Echo Harbour: Economic Engine Means New Jobs, New Tax Revenue for the City of Richmond

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Is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia proactive on Economic Development?

A Special Use Zoning Application is once again before the City of Richmond Planning Staff for a project that will provide a substantial number of new needed jobs to the area, and new tax revenue for the city. It has been stated by many community leaders that the proposed Echo Harbour project is potentially one of the most significant economic development proposals to be presented to Richmond's Council since the 1990s, and at a time when Richmond needs it. The developer's proposal calls for a mixed-use $150 million development. A fact sheet on the project has been posted for review at http://www.echoharbour.com . This project will not only add jobs, but for the first time will provide public access to the James River on the east side of the city.

This timely proposal addresses the city's needs on a level that could spark some momentum at a time when, according to its own analysis, the city's school system is underfunded and unemployment rates continue to rise. Due to budget constraints, parks and recreational areas within the City cannot be ideally maintained, and public works projects are unable to proceed as planned. The City of Richmond needs revenue, and a project offering as much as Echo Harbour within the city limits is seen by the majority of residents as a major step in the right direction for Richmond. It is the hope of many that this project will now proceed with a positive trajectory under the new administration of Mayor Dwight Jones, to the benefit of all.

Echo Harbour would generate over $3 million of new and much-needed annual tax revenue to the city. After construction, forecasts indicate that approximately 850 new, full-time, or full-time equivalent jobs would be created within Echo Harbour. In addition, based on the multiplier effect used for economic impact analysis, according to Patz & Associates, the on-site businesses are expected to generate as much as $120 million in new business activity throughout the City, which in turn would generate more jobs and more tax revenue beyond just the Echo Harbour property.

The little opposition the plan faces comes from a handful of residents that want the city to spend money it doesn't have to purchase the five-acre privately-owned site proposed for the Echo Harbour mixed-use project and convert it into another park area within the existing City Park and Recreation system that already exceeds nearly 3,000 acres. The city currently owns three properties adjacent to the Echo Harbour site, Great Ship Lock Park, Libby Hill Park, and Chapel Island, which the City acknowledges are under-funded, under-maintained and under-utilized.

The developer of Echo Harbour understands that concessions must always be made. In addition, during the past three years, the developer has attempted to address every concern presented by city staff on zoning and building issues that were economically feasible, and proposed several additional pro-community elements for the city. At their cost, they have committed to:

  • Building the Canal Walk and Capital Trail through the property, and dedicating a 50-foot wide promenade along the James River as a public easement for all time

•Provide funding to renovate Chapel Island into a public riverfront park
•Re-landscaping, lighting, and paving Great Ship Lock Park.
•Assist with Libby Hill Park and its access
•Set aside 100 parking spaces in parking structure to assure public riverwalk access
•Create a $25,000 annual fund for area park maintenance to help the city, going forward
•Lowered the overall height of the structures by an average of 70 feet
•Moved the structure 50 feet further west to maintain the view toward the historic bend of the river

The proposal by Echo Harbour is unusual because it does not request any funds or services from the city for roadwork, sewer, or water lines, demonstrating the developer's commitment to being a good neighbor and to their intentions to create a mutually beneficial addition to the city. Economic development is not a bad thing when approached responsibly. The site is currently a vacant industrial site that has not contributed to the city for years. Echo Harbour proposes to revitalize it, create jobs, create tax revenue, and create a new economic focal point on the east side of Richmond. The sentiment throughout Richmond is the hope that the city administration will "green-light" Echo Harbour and that the city's residents can soon begin enjoying this great addition to the city landscape and the access it offers to the waterfront.

Richmond can certainly benefit from a conscientious partner like Echo Harbour. This project is carefully planned to offer public access to the river, it will create the only riverside fine dining in the city as well as a five-star hotel facility, a fully furnished fitness club and spa, executive office suites, event facilities with spectacular rooftop views, 102 luxury condominiums, 850 jobs and approximately $3 million in direct new annual tax revenue for the city. Please take a minute to review the fact sheet for the solid facts at http://www.echoharbour.com. There is much here for which residents can be excited. Now the ball is in the city's court to move forward.

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Mark Yates
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