2nd Street Connector’s Official Opening On Thursday

Despite continued questions and controversy, the Mayor’s Office released the following press release:

For Immediate Release Contact: Michael Wallace
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 (804) 646-2772 Michael.Wallace at Richmondgov.com

Mayor to Officially Open New 2nd Street Connector Road

WHO: Mayor Dwight C. Jones
Ellen Robertson, Richmond City Council Vice President, District 6
Parker Agelasto, Richmond City Council, District 5
Carter Reid, Vice President – Administrative Services & Corporate Secretary, Dominion
Bruce Hazelgrove, Vice President – Corporate Resources, NewMarket Corporation
Jack Berry, Executive Director, Venture Richmond

WHAT: Official opening of the new 2nd Street Connector road.

WHEN: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 3 p.m.

WHERE: New 2nd Street Connector Road
Street extends from 2nd Street to Tredegar Street
Richmond, VA

BACKGROUND:

Mayor Jones, members of Richmond City Council, Dominion, New Market Corporation, and Venture Richmond will officially open the new 2nd Street Connector road. Project represents the first completed project of the 2012 Richmond Riverfront Plan.

Free parking is available in the parking lot off of Tredegar Street just west of the American Civil War Museum parking lot.

# # #

Despite Opposition, 2nd Street Connector Construction Starts

Despite opposition from the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association, the Sierra Club Falls of the James, citizens, as well as open government concerns, the City is pushing ahead with construction of the 2nd Street Connector.

Yesterday, despite promises for full exploration of the historic significance of the site, over 150 feet of century old structural canal brick wall was destroyed.

From City press release:

Construction on Richmond’s new street that will connect Second Street to Tredegar Street on the north side of the James River downtown will have a minimal effect on visitors to the James River Park’s Belle Isle who park in the Tredegar Street lot.

The first or eastern entrance to the lot on Tredegar Street will be closed effective Tuesday, October 16, due to construction on the new connector street; however, the second or western entrance to the lot, as well as the entire lot itself, will remain open throughout the entire construction period.

City Council and 2nd Street Connector

Despite letters of concern from citizens, neighborhood association, and the local Sierra Club, an ordinance was introduced for the 2nd Street Connector this past Monday. C. Wayne Taylor’s questions have not been answered and there is no word on alternatives.

Ord. No. 2012-152 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To declare a public necessity for and to authorize the acquisition of the property identified as the “Project Area” in a certain Gift and Dedication of Real Property and Development Agreement between Gamble’s Hill, LLC, Venture Richmond, Inc., the City of Richmond, Virginia, and Dominion Resources Services, Inc., currently owned by Gamble’s Hill, LLC and to be conveyed to Venture Richmond pursuant to such Agreement, for a purchase price not to exceed $916,640.00, for public right-of-way purposes. (Planning Commission, Monday, July 16, 2012, 1:30 p.m.; COMMITTEE: Land Use, Housing and Transportation, Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 3:00 p.m.)

‘Watchdog’ C. Wayne Taylor Holds His Bite On 2nd Street Connector

I have written before about how C. Wayne Taylor has taken on City Hall on the 2nd Street Connector and Special Use Permit Issues. Here’s the latest:

April 12, 2012

The Honorable City Council
City of Richmond
900 E. Broad St., Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23219 USA

Re: 2nd Street Connector Information

Dear Honorable Members of Council,

On March 15th 2012 I requested certain information from Councilor Tyler regarding the proposed 2nd Street connector. He said he would give me a response by the end of the week. On April 2nd I send an email to Councilor Tyler advising him that I had not received anything. As of this evening, I still have not received any of the information I requested.

The citizens of Richmond are being denied a meaningful voice in the political process if you do not give them the relevant information. Will you please take the appropriate action to obtain and make public the information I requested.

Sincerely yours,

C. Wayne Taylor
www.CityHallReview.com

Attachments: Copies of the emails are included below.

Links: http://cityhallreview.com/tag/2nd-street-connector/

Copy: Liaisons, Planning Commission via Secretary, Press, Interested Citizens

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: C WAYNE TAYLOR
To: Bruce Tyler
Cc: C WAYNE TAYLOR
Sent: Monday, April 2, 2012 4:41 AM
Subject: Tyler – 2nd Street Connector Information

Dear Mr. Tyler,

I have not received the information.

C. Wayne Taylor

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: “Tyler, Bruce W. – Council Member”
To: C WAYNE TAYLOR
Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2012 1:26 PM
Subject: RE: Tyler – 2nd Street Connector Information

Mr. Taylor:

I will give you a response this week.

