Friday, July 31, 2015

Mayor Kicks Off Kanawha Plaza Renovations

Mayor Dwight Jones, Debra Gardner, DCAO for Human Services, Barry Russell, Deputy Director for Parks and Recreation, John Snyder, Enrichmond Foundation, and Dwight Snead of Dwight Snead Construction Company joined in announcing the renovation of Kanawha Plaza on Friday, July 31, 2015. The following are Mayor Jones prepared remarks.

Good afternoon and welcome.

We appreciate all of you joining us for our Kanawha Plaza Renovations Kick-off today, as this is an important project for our downtown and an important project for our city.

Kanawha Plaza was conceived of over 40 years ago – back in 1972.

This park was designed to reconnect our central business district and the James River.

It was meant to also beautify our downtown, sitting astride the Downtown Expressway which was built after land was cleared for urban renewal.

Parks can be complex elements of a city, but in Richmond, we pride ourselves on our park amenities.

With over 100 parks in our city, ranging from our widely recognized James River Parks System to beautiful Maymont where we hold our growing international jazz festival, we’ve got a little something for everyone here and I believe our park system is a strong reason we are continuing to grow as a destination of choice.

Our downtown is our gateway to the city of Richmond, and Kanawha is a particularly important amenity right in the heart of the center of our city.

So it pleases me greatly to get to this point today of beginning the much needed renovations on the downtown jewel.

To understand the significance of the park at Kanawha Plaza,
it helps to understand a little Richmond history.

When this park opened back in 1980, a decade of prosperity had begun for many Americans.

But a transition was already underway in our country’s history.

Middle-class flight to the suburbs had already begun—white AND black—,

and the decline of cities was well underway across America. 

Crime started to tick up in most cities. 

Slowly at first, and then dramatically, here in Richmond.

So it was no surprise that businesses moved to new places like
suburban corporate parks like Innsbrook, which opened soon after this park.

Back then, Richmond was on just one “top 10” list: The murder capital of the country. Our population plummeted, and few people were proud to call Richmond home.

That experience seems a long time ago,
but we’re only now getting out of it.

This trip down memory lane is important for two reasons.
Number one, everyone needs to understand that OLD Richmond is gone,
and it’s not coming back.

Today, our downtown is thriving. 
Our population is rising, not shrinking
Our average age is getting younger, not older.

We’re showing up on “top ten” lists – but this time,
it’s for the best restaurants, the best beer, the coolest tattoos,
the best city to visit in the country this summer, and the home of the world cycling championships, back in the US for the first time since the James Center was built.

Here’s the other reason why that history lesson is important.
It explains why the park is in bad shape today.

As one resident said, “It looks the overgrown ruins of a Soviet era apartment block.” 
I agree. That’s why your employees don’t hang out there at lunch.

That’s why there’s no “tai chi” classes in the morning, or jazz concerts after work.
It’s a mess because the city deferred maintenance for too long.

I wish that hadn’t happened, but when Richmond was at rock bottom,
investing in park maintenance …was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

I wasn’t here for those decisions, but I understand why they were made.
For most of Kanawaha Plaza’s life, the city had been in decline. 

But today, it’s rising…and that’s why the time is right to fix up this park,
and return it to the downtown jewel it was a generation ago.

We are pleased that the City’s Planning Commission has approved designs for the first phase of renovating the park, and City Council has allocated $1 million in public funds to begin paying for it. 

We are also very pleased that our contracting team has been chosen for this first phase.

And we are especially pleased that several corporate donors have stepped up to the plate and are helping us make this happen.

I particularly want to thank Dominion Resources and McGuire Woods.

I’m also offering an appeal for others to step up and help us restore this park.

This upgrade will significantly improve access to comfortable green space in the middle of downtown. 

For the neighbors who work in the buildings surrounding the park, this upgrade will significantly improve your view and the way you experience the area and its connection to the James River.

And for the growing number of people who live downtown, this upgrade will help keep the transformation of our downtown from becoming a concrete jungle, and turn it into a thriving, diverse, and welcoming urban space.

That’s our goal in the short term: To make the park an inviting and welcoming space.

