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Cash-rich Main Street Station lures artists …

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Correction: The print edition of Style Weekly this week incorrectly stated the amount of the pay increase offered Richmond Times-Dispatch workers. The correct amount is 0.25 percent. Style regrets the error. Artists Lured by Train Station BudgetNew Human House Ends Dog ParkT-D Management, Union Still at OddsNew City Site Goes OnlinePine Camp Celebrates Spruce-Up Artists Lured by Train Station Budget Main Street Station is more than a future hub for trains, buses and taxis — it's becoming an artists' mecca. The regional transportation center, undergoing a $46.6 million renovation, has an art budget of at least $350,000. As a result, the city's Public Art Commission has started to attract attention from artists from New York to California who are jockeying to be part of what could be Richmond's largest public-arts project in a decade. A group of nearly 140 artists, designers and architects showed up for a meeting last month to learn about the project, says Public Art Coordinator Sallie Bowring. "I usually get 16 people to an informational meeting," she says. "This feels national." Main Street Station's "very respectable" art budget, Bowring says, "gets you nationally recognized artists. It gets you the highest quality you can afford." The $350,000, recommended by the city's 10-year-old Percent-for-Art program, will come from city, state and federal sources. More could come during the project's later phases, Bowring says. But for now, $250,000 will be available for the building's exterior art, $50,000 for an interior room and $50,000 for administrative costs. Artists who submit proposals will have a unique canvas for their work. Main Street Station, which turns 100 years old next year, features a six-story clock tower, French Renaissance-style architecture and a pedestrian setting in Shockoe Bottom. And across Main Street, a drop-off point for train passengers will need to appear somewhat connected. "That entire space needs to be handled," Bowring says. "It's a spaghetti works. It's underneath I-95 and all those columns. … I think it will be a wonderful challenge." But it's up to the artists to decide how to handle the space. Viktoria Badger, the city's principal planner, says the selection committee will offer few suggestions. "We really don't want to limit their imagination," she says. But, she adds, the art should mesh well with Main Street Station: "We don't want something that's going to be screaming on its own." Next week, artists will have one more chance to see the inside of the building at an open house on Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. Proposals are due Dec. 4. Then finalists will go through a series of committees before the commissions are made on March 1. "We want it to be very welcoming, very representative of Richmond," Badger says. "What we're looking for is very good, quality work, and something that will stay with the station for the next 100 years." — Jason Roop New Human House Ends Dog Park For four years it's been prime property to city hounds on the loose. But soon the privately owned lot at the corner of Monument Avenue and the Boulevard will be the site of prodigious construction. A custom-designed home — recently given the nod from the city's Commission for Architectural Review — will be built on the vacant lot where dogs now romp within a fence-lined perimeter. "This is a blessing to have in the city," says Monument Avenue resident Sherri Woods who frequents the lot with Sasha, her beagle and shepherd mix. Scott Scaggs agrees. So much so, that the makeshift dog park was the selling point for the apartment he rents just blocks away. He and his German shepherd, Gypsy, are regulars. "I actually looked at this before I saw my apartment," Scaggs says. The land belongs to River City Real Estate developer Bill Jefferson, who lives next to the property in a monumental brick house he purchased in 1996. Not long after, a sidewalk-strolling pet owner asked if his pup could run free on the corner lot. Jefferson happily agreed. The unofficial doggie park quickly fetched everything from setters to labs to terriers — and many not so easily named. It's a site dog owners and their beloved mutts will miss although the city's Barker Field dog park is nearby. Jefferson and his wife aren't dog owners, but he emphasizes that he's liked having canines next door. Their two cats even seem to relish watching from various windowsills, he adds. Marcellus Wright Cox & Smith are the architects for a house that will be built on the 11,000 square-foot lot — one of only a few remaining along the historic corridor of Monument Avenue. The Jeffersons' dream house is made up of ideas they found on the Internet — they looked at more than 500 houses, he says. And with its site at the intersection of two well-traveled streets, he says, "We knew it