Bruce W. Tyler

1st District Councilman
City of Richmond

City Council
900 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

cell: 804.357.6007
fax: 804.343.0909

From: C WAYNE TAYLOR [mailto:cwaynetaylor@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thu 3/15/2012 4:16 PM
To: Tyler, Bruce W. – Council Member
Cc: C WAYNE TAYLOR
Subject: Tyler – 2nd Street Connector Information

March 15, 2012

VIA EMAIL TO: Bruce.Tyler@Richmondgov.com
The Honorable Bruce Tyler
City Council
City of Richmond
900 E. Broad St., Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23219 USA

Re: 2nd Street Connector Information

Dear Honorable Council Member,

The proposed 2nd Street connector would cause a major change in the character of the area. I think it is very important to fully understand the proposal and the various factors involved.

As you know, the administration has not been transparent in this matter. Economic Development even tried to charge me for copies of the documents discuss with city council.

Therefore, I request that you help insure that citizens have all the facts. Will you please provide or obtain answers to the following for the public and me:

1. Has an elevation rendering of the proposed crossing of the historic canal been presented to council?

2. Has a perspective rendering of the proposed connector been presented to council?

3. What is the acreage of the land that is proposed to be conveyed to the city west of the connector?

4. Why does the Planning Commission letter state that the area on both sides of the connector will be privately owned?

5. Why is there a proposed parcel boundary down the middle of the historic canal?

6. What is the acreage of the land that the city is providing for stormwater detention.

7. Does the stormwater detention facility essentially block access of city land to Tredegar Street?

8. Does the parking area connect to Tredegar Street or the connector?

9. How many parking spaces are gained or lost?

10. Does the city have the right to require that the connector be put on the Tredegar Ironworks parcel under alternative B-3 of the 1995 agreement?

11. Does alternative B-3 provide better topography to cross the historic canal and provide more clearance for boats.

12. Why was the connector project assigned to Development rather than Planning?

13. Has Planning been prohibited from commenting to citizens about the connector?

14. Has the planning director issued an analysis of the pros and cons of a connector?

15. Has the city traffic engineer issued a report on the connector?

16. Who prepared the traffic analysis report?

17. Has part of the traffic analysis report been redacted?

18. Is it correct that the connector is not shown on the Downtown Master Plan?

19. What elements of the connector are not consistent with the Downtown Plan and UDC Guidelines.

20. Why were the trees cut down after the Planning Commission reviewed the connector concept plan?

21. What happens if the city requires clearance over the historic canal and refuses to pay the cost?

I believe the following is correct:

22. Road construction grading will cut into the profile of the historic canal.

23. The stormwater detention facility will cut into the profile of the historic canal.

24. Water flowed in the historic canal until about 1970.

25. Slave labor was used to construct the historic canal.

26. An 1880 bridge was built over the unused canal in a traditional arched style.

27. The historic canal is on the National Register of Historic Places.

28. The top executive at Dominion Resources received total compensation of $16.9 million in 2010.

I have attached copies of the documents that the Jones Administration attempted to charge me to have.

Thank you for your attention,

C. Wayne Taylor
www.CityHallReview.com

Copy: Council, Liaisons, Press

2nd Street Connector At City Council Monday

Well, here we go. It will be interesting to see which riverfront vision Council sides with…

Richmond City Council
INFORMAL SESSION
COUNCIL CHAMBERS
CITY HALL – SECOND FLOOR

As of 2/23/2012

Monday, February 27, 2012
3:00 P.M.

III. 2ND ST. CONNECTOR – JENNIE WELLIVER, PROJECT DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

See previous 2n Street Connector posts here, here, and here. And don’t forget the coverage by C. Wayne Taylor’s City Hall Review.

Sierra Club Speaks Against Proposed 2nd Street Connector

The letter:

February 1, 2012
Honorable Dwight C. Jones Office of the Mayor
900 East Broad Street, Suite 201 Richmond, Virginia 23219
Re: Opposition to Proposed 2nd Street Connector

The Sierra Club Falls of the James group would like to express our many concerns regarding the recent proposed riverfront development just west of downtown. In particular, we see several issues with the proposed “2nd Street connector road.”

