historic and panoramic views from Libby Hill Park and to enhance the parkland along the riverfront. We hope you will share your thoughts on the view and the goal of preserving the land as a park. Sincerely, 180RVA For more information, or if you have questions, please contact: Leighton Powell Scenic Virginia (804) 363-9453 (cell) Elizabeth Kostelny, Preservation Virginia John Whitworth, Riverview Advocates

IMAGE: Rendering of Echo Harbor elevations in relation to Libby Hill Park by former VCU planning students commissioned by 180RVA

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Church Hill Advocate 04/07/2015 at 8:23 AM

Thank you 180 RVA – This is awful – what is City Council doing ! Why did Cynthia Newbille not help ? Should we demand another town hall meeting with her ?
Good luck with the fund raising.

John Adams 04/07/2015 at 8:23 AM

Is it too soon to develop a boycott of any business that would locate in that site? I think that potential tenants should know that they will have resistance from the neighborhood, and that their callous decision will not go unnoticed. Think of this as a modern day refusal of Colonists to buy British tea.

Justin 04/07/2015 at 8:32 AM

Can anybody name anything that newbille has done for representing the homeowners/taxpayers in the 7 th district . I’ve never met anybody up here in favor of big development of any kind.she just stays silent hoping we will go away. . she might be a good person . but her leadership is non existent .

Karen R 04/07/2015 at 8:54 AM

City Council just doesn’t get it! We need greenspace and views otherwise we will be living in a concrete jungle. When that happens who will want to live in the City? They don’t get that tourists come to see the historic view of the James from Libby Hill Park or to see and walk along the river. They don’t get that their own constituants not only enjoy those same things but need them to promote our own wellbeing.

East Grace 04/07/2015 at 9:21 AM

I am not sure why Cynthia Newbille chose to represent an historic district when she does not seem to care one bit about preserving its beauty, significance,and uniqueness. I have heard her say that her constituents in the northern part of the district want this because they were promised jobs so see needs to support them and that the master plan calls for development if there cannot be a park so she is really supporting the master plan. The developer went to the poorer parts of this district and promised jobs (that may not have been his to promise) in order to get people to sign his petition in support of the project. And why would he tell her the land was for sale when he was trying to get her to vote for something that would enhance its value? Seems totally unwilling to see through this developer (and she is not dumb, she knows better). This September the world will literally be in Libby Hill Park. If this city wants to prove it can be world class then it needs to act that way and treat the East end like the jewel in the crown it is. Responsible and appropriate development will turn things around. This development is neither.

East Grace 04/07/2015 at 9:42 AM

Another thing I think city council is totally ignoring here is traffic. I don’t think any of them ever drive on the east end of Main Street in rush hour or they would know that adding hundreds of more cars to a road were other projects will already add (probably hundreds more) to traffic problems is not a good idea. There are more housing projects being built in Rocketts Landing and a big one proposed for Fulton Hill. There is the Brewery (and its tourists) and the alteration to the road that will happen with the new faster bus, not to mention development on the route 5 corridor. All of this on a road that can barely handle what it has and offers no easy fixes. Is anyone really looking at the bigger picture or to they just see dollar signs? Don’t they realize that things like traffic can bring ruin development?

Bob Patterson 04/07/2015 at 10:08 AM

It seems to me that more sustainable value would come from maintaining the environment and relocating the development to other parts of Church Hill. While it may not result in the “quick buck”, it will better serve the interests of the total community to develop elsewhere, not just the residents of Church Hill. One can alway replace a building, but once the environment is destroyed, there is no turning back. Please do not allow this development!!

K 04/07/2015 at 10:09 AM

Sorry, folks: I can’t see any way this major eyesore won’t come into being. Money talks, and there’s big bucks for some people in this one.

David 04/07/2015 at 10:47 AM

Terrible. Why not just build these concrete blocks next to the river that is interstate 64? Build them up near Mechanicsville Turnpike and 64. Gives easy access for those who were promised jobs (as if that weren’t a lie) as well as easy access to commuters to work via 64.

Just a horrible, horrible planned development.

