Nope! That headline is not a typo. I wasn’t meaning to refer to my beloved “Dave Matthews Band”. I’m actually going to talk to you today about the Downtown Master Plan. (From here on out, referred to as the DMP) FIRST, let me just say, I’m kinda glad I could watch last night’s City Council meeting from the comforts of home. Seeing as how it took 5 million hours and they saved the best for last! GEEZ!
So, let us be plain and simple. Last night’s MPD discussion was really all about Echo Harbour. From speaker after speaker to Marty Jewell’s last stand, everyone was pretty much referencing the controversial project. For those of you who don’t know what that is…. It’s a more than $150 million plan to build luxury condos, office space, restaurants and shops along five acres of the James River. The land sits right in front of Libby Hill Park in Church Hill. (The view that named the city)
The council voted last night not to remove wording from the DMP that would place fewer restrictions on the Echo Harbour site. What is most interesting was the vote tally… 4 to 4. (Kathy, Ellen, Charles and Betty VS Marty, Reva, Bruce and Doug) It’s believed that Chris Hilbert would have sided with the first group. (You have to wonder… is this also how a vote on the project’s special use permit will go???) This project has been on the table for years, but a new special use application was filed in April. It is currently being reviewed by city staff and could go before the Planning Commission this Fall. The permit would allow the developer to build the residential units. Under the current zoning, they could just go ahead and put an office tower there if they wanted to.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. Especially because, the DMP will recommend buildings with heights of 4 to 6 stories. Echo Harbour developers want buildings with heights ranging from 6 to 11 stories. With Doug Wilder out of office and City Hall in the middle of a Kumbaya peace accord, this is the closest thing we’re going to get to fireworks.