Location: Richmond, VA | Client: Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and City of Richmond | Project Date: July 2008 – June 2012
Links and Resources
Like many metropolitan areas, the Richmond region has experienced rapid suburban growth over the past decade, which is threatening many of the local natural assets. These natural assets, including rivers, large forested areas, agricultural lands, and recreational and cultural resources, provide a critical foundation for the local economy and general quality of life. At the heart of the region is the City of Richmond and like many historic, post-industrial cities, contains neighborhoods that suffer disproportionately from cumulative vacant and potentially contaminated properties. These underserved neighborhoods also lack access to the rich recreational amenities of Richmond, including the scenic James River and associated trail system.
The region needed a strategic plan to help prioritize and coordinate efforts to protect and conserve natural assets and improve access. Skeo staff designed a process to collaborate with local partners to develop green infrastructure plans at the regional, city and neighborhood scale.
At the regional scale – Skeo worked with urban and rural localities on a green infrastructure planning process that prioritized natural assets and identified related recommendations. A simulation developed by Skeo helped participants consider priorities and weigh tradeoffs in a hypothetical scenario before working together on recommendations. The result, a strategic green infrastructure plan, provided the region with a shared vision, fostered collaboration among municipalities, and provided a path forward for protecting and conserving the region’s natural assets.
At the city scale – Skeo then developed the first green infrastructure assessment of vacant lands for the City of Richmond. Skeo created a vacant lands inventory, mapped a citywide green infrastructure network, evaluated the suitability of vacant parcels to serve as community gardens, parks, outdoor classrooms and trail connections, developed neighborhood and site concept plans, and compiled a sustainable practices toolkit and case study library outlining best practices for implementation. As a result of this project, city staff and regional partners have a comprehensive framework for coordinating city greening efforts, including tree planting, pedestrian improvements, development guidance and trail connections.
At the neighborhood scale – the citywide green infrastructure assessment identified that the Blackwell and Bellemeade neighborhoods had a disproportionate number of vacant lots and lack of access to parks compared to other neighborhoods. Skeo facilitated a working session with project partners to identify potential green streets and vacant “catalyst” parcels to form a network connecting residents to open spaces and the James River. The Blackwell Green Links concept plan presents a green stormwater infrastructure strategy for a dense urban neighborhood in transition. The Bellemeade Creek Corridor outlines a green infrastructure strategy for a more informal neighborhood within a watershed context.
At the site scale – building on the momentum from the citywide project, Skeo worked with a diverse group of stakeholders including community leaders, business owners, local government and potential funders to develop a walkable watershed action plan for the Bellemeade neighborhood. Combining innovative planning with community capacity-building and a focus on youth leadership, the project led to a cohesive strategy to improve the overall health of the watershed and community quality of life. A vacant parcel has been transformed into a community park with an arboretum, trails and creek access, and walkability has been improved through new sidewalks and creek crossings.