Gingkofig 04/07/2015 at 11:00 AM

Very disappointing. What can we do to fight this terrible, short-sighted idea? Why does Newbille always seem to default in favor of big development? It was only last year we averted a high-rise development that was contrary to the master plan and destructive of key river views so important to this city. The current proposal seems far worse. The message seems pretty clear that most folks that reside in this district and care about preservation are against development along that particular corridor.

jean mcdaniel 04/07/2015 at 11:12 AM

When the Pear Street project was first presented to the Church Hill Association by Mr. White , the then chairman of the CHA zoning committiiee, Waite Rawls, assisted in the presentation. Mr. Rawls fillibustered every time a question was posed so no one had much of a chance to oppose this development. I thought he was a partner in the Salomonski / White business!

Until certain factions within the CHA stop persuing their own personal agendas and pushing their pet projects, there will never be a united voice on anything.

When you agree to serve the CHA in any capacity, you are bound by ethics to represent the wishes of the membership, not your own.

Sharon Larkins-Pederson 04/07/2015 at 11:27 AM

I think if Newbille took a tour of current building sites in the neighborhood she would quickly see that very few of the folks on the job are those “North of Broad” constituents.

Alex 04/07/2015 at 12:19 PM

My thoughts exactly #14. I don’t think there are dozens and dozens of out of work construction workers in North Church Hill. The developer will end up using day laborers like seemingly every other project does.

These aren’t the jobs we need. Maybe there’s a few sweetheart jobs being promised to some folks on the council or their families?

Ann McKee 04/07/2015 at 12:32 PM

Every time my friends come in to town, the first thing they want to do is go to the River and see the views. What am I supposed to tell them? “Yeah, the City of Richmond decided that our riverfront and views were so wonderful that only the people who live or work in certain buildings should get to see them.”

formerlibbyhillresident 04/07/2015 at 1:01 PM

Does anyone support a view tax from these areas? Much like the overlay tax districts of Shockoe Slip, the Bottom and the Riverfront, a special assessment district could be made that would be paid for by the owners of Church Hill, Chimbo and Fulton to buy the land and keep it natural.

I personally think it would make a great moto-cross and ATV track. It’s properly zoned for that use.

East Grace 04/07/2015 at 1:05 PM

Ms McDaniel,
You were obviously not at the August 2013 CHA meeting. If you had been you would have seen Mr. Rawls get up in front of a packed house of almost 100 people and very eloquently say that while he had initially supported the project, he understood that the membership did not and that he stood behind their decision and would work to support it.That kind of leadership is the exact opposite of what you describe.

Aud 04/07/2015 at 1:40 PM

I’m also curious as to what #10 mentions – how much money is involved and how much would need to be raised?

Kirsten Taranto 04/07/2015 at 2:28 PM

I wonder if Cynthia Newbille ever thinks of the legacy she is helping to leave to future generations. She will be party to ruining a beautiful view of the river and encouraging a concrete corridor. It isn’t just for us now that we want to stop this development. We want citizens of Richmond as well as tourists to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the river for years to come. We are just getting rid of the eyesore of the Lehigh Cement towers. Unless Echo Harbor can be stopped, we will be replacing the Cement Towers with another eyesore. It doesn’t make sense.

bozatwork 04/07/2015 at 3:39 PM

I’ve always considered this development to be a long con by the property owner, a legal extortion tactic to get as much money out of the City when it eventually purchases the property. Unfortunately approving the sewer overflow increases the value. There’s no rhyme or reason to build on this scale at this location. There’s plenty of opportunity to develop large scale mixed use condos in other parts of our historic districts. Any blocking of the historic river view is against the character of the neighborhood and the intent of the downtown master plan, as rightfully cited. Fully implementing the downtown master plan will deliver greater value and quality of life to all of Richmond’s citizens, rather than a few.

One of my favorite memories of Libby Hill Park (and there are many) was when I bumped into Daniel Day-Lewis at almost the exact spot where that photo was taken. He was simply admiring the view. I don’t think that would have happened if these buildings were there to block our historic view shed. Everyone can appreciate it.

Martha Faulkner 04/07/2015 at 4:55 PM

Everyone regardless of color or street on which they live in any
area of Richmond loves Libby Hill Park and its view of the River that gives its viewers a feeling of peace and hope and love of nature. Newbille knows this. Why does she go against
those who trusted her and voted for her?
? We must force her to answer this.

