Downtown Richmond isn’t perfect. Gone are Thalhimer’s and Miller and Rhoads. No more will the Nolde Bread factory make its famous namesake product. The city has ups and downs in the crime rate, Broad Street is filled with delapidated buildings and no one walks in Shockoe alone. However for all the ills of the city (like any city) there are plenty of good things that come from it as well.
One in particular is the “First Fridays Artwalk.” Held the first Friday of every month, people can stroll downtown Broad Street and browse the many galleries lining the street. Along with art, many of the gallieries provide free food and music. It shows a different and unique side to downtown and people of all ages can enjoy it. Currently in the City Council, it is being discussed how to establish an official “art district” downtown. Both Mayor Dwight Jones and City Councilman Charles R. Samuels have plans that include the First Fridays area of Broad Street. Samuel’s plan though covers a smaller area and is less expensive. His plan will focus mostly on the areas covered by the Art Walk and will include incentives such as tax breaks for businesess to get on board. He is hoping to spur economic development and encourage more galleries and restaraunts to open.
Jones’s plan is similar but encompasses a larger part of downtown and will put more focus on facade improvement and small-business support. Jones envisions a larger arts district that goes beyond just the First Friday’s district. Christina Newton, Spokeswoman for First Fridays is reported to favor Samuel’s plan more. She does not believe a large arts district will do as much good as some think.
Either way, the general idea of bringing more arts and culture to downtown is great and should help the city in several ways. The idea of facade and structural improvement is also good and much needed for downtown Broad Street. Downtown Richmond still has plenty to offer. Expanding something like First Fridays will help prove it.