Lack of Amenities for Bicyclists and Pedestrians
First, we share the concerns expressed by neighborhood and bicycle groups about the lack of bicycle lanes and pedestrian features in plans for this development. It is absolutely hypocritical for the City to declare itself “bicycle-friendly” while creating a new roadway in its downtown riverfront without these measures. This sends all the wrong signals as the 2015 World Road Cycling Championship approaches.

Disrespect for Historic Context
Secondly, we are very interested in protecting the historic features of the Kanawah Canal that this proposed roadway will bisect. The canal, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is of great historical significance to the City of Richmond. It was first development of the city. Samuel Pleasants Parsons, a noted abolitionist, whose home (built in 1819) survives at 601 Spring Street, was the Superintendent of the Canal in 1840 when the Canal was expanded westward to Lynchburg. From about 1850 to 1875, John Messler ran a canal boat building enterprise in the Penitentiary Basin. Messler had a short walk from his home the Jacob House (which survives at 619 W. Cary Street) to the canal basin. Based on these facts alone, we believe that any construction in the area should be preceded by careful archeological investigation. All of the historic images of Richmond’s Kanawha Canal emphasize how important this area is to the City’s identity, and it deserves better than the typical corporate campus driveway treatment.

Environmental Degradation and Canal Boat Impasse
Thirdly, in addition to the history of the canal, its natural aspects also bring up important environmental concerns. Putting a paved road over the canal and so close to the river will have a significant effect on stormwater runoff in the area. With the James River Park so close by, any development of this area will have an adverse effect on the environment. We understand that the land above the canal area is ready for development, but the canal area itself is not. While much of the land for this proposed road may be on private property now, for the City to accept its donation under these circumstances is not proper environmental stewardship.
Moreover, we are listening to Jack Pearsall, who has served with the Historic Richmond Foundation and City planning committees and who has championed the canal as a transportation alternative. He has raised red flags with regard to how this proposed road will meet the historic canal. He has estimated that the culvert would be about 12 feet high with only about 6 feet of clearance if water flow were restored. That means typical canal boats would not be able to pass.
In a recent Richmond Times Dispatch article, Mr. Pearsall was quoted as saying, “The purpose of the canal is to float boats. If we’re going to float boats on this canal, they’ve got to be able to pass this constriction.”

Disregard for Possible Alternative Future Uses
We also note public support for this restored canal concept. There was support for it twenty years ago, and support for it was again expressed at the recent public riverfront planning meetings. Planning for the canal might be a question of whether the chicken or the egg comes first. At first the canal might be seem to be mostly for tourist boats up to Maymont and an extension of the history tour on the canal downstream; but some day the larger culture may see the benefit of and begin to use “water taxi” for transporting commuters downtown or to the slip, and eventually it may be functionally necessary again for commercial forms of traffic moving up the river. Navigable water is wisely being mapped with an eye on the future value to the state and municipalities as real estate. The movement to open and protect blue-ways is focused especially on keeping a cap on the scale of expansion or commercialization. Re-opening the canal must also be designed within the context of supporting conservation easements to prevent sale of any segments of James River Park.
We might say to ourselves that that little canal would have to be expanded to carry significant traffic once again, yet we must also look at the canal as it is: an existing option that we protect with foresight now while we have the chance, in preparation for the time it might need to be pressed into service because of a lack of resources for the kinds of massive infrastructure projects that we in our time are temporarily fortunate enough to consider ordinary.

Exacerbated Traffic Problems
Finally, we share concerns expressed by neighborhood groups with regard to traffic and further riverfront development. We recall our opposition, along with that of over a dozen other neighborhood and environmental groups, to Dominion Power’s Special Use Permit for its headquarters building on the riverfront. At the time, traffic was brought up as a chief concern, and Dominion assured City Council that existing roadways could serve the additional traffic created by its development. Now ten years later, Dominion is insisting on this new road while at the same time saying it has no plans for new development “at this time.” Oregon Hill neighborhood residents have made it clear there already are problems with additional traffic coming from the 195 expressway onto Idlewood Avenue that would be exacerbated by the 2nd Street connector. The City Department of Planning has not delineated the necessity of this road for emergency access.
In summary, the Sierra Club Falls of the James Group does not see the purpose of this road, and more pointedly, we are opposed to its current planning for the reasons set out above. We are not totally opposed to development in the area, but what has been suggested so far in regard to the Kanawha Canal and the 2nd Street Connector is not acceptable. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you.

Sincerely,
Adele MacLean, Co-Chair

Cc: City Council, Planning Commission

More on 2nd Street Connector Proposal

Blogger extraordinaire C. Wayne Taylor has post up now on City Hall Review that evidently quotes a city official.

