Special/Signature Issues » Fall Arts Preview

Transformations

Some familiar spaces get new faces.

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The waning months of the 21st century's first decade will find that two 20th-century landmarks have received transformative makeovers.

When the University of Richmond Spiders meet the Elon on Sept. 18 in the Robins Stadium on the school's campus, fans will find that the 96-year-old concrete bunker of a stadium — long the scene of soccer and track and field events — is gone. In its place is an intimate, 8,700-seat football stadium bedecked with red brick and concrete collegiate Gothic embellishments that are iconic of the West End campus.

Also this fall, the modernistic Virginia War Memorial, which rises prominently from Oregon Hill at Belvidere Street, will open its new Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center. The new activity areas feature a museum, a new auditorium and an amphitheater overlooking the downtown skyline and the James River. Richmonder Galanti was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, despite the slowdown in single-family and condominium residential construction, downtown is abuzz with various apartment construction projects. At Adams and Canal streets an eight-level apartment building is under way and in Shockoe Bottom, on the block bounded by Broad, Marshall, 18th and 19th streets, a massive residential complex is transforming that neighborhood. The former John Marshall Hotel, a grand, 1920s high-rise at Fifth and Franklin streets, is undergoing a complete renovation and conversion to apartments and retail space.

Virginia Commonwealth University continues its dramatic physical expansion. Sadly, on its medical campus, the spectacular art deco Williams Clinic at 12th and East Marshall streets was demolished this summer to make way for a classroom building. Better urban design should be taking shape in the fall months as new dormitories and parking decks begin to rise on West Grace Street in what were most recently surface parking and vacant lots.

Expect discussion to continue on ongoing opportunities for development along the James River, the downtown canal and Monroe Park.

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