Robert 04/07/2015 at 5:06 PM

The ballpark doesn’t seem like such a bad idea now, does it? Let’s keep rallying around that parking lot, folks…

Liz 04/07/2015 at 6:14 PM

This makes me sad. We love living in the city and love th hustle bustle, being able to walk to places, new restaurants around the corner, new businesses popping up. But we also love the quiet places like Libby Hill where you can go experience nature and feel that you aren’t in the city. The view is spectacular – why would anyone think to take it away? Ms. Newbille, if in fact the comments are true, is quite a disappointment in this area. What do we do now to halt this?

Rosamonde Lewis 04/07/2015 at 6:21 PM

We need another town hall meeting as we held for Pear St. and hold our Councilwoman to her representation of the entire district. She seems oblivious to the large numbers of her constituents who populate the park and treasure the view. These are not just the immediate neighbors!

Friend of the View 04/07/2015 at 6:42 PM

“Where is this river? How do you get to it?” Comments made by a family from Texas in their relocation search. They had read much about this “wet central park” in the many promotional venues that the city produces. Shall we continue to wall off our best asset? What happened to all the excitement that the richmond Downtown master Plan produced? Read about the transformation of Chattanooga after they made the courageous decision to develop a downtown waterfront park. It is an exciting place to visit and partake in. You can see river everywhere and know exactly how to get to it.

jean mcdaniel 04/07/2015 at 7:26 PM

I have reviewed all Zoning meeting, Membership meeting, and Board meeting minutes since the date you mentioned and I have found no retraction as you describe it. However that is not the point. The point is having ethical leaders in the community who do not say one thing and DO something entirely different out of earshot. This includes CHA as well as elected representatives.

Ms. Newbille is currently displaying her disturbing propensity for this type of behaviour as it relates to Echo Harbour.

I don’t see how anyone can be shocked at how Ms. Newbille is currently conducting herself based on her past performance ( Pear St. ) of evasion, side stepping and talking out of both sides of her mouth.

Rosamonde @25 nailed it, “She seems oblivious”

neighbor 04/07/2015 at 9:02 PM

The reason Newbill did not seek to delay the vote is because the property owner made clear that they have no intention of selling. furthermore movement of the sewer line is in the interest of those in the community that one to have access to the park. if the sewer line was not moved the building would be constructed closer to the river bank. the current land owners have a legal right to develop the property.

Hill Runner 04/07/2015 at 10:04 PM

I hate to see any portion of the view lost, but what exactly is the plan for the vacant lot? Is there a fund or foundation to buy the lot and transfer it to the city? It seems to me that the only mission of 180 is to oppose everything and hope that the city one day comes up with the money to buy the lot. After 5+ years of fighting the project, the odds of the city putting together funds to purchase the lot seem thin. Right now the lot is a fenced in field with no river access at all. At least with this deal, the city gets a right of way to run the capital trail through the property.

justin 04/08/2015 at 5:33 AM

@ 23 . we all know people have rights .I think what we are all saying is newbille doesn’t do a good job representing OUR rights too !And she just doesn’t do a good job. Try writing her , or sending an email ..
Auto reply is all you get.
This is a huge issue for 99 % of us. So have fun being a libertarian or whatever your point is.

justin 04/08/2015 at 5:36 AM

Sorry 23….. it was 29 I was talking bout .. Neighbor ?

noodge 04/08/2015 at 7:33 AM

I don’t understand the hate for Newbille on this. What exactly to you expect her to do?

As much as you might not like the project, he owner of the land is doing a building that he has the legal right to do and for which the land is zoned.

Darin 04/08/2015 at 8:32 AM

If Newbille sucks so bad, why does she keep getting elected to office? Im not saying that she does or does not suck, but it seems most people feel one way about her?

J. Murden why dont you run for her position next term?

John M 04/08/2015 at 8:52 AM

@Darin – I appreciate the confidence, but I’m not up for public office.

Plus, I’m honestly a *huge* Cynthia Newbille fan. She’s been a good force in support of small business growth in the neighborhood and a strong proponent of community health.

I think folks get riled with her because they want her to help lead on their fight, but that’s not her style. She has been supportive of historic preservation, including the Union Hill Old & Historic designation and killing Pear Street, but she was never out front of either of those.

