JRA competition to transform RVA public spaces

January 24, 2014 · 2 minute read

I stopped by the James River Association‘s new headquarters at Rocketts Landing earlier this week to brainstorm on a number of different river-related subjects. While there Adrienne Kotula told me about an effort they’re in the middle of to make people more aware of how stormwater impacts the quality of the James River.

The group is sponsoring a competition called “Choose Blue,” which challenges local engineering and landscape architecture groups to redesign a couple of prominent public spaces in Richmond using green, low-impact design techniques to better manage stormwater.

The Carillon parking lot.

The Carillon parking lot.

The JRA sponsored a similar competition back in 2011, Kotula said. “This go round we wanted it to be more community centered, get more neighborhood buy-in on the project and build some more local knowledge on stormwater in general.

They solicited the city parks and utilities departments and chose two locations — the gravel parking lot above Shields Lake (between the lake and Maymont Nature Center parking lot) and the small paved lot in front of Dogwood Dell and the Carillon at the sharp bend in the Boulevard.

“The city went to their capital improvement plan and pulled out a couple of sites within the park system that appeared to need some type of retrofit to address runoff,” Kotula said.

The Shields lot looking down toward the lake.

The Shields lot looking down toward the lake.

The deadline for submissions is Feb. 28. Then three expert judges will winnow the field to three in March. Those finalists will be announced in April, and a “Finals Event and Awards Program” will be held at the Carillon in May, complete with dignitary judges. The winning firm will receive a $5,000 prize, and, of course, will get to implement the design.

“There are very few design criteria,” Kotula said. “Basically you have to reduce the amount of runoff coming off the site. You have to maintain the historic integrity of the Carillon site in particular, like the sidewalks and number of parking spaces.. and incorporating the James and educational elements. But other than that the designers have free rein.”

As for implementation, she said, “we are hoping to have at least a focal point element of the design by summer time. It might not be the full-scale overhaul of the site, but maybe an element of the planting design or something of that nature, just to get the ball rolling.”