RICHMOND, Va. – The July heat even seeped into the observation deck high atop the 19-story City Hall, for which Mayor Levar Stoney both apologized and used as a joke to launch his citywide Master Plan: “Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth.”
“Well, I apologize for the heat, but as you all know: Richmond is so hot right now (long pause) -- this time of year.”
A growing city and a city only 20 years shy of turning 300 needs a guide for growth, the mayor said. For the past six years, census data shows the city of Richmond led the state in population growth; gaining almost 20,000 new residents.
The population grew from 204, 115 in 2010, to 223,170 in 2016; for an increase of almost nine residents daily.
The housing market has also swelled, with an increase in 5,318 units in a six-year period.The city may be growing, but there is no more land to annex from Henrico or Chesterfield.
“We need to plan for intentional growth, growth that is in the right places and meets the goals we have for our city,” Mayor Stoney said.
A Master Plan is a 20-year document that shapes how the city budgets, for parks, sidewalks, economic development – everything. The end of the mayor’s plan will coincide with the city’s 300th anniversary. The master plan has not been updated since 2001.
“What do we want Richmond to look like when we turn 300 years old?” Stoney asked.
“Make no mistake this is a massive undertaking that involves aligning internal city hall department efforts, breaking down silos and having one road map for the growth of our city,” he said.
Chris Tsui, who owns eight restaurants in the area and five within the city, addressed the crowd.
“To me, the city’s master plan represents clarity and transparency,” Tsui said. “As a business owner, it's a bit risky to invest my own money in these new ventures. But it's always beneficial to know what the city is planning so I can make investments with a little less fear.”
Extensive community input is required to develop the plan.
Cyane Crump, executive director of Historic Richmond Foundation, said she left Richmond but “came back for a great job in Richmond and its authentic, livable neighborhoods."
Crump emphasized the number of important questions which the community needs to ask as it grows: ”What type of development do we want and need? Do we want a grocery store or do we want additional housing? Where should it go? What should it look like, how tall should it be? What resources do we value?”
“Every day I see how our historic buildings and neighborhoods give Richmond a unique competitive advantage over other cities,” Crump said. “Every day I see the challenges that neighborhoods see as they struggle with thorny issues of demographics, density and development.”
“An essential piece of this effort, involves you,” Stoney said. “Every single person in this city can talk about smartly about how their neighborhoods should grow; we need every one of your ideas to come forward and shape the plan for the future.”
There will be numerous ways to participate, the mayor said, some more time-intensive than others.
Some of the engagement opportunities include: joining the Advisory Team, serving as a Richmond 300 Ambassador, working on a sub-committee, or simply following Richmond 300 on Facebook and Instagram.
A full description of engagement opportunities can be found here.
There will also be meetings, office hours, online surveys, town halls and more, the mayor said.
Questions can be submitted here.