Our goal is to renovate it in a way that allows for any future concept that makes downtown more friendly to pedestrians, especially ideas that connect downtown with Manchester across the river.

So with that, I’d like to invite John Sydnor, our partner with Enrichmond Foundation, to say a few words, and then our DCAO for Human Resources, Debra Gardner, will introduce the project team.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Statement on Port of Richmond

Mayor Dwight Jones and Port of Virginia CEO John Reinhart today announced that the Port of Virginia has requested to renew its lease on the Port of Richmond for a second five year term. In addition, the Port of Virginia intends to bid on a long-term lease proposal that will allow it to make greater capital investment in the Port of Richmond terminal. The Mayor will introduce the related papers on Monday, July 27 for consideration by City Council on September 8.  

The announcement comes one day after Governor McAuliffe announced the Port of Virginia is forecasted to post its first yearly operating profit since 2008 and has set a new record for cargo volume.

“The City’s partnership with the Port of Virginia has turned the Port of Richmond around, and it holds promise for unlocking the value of one of the greatest economic drivers for the Richmond region,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “We are excited by the possibility of a long-term partnership with The Port of Virginia, and the prospect for integrating Richmond and Central Virginia into networks of global trade. We are eager to review the long-term lease proposal.”

Under The Port of Virginia’s management, cargo volumes at the Port of Richmond have grown year over year. In fiscal year 2013, the barge service transported over 6,400 containers. In fiscal year 2014, the barge volumes increased 49% with over 9,500 containers transported. Barge volumes increased another 49% and finished fiscal year 2015 with over 14,000 containers transported. Due to the consistent increase in volumes, the barge service increased from two trips a week to three trips a week in January of 2015 and is currently averaging approximately 200 moves per week. This steady increase in volumes is due in large part to direct marketing efforts of The Port of Virginia which have resulted in five international ocean carriers offering bills of lading directly to the Port of Richmond. The Port of Virginia has also made significant on terminal investment to include improvements to the rail infrastructure and the purchase of a new mobile harbor crane scheduled for delivery in early 2017.

“The Port of Richmond has become a critical part of The Port of Virginia network,” said CEO John Reinhart. Cargo moving up and down the James River provides a direct connection with shippers in Central Virginia and means less truck traffic on our roadways. We want to solidify the future of Port of Richmond so we can continue to make on-terminal investments that will attract additional shippers and strengthen our network. Our port is growing and facilities like the Port of Richmond are crucial to provide the necessary access to deliver the goods coming through the port to manufacturers and consumers throughout our market.” 

The Port of Richmond is not only a valuable asset to the City of Richmond, but also an economic driver for the entire region. Strategically positioned to capitalize on intermodal freight activity by virtue of its location on the James River, it also possesses close proximity to the major transportation corridors of I-95, I-64, I-85, and direct access to rail with CSX.

“The Port is a great asset for the entire region,” said Chesterfield Country Administrator Jay Stegmaier. “We’re confident the Port of Richmond will play an increasingly important role in attracting jobs and new investment to Central Virginia.” 

Chesterfield County Bermuda District representative Dorothy Jaeckle noted, “Improvements at the port will also add significantly to the revitalization of the Route 1 corridor in both Richmond and Chesterfield."

The lease and management of the Port of Richmond was assumed in July 2011 by The Port of Virginia from the City of Richmond, with the option to renew the lease for three successive five-year terms.  During this partnership, The Port of Virginia began operating a barge service carrying containerized cargo between the marine terminals in Hampton Roads and the Port of Richmond. Growth of the barge service is critical as it removes container traffic from the local roadways, significantly reduces undesirable emissions, and provides for the consistent and effective movement of freight to bolster economic development in the City of Richmond and beyond.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

CsX, Capital Tress and the City of Richmond Partner to Create the Low Line

CSX, Capital Trees, and the City of Richmond have signed agreements to begin the creation of the Low Line, a 5.5 acre environmental and beautification project along Dock Street adjacent to the Virginia Capital Trail, on the historic James River and Kanawha Canal. CSX, which owns the rail trestle that runs along the planned beautification area into downtown Richmond, is donating $100,000 to support the project.

