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"Back to the Future": Report Sounds Familiar 14 Years Later

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With Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's City of the Future under fire, Style Weekly decided to check in with the original time-traveler-turned-researcher, James A. Crupi. He's the man the business community commissioned in 1992 to study the region and give it a new direction. His report was "Back to the Future: Richmond at the Crossroads."

After interviewing most of the city's business leaders, Crupi found a common thread: "Richmond does not see itself as a regional system. Most people identify with either Richmond, the city, or with a particular county. Metro-Richmond is a term used to describe the area, but it does not reflect any sense of reality."

Ouch. Crupi may have hit the proverbial nail. Because there is no regional government, support for things such as regional mass transit doesn't exist. Factor in the long history of racial divisiveness and regional solutions move further out of reach.

"Additionally, the city is no longer the dominant political and economic force in the region," Crupi wrote. "The counties of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover (predominantly white) are now the new centers of economic prosperity and have not forgotten the city's attempts to subjugate them through annexation and school consolidation."

Then came the zinger: "Richmond has rarely felt that it had to aspire to be something better," Crupi added. "Most people are satisfied with their quality of life. There is no agreement among business leaders on whether Richmond wants or even needs to change. For Richmond, success has been defined as quality of life, something that its business leadership generally believes that it has already attained."

The Crupi Report, as it became known, became something of a mission statement for the business community, vis-à-vis Richmond Renaissance, and it led to the creation of the regionally funded Greater Richmond Convention Center.

(Like 6th Street Marketplace before, the convention center has largely failed to do what it intended — to bring people to downtown Richmond via conventions, which would feed hotels and generate all sorts of economic prosperity.)

What does Crupi think today of the mayor's plan?

"You criticized the previous efforts. What about yours?" Crupi asks of Wilder. "Show me what you're going to do, and show me why it's justified. It's the same old questions that every citizen ought to be asking of the government."

That is: What's the plan, and how will it become reality? S



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