Editorial on New VCU Building

From the Times Dispatch article (also on the FanoftheFan site):

Located at the corner of Broad and Belvidere, near one of the most-traveled entrances to the city, the ICA will be a signature building for the School of the Arts and VCU, representing the best in international contemporary architecture and art, and a valuable community resource for Richmond. The ICA, which is expected to be about 32,000-square-feet, will feature approximately 8,000-square-feet of gallery space, an outdoor installation space, a 210-seat auditorium with tiered seating, classrooms, a gift shop, a café with a catering kitchen and an entry hall suitable for exhibitions, installations and social events.

This announcement was expected for a while now. The new building is certainly going to improve the look of the intersection- anything is an improvement over the parking lot that’s there now. However, I hope Richmond considers all the ramifications thoughtfully.

It’s not surprising that the VCU community is excited about this development. I cannot deny the recognition and enthusiasm that it generates. And before I go further, I will state that I am not a VCU hater, despite what some people say. After all, a big part of what made Richmond attractive to me is the VCU art school’s synergy with the local music/art scene. I will continue to acknowledge and celebrate genuine accomplishments and the people who make them happen.

But beyond whatever controversy the design of the building may create (it’s obvious that VCU and Richmond leaders wanted a ‘signature building’ for this intersection), there are other questions that should be considered. With Center Stage, the Landmark Theater, the delightful VCU Singleton Center, VCU Brand Center, etc, does VCU, and Richmond in general, really need another venue that can seat over a hundred people?

As VCU does more infill, will it get more serious about helping deal with the City’s transportation and traffic issues? That intersection is already the most dangerous one in Richmond, and maybe the state.

Will this be built with green building measures? LEED certification, anyone? Or is VCU’s commitment to the environment another empty promise?

And then there is the cost…sure, it may get built with private donations, but how will VCU support it along with the rest of its physical plant? If I was a first-year student, I would be very concerned about more tuition increases. My warning: Be very wary of liberal politicians, no matter if they are ‘blue’ or ‘red’, when they are idiotically falling over themselves in support of ‘higher education’ and ‘growth’, no matter what.

Again, its understandable and even desirable that VCU have ‘audacious ambitions’ and that Richmond look foreword to being internationally known for its art, but untempered ambitions become a problem when they conflict with citizens’ legitimate interests, both in small and large ways, to the point of corruption and dishonesty. Remember when VCU administration told Oregon Hill, City, and state officials that there was no possible alternative location for a student recreational center? And yet here they are, building over their parking lots?

Honestly, I might let it go and let bygones be bygones, except that the VCU Board of Visitors has still not done the honorable thing and ended the threat to the neighborhood.