Written by | Tom Rosman
I once heard a seasoned developer say (and I paraphrase) that ‘his memory costs him money.’ The statement has always stuck with me.
In effect, he meant that remembering what something used to be prevents almost all of us from seeing what it could be … be it a neighborhood, a building, or the entire City. And even for the most experienced developer, Realtor, appraiser or lender, so much of what we choose to believe comes not from tomorrow, but from yesterday.
Our memories are powerful guides and often prove too powerful to allow us let go of the past.
Richmond’s history from the 1970s into the 1990s was one of blight, decline, crime, and poverty in many once-proud neighborhoods. Setting aside the complex and uncomfortable reasons why the last half of the 20th Century was not the best of times for Richmond, the simple fact remains that Downtown was a far different place then than it is today.
The Times Dispatch constantly reminded us of the rampant corruption at City Hall, and the images we saw on the nightly local news reinforced our perception that the city was to be avoided at all costs and that we should stay in our suburban cul-de-sacs for safety. For many, those memories persist and undermine the belief that Richmond can be anything other than what it was–despite growing evidence to the contrary.
It is unfortunate as those memories are of a time long gone by and of trends that have reversed themselves.
Development Momentum is Everywhere
So as we plow through the second decade of Richmond’s 21st Century, each one of Richmond’s sub-markets is in rebirth.
- Jackson Ward, Carver, Manchester, Scotts Addition, Shockoe and Monroe Ward are all well on their way to newfound old glory.
- And yes, even the eastern neighborhoods of Fulton, Church Hill and Highland Park are all seeing development momentum like never before. Stone Brewery, anyone?
- Projects such as the CNB building and the extremely cool Quirk Hotel are putting the finishing touches on Downtown Broad Street, and the pending addition of Whole Foods will unleash development along Broad Street further west.
It is a good time to be a developer in Richmond.
Amnesia and Earplugs: the Developer’s Best Friends
So what is the common thread amongst those who chose to see the tomorrow’s potential instead of yesterday’s failure … Belief? Vision? Ego? Guts? Naivety? Cajones? Earplugs? Amnesia? Blinders? Confidence? Ignorance?
I would argue that in some form all of the above apply.
Being able to look at what a neighborhood/building/parking lot once was and be able to not only visualize what it could (or should) be, but to then be able to execute a plan to bring the vision to life is truly a magical skill. Chopping down a couple hundred acres of trees to build another thousand homes is also challenging. But it is far easier to visualize than imagining what to do with a burned out shell at the corner Marshall and Brook back in 2006.
The future generation of city residents owes a debt of gratitude to the ones who took the first gambles to change the trajectory of Richmond in the 1990s. Due to the development community’s ability to look forward and ignore what decades of history told them has allowed Richmond to transform into this thing we now call RVA.