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2013-01-09 / Front Page

Plan would transform Hull Street corridor

By Michael Buettner
NEWS EDITOR

Residents of Chesterfield County and Richmond yesterday got a look at the final details of a plan to transform a four-mile stretch of Hull Street and surrounding neighborhoods into a pedestrian-friendly, economically thriving area.

The report, made available for public comment during a meeting yesterday at Manchester Middle School, is the result of more than a year of research, surveys and community meetings.

But the hardest part of the job – putting the detailed recommendations into action and, especially, getting the money to pay for the work – still lies ahead.

Meredith Judy, a transportation and land-use planner with the Alexandria-based consulting firm Rhodeside & Harwell, noted that revitalization of some of the county’s older neighborhoods, including the Hull Street corridor, is a high priority in the county’s new comprehensive plan; her firm was hired to help develop the joint city-county Hull Street Corridor Revitalization Plan

Now, she said, implementing the plan her firm has drawn up “is going to require the vision and investment over time.”

Because the stretch of Hull Street (or U.S. Route 360) included in the plan “is not an attractive corridor right now” for developers, Judy said, getting the upgrades going “will take a commitment from the city and the county.”

The clearest message from residents of the corridor – which stretches for four miles along Hull Street from the railroad line near Southside Plaza inside the city to the intersection with Walmsley Boulevard/ Hicks Road in Chesterfield County – is that pedestrian safety and other transportation-related issues should be a top priority.

As a result, at yesterday’s community meeting about the corridor revitalization, those concerns were addressed at the top of the list of implementation strategies:

• Promote safe and convenient pedestrian, bicycle and transit activity in the study area.

• Improve the overall appearance of the corridor to increase its viability as a live, work and play environment.

• Grow existing businesses in the corridor and attract new businesses and jobs.

• Invest in the people who currently live in the study area, and attract new people to the area.

• Expand accessibility to a range of open space types, and “green” the corridor.

• Focus future growth and development in four mixed-use activity centers.

• Build resident and business coalitions to support the plan’s vision over time and continue to advocate for implementation.

Transportation improvements, such as the addition of sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and streetscaping upgrades are likely to be among the first steps the city-county coalition will pursue, Judy suggested. Those changes would address residents’ concerns and would help make the area more attractive for private investors.

Longer-term, the vision of four mixed-use activity centers would provide more opportunities for corridor residents to work and shop within the area, and could help draw business into the corridor from outside.

Those centers would consist of:

• A “Live and Learn” center based around the existing shopping center at the intersection of Hull Street and Walmsley Boulevard, which is home to the local campus of Bryant and Stratton College.

• A “Multicultural Market” center focused on the intersection of Hull Street and Turner Road.

• A “Design/Health and Wellness” center in the area around the interchange with Chippenham Parkway.

• A “Town and Family Entertainment” center at Hull Street and Warwick Road inside the city.

The existing office and retail centers along the corridor are “dominated by outdated auto-oriented shopping strips with a ‘sea’ of parking in front,” according to the consultant presentation.

The plan would try to change that by creating mixed residential and commercial centers with a neourban look, featuring “continuous, wide sidewalks, buildings set up to the street for window shopping” and improved landscaping and lighting. It’s hoped that the residential component could help bring new residents with higher incomes into the area.

Funding for the project to date has come from grants awarded to the joint city-county team – which includes staff members from both localities’ governments as well as volunteers from the community.

Because of the uncertainty about funding sources for the plan as a whole, the proposal presented yesterday includes one version with “limited improvements” and another with “more significant improvements.”

Judy said the Board of Supervisors will receive a report on the final plan later this month. The plan also will likely be the basis for an update of the county’s existing Eastern Route 360 Corridor Plan, which is slated to be addressed as part of the implementation of the new comprehensive plan.

The presentation from yesterday’s meeting is set to be posted online within the next few days at www.hullstreet360.com.

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