Axios Richmond

Picture of the Richmond skyline.

August 15, 2022

It's Monday. Nice to see you again.

⛈ Today's weather: A chance of showers and thunderstorms with a high near 75.

Today's newsletter is 823 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Richmond's worst eyesores

A photograph of the James Monroe building dominating Richmond's skyline.
The James Monroe Building: really tall and really ugly. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

Richmond's biggest eyesore also happens to be its tallest building, according to Axios Richmond readers.

State of play: We asked you to point out the ugliest buildings in our charming little city, and from dozens of suggestions, a clear consensus emerged.

  • You really hate the state-owned James Monroe Building — all 29 stories of it.

There's plenty to dislike.

  • The concrete has turned a grimy color.
  • The design looks dated in that bad 1970s way.
  • And it's always felt a little off balance, with that big parking garage podium designed to hold a second tower the state never built.

What you're saying: "I want to pluck it from the skyline like a friendly giant and restore balance and beauty. Start over," writes reader Bruce C.

Well, we have some good news: The state is considering demolishing the building, which currently houses the Department of Education, and building a new tower on Main Street across from the lottery building.

  • But the project is still in the early planning phase, and any final decision is at least a few years off, Department of General Services spokesperson Dena Potter tells Axios.
  • So, we guess just keep making sure your elected reps know how you feel about it.
A photo of boarded up buildings on Broad Street.
Boarded up on Broad. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios
Dead block on Broad

You're also sick of seeing that dead block on Broad Street downtown.

We all know the one. The buildings have been boarded up for more than a decade, even as neighboring storefronts come back to life.

  • Almost all of them are owned by D.C.-based Douglas Development, which made the acquisitions in the mid-2000s.

What's next: Douglas Development didn't respond to an inquiry from Axios, but the company has been slowly redeveloping other properties it owns in the area, including the nearby Clay Market building.

  • "Our plan is to revitalize all of our assets on Broad Street. This is the kickoff," a company representative told BizSense in April.
A photo of a canal bed mostly empty of water and filled with weeds.
A very historic, very overgrown canal. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios
The Kanawha Canal

OK, we'll admit, this one is a wild card, but reader Zane Bernard convinced us: The Kanawha Canal is, in a lot of places, an unsightly ditch.

No one is saying we should go and rip up the historic, earthen structure, which was conceived by George Washington, begun in 1785 and at one point stretched all the way to Botetourt County.

  • But maybe fix it up a little?

What you're saying: "I am willing to die on the hill that the Kanawha Canal should be renovated and restored to full function," writes Bernard.

  • He feels so strongly about it that he published his full note to us for all to ponder.

2. Honorable mention: second-place ugly

A photo of a brick parking garage collapsing into a city street.
It just keeps falling into the street. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

Y'all flagged a lot of blight. Here are some other suggestions that resonated.

That parking garage downtown at Sixth and Franklin streets that has been literally collapsing into the street for three years.

  • We're going to circle back to this one after we get some answers about what's going on.

All of Mayo Island.

  • Why has a beautiful island on the James been relegated to surface parking lots and an abandoned recycling center?
  • Reader Barry G. suggests it would be a great home for the Kickers.

And yes, the Coliseum is not looking so hot.

  • The city is actively working to find someone to demolish it and build something else.

3. The Current: Drunk driver kills cyclist

Illustration of a lighted sign resembling the Hotel John Marshall sign in Richmond, but that says Axios The Current instead.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A 49-year-old woman was killed, and another woman is in critical condition after an 18-year-old drunk driver struck them as they were cycling on Osborne Turnpike in Henrico Saturday morning. (WTVR)

ğŸŽ° The founder of Urban One says she has moved to Richmond and made it her mission to take down her one-time ally, Sen. Joe Morrissey, after he blocked her company's plans for a second casino referendum. (Times-Dispatch)

  • "I see myself as David, and with the power of God I'm going to kill a giant," Cathy Hughes said.

🚦 VDOT retimed 41 traffic lights along 11 miles of West Broad Street, which it says should make for a smoother east/west commute. (Henrico Citizen)

❄️ An inspection report found state agencies bungled their response to a January snowstorm that left drivers stranded for hours on I-95, failing to implement lessons learned from a similar incident four years earlier. (WRIC)

💁‍♂️ Sen. Tim Kaine, a one-time mayor of Richmond himself, said "city officials are duty-bound" to provide an explanation about the conflicting information around the alleged July 4 mass shooting plot. (Times-Dispatch)

4. 1 palate cleanser to go

Old City Hall as seen via drone. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

Richmond isn't all monstrous, circa-1970 skyscrapers and decrepit parking decks. Behold Old City Hall: Richmond's own Victorian gothic architectural triumph.

The stone building, built with locally quarried James River rocks, was completed in 1894 — and true to Richmond form, it came in 400% over budget, late and opened with maintenance issues, according to the Richmond Tour Guys.

  • Some of the work was so shoddy that the city wanted to tear it down just 20 years later.
  • After new City Hall was built, Richmond was going to tear down the old one but instead sold it to the state in 1970 for $1.

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🥜 Ned is alarmed to learn some people put peanut butter on their BLTs.

😘 Karri wants readers to know that she had lots of extra thoughts on Richmond eyesores, but she wanted to let readers have this one.