Here’s an interview with her from 2009 that accurately described who she was going to be once in office, and clearly states her opposition to Echo Harbor.

My understanding of this particular project is that the proposal is a by-right use, so unless the developer needs something special from the city there isn’t much legal recourse to stop this from happening. It looks like opponents saw the request to move the sewer pipe as a wedge to use against the project, but it also reads like that would not be enough to kill it either.

Current Libby Hill Resident 04/08/2015 at 4:42 PM

John hits the nail on the head. The previous proposal from this developer had a smaller footprint but a much taller building. That could not be built without land use approvals from the City. They revised their plans, as I understand it, to make the buildings comply as a “by right” use. Sure, Dr. Newbill could have opposed the relocation of the sewer line but that would have been an exception from how the City would normally react to requests to facilitate otherwise legal development projects. Moreover, Dr. Newbill has to take into account the needs of her District and the City as a whole. While you or I might think the value of the view is paramount, others would reasonably take the position that the tax base needs to increase to provide funding for schools and other significant needs. Sure, one can argue that allowing the proposed development at Echo Harbor will reduce the tax base by reducing property values in the East End, but who is to say that Dr. Newbill is wrong in concluding that, in the balance, the development is a net financial positive to the City?
Having said all this, I personally would prefer a park over the Echo Harbor proposal but that would mean coming up with a way to purchase the property. As others have mentioned here, I would be interested in knowing more about the fundraising efforts that some believe are underway.

East Grace 04/08/2015 at 6:39 PM

John, with all due respect you have to understand why some people are frustrated and disappointed in Dr. Newbille. Reader after reader has written to this site on issue after issue stating that their inquires to her have gone unanswered.

Yes, she has done some wonderful work with community health and I am happy to hear about the Union Hill Old & Historic designation work. I know she has supported small business. And I think her work in support of the new mixed income housing is great. But for many of her constituents she is just unavailable.

She did not want to kill Pear Street. I was at that meeting. I think most people who were there would agree that she was pretty much shamed into it (thank you Rosalyn Dance and an unrelenting crowd).

I have watched that video of candidate Newbille and it made me sad. As a candidate she seemed to be willing to go the extra round if need be. I don’t see that now at all and I have witnessed this in person. She has a lot of excuses.

She is a bright and articulate woman and I would love to feel the same way you do, but so far I cannot.

Next Friend 04/09/2015 at 8:02 AM

180rva is the perfect name for this special interest group with no willingness to look at the true core of their neighborhood to the north … where the real problems of concentrated poverty and the food desert burden a thin municipal budget. If they were 360rva, maybe they’d see balance, reason and justice. The energy 180rva spends on accidentally rural-looking views over a former industrial port area is shameful when folks only blocks away starve and suffer. I for one thank God that Dr. Newbille can prioritize wisely since 180rva cannot.

urbngrilla 04/09/2015 at 3:07 PM

Uh, pass the kool-aid please…

Yet again one of the mayor’s cronies trots out the warmed over trickle down theory of economics to justify any development that comes under reasonable and justifiable scrutiny by the tax-paying public.

Shame on you for using the low-income residents of the East End as blanket leverage for any and every “deal” the mayor, EDA and developers throw out there.

Trickle down economics was a sham in the Reagan-era and helped get us into the 1-percent situation we’re in right now. Richmonders are too smart to fall for that, again.

Nobody believes that Echo Harbor, Stone Brewery or a stadium in the bottom are going to ammelliorate poverty in the East End or anywhere else in Richmond. It’s simply a convenient tactic/talking point to distract folks from scrutinizing the fiscal responsibility behind the latest deals cooked up by the EDA and developers.

WarGibFA 04/09/2015 at 9:16 PM

(@39- Out of curiosity, what exactly is the problem with Stone Brewery? Their brew-pub will (hopefully) get more traffic through Shockoe Bottom, which certainly couldn’t hurt.)

Next Friend 04/10/2015 at 9:29 AM

And urban guerrillas who post exactly what the millionaire suburban conservative white developers who’ve been keeping us all down all say when they think no one is listening! This is a pretty awesome Opposite Day sort of moment, actually. Let’s all try to get along at prom this weekend. Cheers.

chpn 04/23/2015 at 4:17 PM

Group pushes city to buy riverfront land to preserve Libby Hill view


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