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Expanding Museum Considers Parking; Even At 319, It's Still 1708; Planned Movie Outdoes "Road Rules"

Street Talk

Expanding Museum Considers Parking

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has not decided on an architect for its expansion. And until it does, says a museum spokesman, it has no plans to build anything.

But some people don't believe that.

Some neighbors of the museum worry that the museum won't inform them until it's too late about when and, more important, where the museum's site for extra parking spaces will be.

The museum plans to add 132,000 square feet of new space to its 380,000-square-foot building, convert its current parking lot into a sculpture garden and build a parking deck for 625 cars.

But all the museum's parking needs won't be met on-site. Recently, it submitted an environmental-impact review to the city that proposes two parking decks.

In addition to the on-site parking deck, the impact review states, "[a]n off-site parking deck will be constructed in order to accommodate museum staff and students of the Visual Arts Center at 2911-2915 Grove Ave. Two properties have been chosen for examination with regard to a parking deck site for that facility."

An accompanying map shows the two potential sites to be property at the corner of Hanover and Belmont avenues and the alleyway block between Grove and Floyd avenues from Colonial Avenue to Sheppard Street.

The map and proposal make one neighbor say the museum isn't being forthright. "What is disturbing is that neighbors who aren't happy are not being involved in any part of the process," says Jeanne Bridgforth, who lives across from the museum. "A parking deck looming behind Queen Anne historic structures would visually assault us," she says.

But a museum spokesman says that the environmental-impact study is "perfectly routine when considering any expansion." Beyond that, he insists: "There's no plan."

Bridgforth, though, is already thinking of the traffic problems she says a new deck would create on nearby streets. "It's far ahead of the just-thinking-about-it phase," she says. — Brandon Walters

Even At 319, It's Still 1708

For the second time in its 23-year history, 1708 Gallery is moving from the address that gave it its name.

Founded 23 years ago at 1708 E. Main St. by a group of artists, the gallery quickly became Richmond's source for "cutting-edge" art. And it was one of the first businesses to establish itself in the Shockoe Bottom area. But after the floodwall was built, rents in the area soared, recalls gallery director Peter Calvert.

So in 1993, the gallery moved to 103 E. Broad St., though it kept its name. Now, after eight years at that site, its lease is up. The gallery has an option to renew in September but decided not to.

Instead, the gallery's board decided to move it to 319 W. Broad St.

"This was a situation where we could get a space designed specifically for us as a gallery," Calvert says. The new 2,000-square-foot gallery area will have an additional 700 square feet of office space.

Bob Steele, 1708's incoming board president, will design the new gallery. The gallery's new home was originally built by Thalhimers as an extension of the department store.

These days, the second and third floors of the building serve as apartments.

The first floor will open as 1708 Gallery with an artists' and members' show Sept. 7.

It's not a big change, just a couple of blocks away, and Calvert says he's glad to stay in this decidedly artistic section of Broad Street.

Calvert emphasizes that the gallery has no intention of changing its name: "We're one of the oldest artist-run galleries in the country," he says. "We're going to continue to do great things in the future. We're going to continue the tradition." — Emily Cherry

Planned Movie Outdoes "Road Rules"

John Yamashita has another crazy idea.

Yamashita owns Sticky Rice, a Fan restaurant that is quite possibly the first to offer sushi and tater tots. He sponsored Richmond's Cannonball Runs this year and last.

His latest idea also involves hitting the road, only this time with one vehicle and a camera crew. Yamashita is teaming up with friend Jonathan Martin to make a "Road Rules"-type film called "Tofu."

The two plan to drive from city to city across the country in 22 days, starting in mid-August, filming the road and scenes from each city as they go. They hope to let people know in advance that they're coming and get tours at each stop.

Will it get dull? Well, the idea promises plenty of voyeuristic reality footage, the kind audiences ate up on shows like "The Real World," "Road Rules" and "Survivor."

Martin and Yamashita have thought this through and have been thinking of ways to play it up, to make sure it amounts to more than just real people broken down at the roadside Stuckey's. "We're trying to make each day completely different from the day beforehand," Martin says.

What kind of ideas do they have? The kind with shock value, like getting jobs "picking up poo at a rodeo" to make enough money to get to the next city, Martin suggests.

They're trying to raise the $24,000 they estimate the movie will cost. They acknowledge they're not sure where they'll find it.

Martin and Yamashita already have experience with a film they made about their Cannonball Run II. And they just made a low-budget commercial, airing on Fox TV-35, that Martin describes as "bad." They made it that way to get people's attention, Martin explains.

Martin's philosophy for the commercial is the same for the film: "When it gets on the air people are going to go, 'What is this?'" — Wayne Melton

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