“I don’t have any documentation on emergency access conditions in the area of the proposed Second Street Connector. I checked with Lory Markham and she doesn’t either.”
James Hill, Principal Planner
Division of Planning & Preservation
Department of Planning and Development Review

This raises more questions about the motivation, need, and the rush to create this new street, which would intersect or go over the canal.

2nd Street Connector Draws More Citizen Scrutiny- What Does It Mean For ‘Riverfront Planning’?

While OHNA urges support of the City’s interest in protecting the historic resources in the canal basin, citizens continue to question plans for the proposed 2nd Street connector street.

C. Wayne Taylor provides a great graphic with details on his City Hall Review site.

One Oregon Hill resident sent this to me on September 30:

I have many comments and questions about traffic.

Bike Lanes
I’d be more likely to bike on this new road vs drive. If it must be built then bike lanes are a must.

Roundabout
We’ve been waiting for a long time for the Idlewood roundabout. I’d like to see that finished before we build a 2nd Street connector. After the last OHNA meeting I noticed there was a traffic accident at the 3 road merge exactly where the roundabout would be located (Grayland + Idlewood + RMA ramp). We need sidewalk improvements here and we should add bike lanes as well. The Byrdhouse Market would benefit from these improvements as well.

Pedestrian Bridge
We’ve been waiting for a long time for the Pedestrian Bridge. I’d like to see that finished before we build a new 2nd Street Connector.

Area Traffic
Will we see more traffic coming from the Idlewood RMA ramp? Will people shortcut through the neighborhood down Idlewood and or S Laurel? I commute down Spring St out of Oregon Hill and turn left onto 2nd Street to get downtown for work. Will the morning southbound traffic on 2nd hinder that left turn during rush hour? Will there be any traffic lights added? Will there be a traffic study?

I should say that Oregon Hill residents do understand that many people would like more public routes to the riverfront and understand the pubic desire in the proposed 2nd Street connection road, however there are real concerns about HOW this project is done. At the moment it seems to be proposed in a manner that benefits the corporate interests of New Market and Dominion more so than any public interests. That New Market seems determined to rush it does not give folks any confidence that their concerns will be considered.

Perhaps we will hear more about this at the next Riverfront Planning meeting on October 18th. Hopefully citizen involvement will be meaningful.

New Pine Street Connector Plans (May Include Street Renaming)

The good news that emerged this week was that the controversial 2nd Street Connector proposal has been withdrawn due to strong citizen opposition. The bad news was that the alternative Spring Street connector idea has been rejected as well.

What may be seen as even worse news is that Dominion Resources is now proposing that South Pine Street be turned into their connector road. Coming off Idlewood, the street direction would be reversed from it’s current northerly flow and instead would be one-way south towards Dominion’s riverside headquarters. The street would then replace the Overlook and terminate instead with a ramp and bridge going directly to the upper floor of Dominion’s parking deck. Because it’s so very important for Dominion employees to be able to get in and out of work (and the City) quickly, the speed limit would be raised to 45 mph, and a new traffic signal light would be put in place at Holly Street and Pine Street (at Dominion’s expense, of course).

Continue reading

Spring Street Connector?

Laurel Street neighbor Tommy Birchett continues to ask some good questions in reference to the proposed 2nd Street connector.

His latest:

What if they built a Spring St connector instead?

Newmarket could donate land at the bottom of their hill above Tredagar and they could connect Spring through to 5th st.

No disruption to canal

No steep incline

Direct connection to west meadvaco from 2nd st

Seems like it would be better for traffic

Just a thought for an alternative proposal.

In fact, this question actually goes back farther to 1991 when Ethyl was given permission to destroy the architecturally significant 2nd Street Bridge. It should be noted that Oregon Hill residents spoke against this demolition. What’s even more interesting is that according to a 1991 Richmond News Leader article, Ethyl received permission to demolish the 2nd Street bridge on the grounds that Spring Street would be extended to increase access to the river.

Local public watchdog C. Wayne Taylor shared the thought. In investigating the question, he discovered that the city entered into a deal with Ethyl (NewMarket) to remove a planned Spring Street extension from the master plan. In exchange, Ethyl agreed to provide land and partial funding for street improvements in other areas. Part of that agreement is that if the city ever extends Spring Street, the city has to pay for the other land and give back the partial funding. In other words, Ethyl may have bought protection against having to fulfill their earlier promise to extend Spring Street.