“Rarely does an opportunity to do something so transformative present itself,” said Jeanette McKittrick, chairman of Capital Trees’ board of trustees. “The Low Line is the uncommon event where the necessary elements of timing, circumstance, will, and ability come together to recast a place of great historic, environmental, cultural and economic interest. It is Capital Trees’ vision to help Richmond live up to its stunningly beautiful natural gifts, to work harder to protect the James River, and to work harder, think harder, about landscapes and streetscapes. We’re very grateful that CSX and the City of Richmond have the vision to see the importance of this project and have joined in as true collaborators.” 

Mayor Dwight C. Jones expressed his enthusiasm for the project, stating, “I am pleased that this partnership will enhance the beauty of the City’s riverfront as well as the Virginia Capital Trail.  Creative partnerships among the City, corporate partners like CSX, and volunteer non-profits like Capital Trees are taking the Richmond resurgence to the next level.” 

Project plans for the Low Line include enhancing the area between the Capital Trail and CSX’s rail trestles along the James River and Kanawha Canal, removing invasive weeds and creating an attractive landscape with primarily native trees, shrubs and perennials, along with storm water mitigation amenities, educational signage and space for interpretive public art.  The Low Line takes creative inspiration from the High Line, an elevated unused CSX railway viaduct running through Manhattan that was transformed into a beautiful urban garden.

The Low Line concept is the creation of Capital Trees, which is responsible for the project’s design, funding and execution. Site preparation is underway and partial completion is expected prior to the UCI World Championships in September. In addition to the CSX and City of Richmond donations, the project has attracted significant support from The Cabell Foundation, the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, the Roller-Bottimore Foundation, the Rock Foundation, the Garden Club of Virginia, and individual donors.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mayor Jones' Statement Concerning a Freestanding Children’s Hospital, Minor League Baseball, and Regional Cooperation

Mayor Dwight C. Jones today issued the following statement concerning a freestanding children’s hospital, minor league baseball, and regional cooperation:

“The conversation around a freestanding children’s hospital has driven a renewed commitment to regional cooperation among the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County.

“Advocates for the hospital asked each locality for potential locations, and we each presented options. They have indicated the Boulevard is their preferred site.

“In recent days, I have met with Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas and Chesterfield County Administrator Jay Stegmaier to advance this important regional priority. This includes agreeing to a process to identify alternative locations in the region to ensure that the Richmond Flying Squirrels have a permanent home.

“Today, we met with representatives of the Squirrels and the President of the Eastern League. We agreed that the Squirrels should meet with all localities in the Richmond area to explore potential locations that have easy access and visibility for Squirrels fans.

“The Squirrels agreed to work with each locality to identify a site by the end of this year. To demonstrate the region’s commitment to the Squirrels, I propose to extend their current lease on the Diamond through the end of 2017.

“We agreed on an exploration process that will consider site selection options, financing opportunities including private investment, potential construction schedules, and that recognizes the financial constraints our localities are facing. We committed, together with our regional partners, to work with the Squirrels. Ultimately, the Squirrels will identify a site that best fits their needs.

“The Squirrels are a great asset for our region, and they are woven into the fabric of our community. When they came to town six years ago, they changed how our region experiences minor league baseball. They showed us that it’s about having fun, enjoying family time, and celebrating our community. We all know the community wants them to stay here forever.

“I believe this renews our commitment to an open and comprehensive approach to advancing regional priorities, starting with the children’s hospital.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

"RVA Breastfeeds" Social Media Campaign Launched to Raise Support for World Breastfeeding Week, August 1 - 7

The social media campaign, RVA Breastfeeds, has been launched to raise community support for breastfeeding mothers during World Breastfeeding Week, August 1 – 7. The campaign is sponsored by the Richmond Health Action Alliance, a coalition funded by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and administered by the Richmond Healthy Start Initiative, a division of Richmond Department of Social Services. The Richmond Health Action Alliance seeks to reduce childhood obesity through policy, infrastructure, and environmental changes that promote a breastfeeding-friendly and physically active community.

