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A Golden Opportunity

So when does it stop? When do we stop living in the past and start making history? — a new, improved history?

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So when does it stop? When do we stop living in the past and start making history? — a new, improved history? Richmond could and should become internationally known as the city with a message … the message of liberty. Indians lost it. Patrick Henry pleaded for it. Slaves struggled for it. We all paid for it. Philadelphia may have the Liberty Bell, but Richmond is the liberty well. We own that message, and I believe the Market Village development can help us deliver it to the world. Here's how:

An overall urban village lifestyle opportunity is definitely an improvement over what exists at this site — a site, by the way, which is next to arguably the busiest interstate highway in America. In other words, this is not serene parkland we're talking about. I would suggest that the stadium piece actually contributes to the potential of the cultural arts venue expansion that is under way.

We could have live outdoor theatrical and musical performances at the new stadium venue. And thinking creatively, we might even have "The World's Largest Outdoor Motion Picture Screen," along with surround-sound capabilities. This would be a unique venue — worldwide.

Then why not elevate the James River Film Festival into an international event similar to those held in Venice, Berlin, Toronto or Sundance? It could become a signature experience that could put Richmond on the international map in a fresh way. A key part of the programming of the festival would include important documentary films about the struggle for freedom and the pursuit of liberty. It could become a signature event that would put Richmond on the international map in a fresh way. This is one tangible way we can deliver the message, change the perception of Richmond, increase tourism and thus job opportunities, and honor past generations.

Let's urge council, Mayor Wilder and all citizens of the Richmond region to fairly evaluate and embrace the opportunity for this important centerpiece of our great city. And let's insist that the developer properly honor and incorporate the history of this area into the development in a significant and appropriate way.

Like many, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Richmond. I love this city for its architectural, topographical, artistic and ethnic diversity. I love this city for its convenient geographical location, for its superior culinary opportunities and for its affordable housing. Sometimes, however, I hate this city. I hate this city for its embarrassing scandals brought on by incompetent people that we often actually elected. I hate this city for sometimes having the lack of a collective education as an electorate — to know the difference between political rhetoric from clearly unqualified voices and obvious opportunity. Until now.

Today can be a new day for Richmond. Instead of half-cocked development concepts — parts of which now reside at the bottom of a pile at demolition firm SB Cox — we now have big private developers who want to invest in Richmond with much of their own money. This is a good thing. I believe that the environment that now exists to attract this interest is not the direct result of any municipally inspired effort, but rather the result of previous entrepreneurial efforts by industrious individuals — supported by forward-thinking policies and incentives. Government alone did not create Shockoe Slip or Shockoe Bottom. People with vision did. And now, all the people benefit from the tax revenue therein. Working together, I believe our government, the developer and the community can address the areas of concern and ultimately reap the benefits of this development. Government is not the enemy. Developers are not the enemy. Ignorance is the enemy — wherever it may reside.

So let's search for a new identity for Richmond. Let's leverage the excitement and overwhelming consensus we have about our new visionary leadership for the city. And yes, let us even exploit our history in the name of economic opportunity for all, rather than being perpetually bound by the shackles of that history. Let's become known as "ground zero" for being the venue to teach the lessons of that history to the world. S



Andy Edmunds works in the film and television production industry in Virginia.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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