Some Church Hill residents fight back against condo development

Posted on: 7:36 pm, August 19, 2012, by , updated on: 11:47pm, August 19, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Many neighbors in Church Hill are fighting to protect the view of James River from Libby Hill, after all, it’s part of the city’s historical fabric. 

The historic area and public park in Church Hill looks out directly on the water, but several years ago, a developer bought riverfront land that sits beneath the park and had suggested plans to build high rise condos there that would partially block the view.

The backlash from the community over the possible obstruction has delayed those plans from happening.  However, some residents want more assurance from the city that their view will be preserved.

They’re asking the planning commission to give them that.

“Any day, any weather, you can come up here and find people enjoying this little park,” said park neighbor David Cooley. 

Much like the glass street lamps and the brick sidewalks the historic view of the James from above is a treasure neighbors and Richmond tourists alike can appreciate.

 “We’re determined that we bring to everyone’s attention how important it is that we maintain this historic view,” said neighbor John Whitworth. 

In 2005 a developer purchased river front land at the foot of the elevated park. A plan to build high rise condos, a development called Echo Harbor, enflamed Church Hill neighbors so much that it never got off the ground.

“It would block the river and basically up to the horizon,” said Whitworth. 

However at Monday’s Richmond City Planning Commission meeting there will be discussion about the future of that waterfront.

“We’re asking them tomorrow to reinforce the riverfront plan,” said Whitworth.

Neighbors claim they aren’t suggesting that that don’t want or support development. They just don’t want development to obstruct their view.

But, just at the foot of the park, a completely different perspective can be found on the matter.

“I’m a business owner, I look at things differently, I’ve got a lot of empty seats,” said Mike Britt, owner of Poe’s Pub.

Brit believes the development of the riverfront should have been done years ago and more of it would mean more people and then more business. As a Church Hill resident Britt also enjoys the view but hopes the community can keep both because he feels both are important.

“This little stretch of land between Rockett’s Landing and downtown Richmond needs to be developed, they need to take advantage of the water,” said Britt.