During the campaign, life-sized cutouts of breastfeeding women and families that reflect the cultural diversity of Richmond will be strategically placed throughout the area. Other campaign components include community leaders serving as “Breastfeeding Champions,” the dissemination of breastfeeding facts, and peer-to-peer support in the form of tips for expecting and breastfeeding mothers. Local retailers and restaurants that display “Breastfeeding Is Welcome Here” stickers will also be highlighted. The multi-faceted campaign will take place via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, allowing for broad community participation.

The Richmond Health Action Alliance has sponsored events during World Breastfeeding Week at the Virginia State Capitol for the past three years. “Breastfeeding has profound short and long term impacts on the health of children and their mothers, yet it is often framed as a women’s issue. Given the recent passage of Virginia legislation protecting women’s right to breastfeed in public, we thought the time was right for a much broader conversation,” said Leslie Lytle, Breastfeeding Coordinator for the City of Richmond. “Women don’t breastfeed in isolation. The support of fathers, family members, health care providers, and the larger community is critically important in helping women achieve their breastfeeding goals. A social media campaign provides a vehicle to get the word out to multiple audiences that this is an important public health issue in which everyone has a role.”

“African-American mothers face particular challenges when it comes to breastfeeding, such as lack of access to culturally appropriate resources and support. This campaign allows us to highlight some of those challenges and to recognize community change-makers who are helping our most vulnerable families reach their breastfeeding goals,” said Rose Stith-Singleton, Richmond Healthy Start Initiative Project Director.

The RVA Breastfeeds team consists of the Richmond Healthy Start Initiative, Richmond City Health District, Richmond WIC, Nurture, Healthy Hearts Plus II, cBe Consulting, Virginia Breastfeeding Taskforce, VCU Medical Center, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, HCA Richmond, Anthem Healthkeepers Plus, and the Institute for Public Health Innovation, with technical support provided by The Spark Mill. RVA Breastfeeds was made possible through funding and in-kind support from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, Richmond City WIC, Richmond Healthy Start Initiative and Nurture.

The campaign can be found online at, and on Facebook, Twitter - @RVABreastFeeds, and Instagram - @RVABreastfeeds.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

City Opens 23rd Street and Marks Completion of Cobblestone Restoration Project

Mayor Dwight Jones and Thomas Wilds, President of the Church Hill Association joined in opening 23rd Street between Grace and Franklin streets and marking the completion of the 23rd Street cobblestone restoration project today. The following are Mayor Jones prepared remarks.

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us here today.

I would like to acknowledge Cynthia Newbille, the Richmond City Councilperson for the East End 7th District.

Unfortunately, she is not able to join us today, but I want to point out that she has been a strong advocate for this restoration project. (Her liaison Sam Patterson will be at the event)

Knowing her excitement for this area I am certain she would say - This is a great day in the City of Richmond and especially the East End as we mark the completion of the 23rd Street cobble restoration and officially re-open this street!
I would like to thank our Department of Public Works, our contractors and sub-contractors for a job well done. And I would like to note that this project had a 90% minority business participation rate which is outstanding!

Part of my goal in “Building the Best Richmond” and my responsibility as your Mayor is to create secure neighborhoods where streets are safe and communities are inviting.

Richmond is a city of great neighborhoods and this newly restored cobblestone street continues our efforts to improve upon them, both aesthetically and from a safety perspective.

I am also pleased that with this project completion, we have been able to help restore some of the historic character to Church Hill, and that we have completed this project with funds made available for the preparation of the big bike race coming in September.

One of the most outstanding benefits of our hosting the UCI World Championships is that infrastructure improvements such as this will be here long after September meaning residents and visitors will enjoy these improvements for years to come.

So as we welcome the world to Richmond, cyclist will take on this cobblestone hill behind me as they race to a championship.

Now these cyclists will not be the first on bicycle to take on this hill, as Craig Dodson and Richmond Cycling Corps youth will do so in just in a few moments to help mark this project completion.

In acknowledging Richmond Cycling Corps, I want to take a few moments to make a very special announcement.

There are so many people in our city that give of their time and talents to a cause much greater than themselves. That is vitally important as Richmond is a tale of two cities.

