Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Shockoe Plan and Historic Buildings

One of the most common arguments I hear opponents of Mayor Jones' redevelopment plan for Shockoe Bottom is that it will result in the destruction of priceless historic buildings. Nothing could be further from the truth. This argument is just another red herring put forward by people who oppose the mayor's plan and aren't too particular about the facts. I live in the Shockoe area of the city and I have walked--and photographed--the footprint of the mayor's proposed development project for Shockoe Bottom. I found no historic buildings.

I borrowed the map at the top of this post from the LovingRVA website. It shows the footprint of the proposed development. I found that there are four buildings in the footprint of the project that will have to be removed.

The old Loving's Produce warehouse at the corner of Grace and Ambler Streets, empty since 2007.
The most important building, and the one with the best claim to some kind of historic significance, is the old Loving's Produce warehouse at 1601 East Grace Street. The building was the headquarters for the Loving's Produce Company for more than fifty years. The company moved to Richmond's southside in 2007, and the building has sat empty for the last seven years. I have been unable to find any information on the origins of this building, but there does not seem to be any kind of historic or architectural significance to it. It is just an old crumbling warehouse. The building is still owned by the Loving family, who also own much of the footprint of the proposed redevelopment plan.

Vacant, derelict store front at 126 North 18th Street.
Next is this vacant, derelict store front at 126 North 18th Street. This building has been vacant as long as I can remember, and while it will be sad to lose the "interesting" mural on its southern wall, in the bigger picture Richmond will be able to get along without it.

The old Weiman's Bakery at 164 North 17th Street, closed since February 2013. 
The old Weiman's Bakery at 164 North 17th Street produced pretty good bread until 2013, but it has been closed now for a little more than a year. This building consists for the most part of cinder block. It is an ugly, utilitarian industrial building that no one will miss. There is nothing historic or significant about it.

Public bathrooms and enRichmond office at 100 North 17th Street.
Finally, there are the public bathrooms constructed for the 17th Street Marketplace and the enRichmond Foundation office space above them. Again, no real historic or architectural value here. I'm pretty sure Abraham Lincoln never used the bathroom here. The good people of the enRichmond Foundation would probably welcome the opportunity to relocate their office from atop these bathrooms.

That's it. Those are the buildings that would be torn down to make room for redevelopment in Shockoe Bottom.  Indeed, it is not inconceivable that the Loving's Building could be saved and incorporated into the new development, assuming the building's structure is still sound.  The other three buildings in the proposed project's footprint have zero value in historic and architectural terms.  The next time someone tells you that Dwight Jones' redevelopment plan for Shockoe Bottom is "going to destroy historic buildings," just let them know that you know that argument is a red herring.

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