would have to be really special because everybody's going to see it." Brandon Walters T-D Management, Union Still at Odds Now in its fifth month of contract negotiations with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Richmond Professional Newspaper Association is quietly championing any progress it makes with upper management. "The company has offered to give us a 0.25 percent increase across the board," says Jon Pope, president of the independent 160-member union. That offer, believe it or not, is relatively generous. Richmond Newspapers Inc. management initially offered the 0.25 percent raise as a merit increase to a maximum of one-third of newsroom employees, who would be selected by management to receive the raise. To some, the progress would seem substantial, but to RPNA members it's hardly enough. The employees' association originally asked for a 7 percent pay raise but has dropped that request to 6.75 percent. "It's a small, little tiny step forward," Pope says of the newspaper's raised offer. But other RPNA requests — such as adoption of Martin Luther King Day as an official holiday and the start-up of a management and development program for minorities — largely have been ignored, Pope says. Frank McDonald Jr., Richmond Newspapers' director of human relations and lead negotiator, declined to talk to Style about the negotiations. On Oct. 18, a letter signed by T-D publishers and senior editors went out to workers stating management's commitment to reaching a compromise. Meanwhile, the RPNA awaits results of a grievance it filed in August with the National Labor Relations Board charging the Times-Dispatch with unfair labor practices. "We expect a favorable ruling any day now," Pope says. Tensions between upper management and union members continue to tighten although Pope acknowledges "we've set a good tone and we're not saying anything disparaging." He adds that RPNA members have been told by T-D negotiators not to discuss the matter with outside parties including Style Weekly. The RPNA caught public attention Oct. 15 at the paper's 150th anniversary celebration with a peaceful protest and by wearing union T-shirts. And that, says Pope, is what people walked away with. "The message was, there's labor unrest at the T-D," Pope says. B.W. New City Site Goes Online If you've had trouble navigating the City of Richmond's Web site, never fear. It's just gotten easier. "We have a strong citizen-first approach and we know technology is important," says Richmond City Manager Calvin Jamison. For months, the city's E-Citizen Initiative has worked to refine the site that now offers all kinds of city forms online. But there's more. As of Nov. 6, the Web site will display a new design developed through four categories: visitors, citizens, businesses and online services. The site will direct users to the specific information they need — like how to contact their city councilperson, what's going on downtown or how to apply for a business license — instead of having to dig through pages they don't need. "We've certainly improved the look and the navigation," says Bill Farrar, manager of the city's E-Citizen project. "We had some really cumbersome systems for updating information like job listings," Farrar says. "We haven't gotten all the bugs out," he acknowledges, but says the site is now more accessible. "Rather than break everything down by department we've tried to organize by service." The city's Web site has been up and running for nearly four years and, Farrar says, it was time for a facelift. Currently the site receives more than a million hits and 21,000 new visitors each month. "It's absolutely the face we give inside and outside the city," Farrar says. B.W. Pine Camp Celebrates Spruce-Up It's taken the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities two years and $3 million to transform historic Pine Camp at 4901 Old Brook Road into a new progressive cultural-arts center. On Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. city officials will hold a ribbon-cutting and grand-opening celebration. Among other festivities, Third District City Councilman Bill Johnson will dedicate a new piano. Pine Camp workers and volunteers couldn't be more excited. "The facility itself is going to bring new life to the program, gives us state-of-the-art equipment and space," says Angela Jackson-Archer, a department spokeswoman. The new facility encompasses 23,000 square feet on 80 acres of woodland. The community center's expansion includes three multi-purpose rooms, a dance studio, art studio, gallery, weaving room, photo lab and darkroom, computer lab and even a pottery studio with a kiln. The expanded facility aims to teach everyone from young children to seniors and cultivate participation in everything from textiles to martial arts. Its uses are myriad, says Jackson-Archer: "We really want this building to be a community building." B.W.

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