We are a city full of vibrant businesses, remarkable entrepreneurs, enthusiastic students, and engaged residents. And, there are areas of our City’s East End that has been ignored, over-looked, and shunned.

Decades of educational inequality, of allowing violence and alienation to subvert once thriving neighborhoods, of the deliberate choices made in segregating our housing, have created a generation that doesn’t believe that they have a chance to succeed.

There is a generation that doesn’t believe that they can be better off than the circumstances they have been born into. It is generation without hope.

Talent is universal, but opportunity is not. We can work to provide opportunities to all of our young people, but we must also give them the hope and confidence that they have what it takes to seize those chances.

Craig Dodson embodies this to his core. This past year, I have had the great fortune to join in various events and work with his Richmond Cycling Corps program.

Craig and his team use the lure of the bicycle as a tool to engage youth from public housing into a highly-detailed case management system that at the same time develops their character. Craig not only puts our young people through a rigorous regiment on a bicycle, but he does some of his best work off it.

He helps the program’s youth with needs chronic to those in public housing: providing legal aid, assisting with dental and medical needs, academic support, financial literacy, and sometimes, most importantly, emotional support.

In 2014, Craig launched the nation’s first and only inner-city high school cycling team at Armstrong High School. He then expanded the program again earlier this year and brought a cycling team to MLK Middle School.

He also organized and worked with community partners to transform a once vacant 15-acre parcel of land in Fairfield Court into a one-mile mountain bike course, featuring: 27 obstacles, a community garden, a 600 sq-ft barn, 41 newly planted trees, and metal sculptures.

By the way, the Armstrong Cycling garnered a third place finish in the 2015 Virginia High School Mountain Bike Series championship race in just its first year.

However, we know real results aren’t measured by trophies or in what place you finish the race. They’re measured in the pride and confidence these kids have when they tell me about how much they are growing because of Craig’s program.

I am so proud of people in our community like Craig, who work on the hope, and that is why I am submitting Craig Dodson, Director of the Richmond Cycling Corps, for Richmond Times Dispatch’s Person of the Year.

It is Richmonders such as Craig; impactful projects such as this; and cycling on a world stage – that are helping to excel our City’s resurgence and making Richmond that tier-one, first class city that we all know it can be.

As we strive daily to continue our resurgence, I am extremely proud of our efforts to restore these cobbles and I look forward to seeing bikes travel this street today and in the days to come.

Now, I would be remised if I did not also mention the residents of this immediate area, through the Church Hill Association, who have also been requesting this enhancement for quite some time.

I look forward to hearing what this means for this neighborhood from the Church Hill Association President Thomas Wilds.

Please join me in welcoming him to the podium.

Thank you.

Monday, July 6, 2015

City Launches Open Data Portal

Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced a new measure to advance transparency by launching the City's new Open Data Portal, accessible at The Open Data Portal features tools which allow users to combine data sets to build their own views of information. The portal includes several data sets such as the City’s payment register, real estate assessments, community survey data, neighborhood statistics, motor vehicle accident information and much more. The data sets are organized into the City's focus areas of Unique, Healthy and Inclusive Neighborhoods and Communities; Economic Growth; Community Safety and Well-Being; Transportation; Education and Workforce Development; Sustainability and the Natural Environment; Well Managed Government.

“We are making this data available to advance transparency in government,” said Mayor Jones. “This online research tool will provide residents with information to help them understand how public money is being spent.”

The Payment Register is a record of City non-payroll payments. The register currently displays payments made in May 2015 and will be updated on a monthly basis going forward. Payment data that would reveal the identity of social services providers has been redacted to protect the identities of social service program participants. All data appearing on the Portal will be vetted and approved by an Open Data Workgroup and the directors of the departments that own the data.

“The City’s Departments of Information Technology and Finance have been working for more than a year to provide this tool to residents to advance the Mayor’s objective of a well-managed government,” said Doug McCollough, Director of the City’s Information Technology Department.

In January, Richmond City Council passed an ordinance (No. 2014-257-2015-9) to publish the City’s payment register on