Five acres of privately owned, fenced-off riverfront property next to Great Shiplock Park will soon become open public space under a land conservation deal involving the Capital Region Land Conservancy and the city of Richmond.
The property’s current owners had pitched different development plans for the property in recent years, including a mixed-use project called Echo Harbor. The pending land deal announced Thursday, officials said, would prohibit any such development.
“Today we are taking what had been private land, what had been a major part of ... what built this city, and we’re giving it to the people,” said Parker Agelasto, the land conservancy’s executive director and a former 5th District City Council representative. “We are going to present this as a gift to the citizens of Richmond, one that I think many have been asking for.”
Officials said the sale of the property at 3011 and 3021 Dock St. will allow the city to connect Great Shiplock Park to a 1.5-acre property the city bought for $2 million in 2012, further expanding public access to the river and preserving views of it from Libby Hill Park.
The view from the hill inspired the area’s Colonial-era founders to name the city after Richmond-Upon-Thames in England, said Scenic Virginia Executive Director Leighton Powell, one of the project’s supporters.
Mayor Levar Stoney announced the plans for the land conservancy’s acquisition and eventual transfer of the property to the city in a news conference Thursday alongside Agelasto and other project advocates and partners.
“The life of our great city, and the health and welfare of our residents, has always been tied to access to our river and riverfront,” Stoney said. “After the year we’ve been through, that is as important today as it’s ever been. I’d like to thank our partners ... and all the organizations and individuals who worked so hard to preserve our city’s iconic views and natural beauty for refuge and recreation by our residents for generations to come.”
Agelasto and others said the property was the city’s first port and a node for commerce for nearly two centuries before it closed in the 1940s. The mayor noted that a 350-foot dock is still there.
Stoney said the preservation of the property and plans to develop it into city parkland aligns with the city’s newly adopted Richmond 300 master plan. He and others noted the move makes it possible to realign the Virginia Capital Trail next to the river.
The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit organization based in Arlington County, and the James River Association are supporting the land conservancy’s purchase of the property. The land conservancy previously worked with the Conservation Fund for its $6.6 million acquisition of the historic 871-acre Malvern Hill Farm property in eastern Henrico County several years ago.
Agelasto and city officials said the cost of the acquisition of the Richmond riverfront property cannot be disclosed at this time, per the terms of the sales agreement. They said the property is being sold at a fair-market appraisal of the property based on its “highest and best use.” Collectively the two parcels have a total tax assessment value of $4.15 million.
Agelasto said the deal is expected to close in August.