Richmond Canal Project Helps Make History
Most municipal sewer projects stay out of the news, attracting attention
only when sewage backs up into basements or storms cause flooding. So
it was unusual when a combined sewer overflow system and canal restoration
that Greeley and Hansen designed for the city of Richmond, Va., made headlines
and brought out the city's civic pride.
The Richmond Canal Walk, which opened June 4, united the city's need to
protect its natural resources with its desire to create economic and cultural
benefits. The Canal Walk sits along the Haxall Canal and the James River
& Kanawha Canal, and features a park, an outdoor museum, and murals
and monuments depicting the city's history.
Project Embodies Collective Effort
The canal project took root in 1991, when the Richmond Department of Public
Utilities began planning CSO project No. 3, a component of the city's
CSO control plan.
Richmond's combined sanitary and stormwater sewer system had been built
between the late 19th and early 20th century, and wastewater discharged
into the James River, the Haxall Canal, and the James River & Kanawha
Canal after major storms.
The city of Richmond funded the CSO control program to comply with the
requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Department
of Environmental Quality. The city engaged Greeley and Hansen to manage,
plan and design the projects in the CSO control plan.
The city folded one of the plan's CSO projects into a $500 million riverfront
development initiative that it hopes will retain and create more than
6,000 jobs, increase tourism revenue by $60 million over the next 10 years,
bolster annual tax revenues by about $10 million and renew civic pride
in the riverfront area.
To fund the development, the city formed a corporation to revitalize the
riverfront and restore the canals. The Richmond Riverfront Development
Corp. partnered the city with major riverfront property owners. The impetus:
economic development of about 35 acres of the downtown area and 3.3 million
square feet of historic building space.
During a 1992 meeting between the Richmond Department of Public Utilities,
Richmond Riverfront Development Corp., and Greeley and Hansen, participants
decided to combine the two endeavors. The city of Richmond commissioned
Greeley and Hansen as the prime consultant, and Wallace, Roberts and Todd
as the landscape architect consultant for what became the riverfront develop
ment and CSO project No. 3.
The solution to both objectives - upgrading environmental quality and
redeveloping Richmond's riverfront - meant constructing the CSO system
under the restored canal, which is now supplemented by the Canal Walk.
Team Rises to the Challenge
Planning and designing the CSO project No. 3 -- part of the overall CSO
control program -- and integrating the project with the canal restoration
presented complex issues for the 60 or so Greeley and Hansen employees
who teamed up for the project.
- The project had to reduce environmental impact on the James River.
- The project team had to maintain water quality in the canals.
- The team needed to protect structures in the area during construction
because several historic buildings abutted new canal construction.
- Team members wanted to minimize the visual impact of the CSO and create
an environment that would attract pedestrians.
- The design had to modify existing sewer structures that crossed the
canal's path. In addition, roads, bridges, sewers, and railway and highway
piers crisscrossed the site, requiring special design solutions.
During the design phase, the project required input from more than 15
federal, state and local agencies, as well as property owners and special-interest
Greeley and Hansen partners Federico Maisch and Ron Bizzarri have managed
the CSO project from its inception.
Maisch explains, "The Richmond Riverfront Development Corp. formed
a project team that sought input from various city organizations - the
Department of Public Utilities, Department of Public Works, Department
of Recreation and Parks, and police and fire departments - to design a
project that would address the need of each agency."
The CSO, canal restoration and water withdrawal from the James River required
permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia Marine Resource
Commission and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
The Army Corps had concerns about interior drainage and would only issue
a permit for construction of the canal up to the site of the interior
drainage structures. Continuing the canal through these complex interior
drainage structures hinged on whether the project team could find a technical
solution that the Corps would approve. Greeley and Hansen developed a
solution, and the Corps extended the permit for full completion of the
Canal Walk Opens With Fanfare
The Richmond Times-Dispatch followed the progress of the project, extensively
covering the Canal Walk's debut. Several articles liken the development
to San Antonio's River Walk, the 2 1/2-mile strip of restaurants, shops
and hotels that lines either side of a manmade canal system along the
San Antonio River.
A June 5 article begins, "More than 200 people, including ex-governors
and current lawmakers, sat under a shiny tent yesterday and listened to
speakers praise the sparkling new Canal Walk along the riverfront.
Mayor Timothy Kaine is quoted saying that the restored canals would be
the city's centerpiece for years to come. The story also quotes Richmond
City Manager Calvin D. Jamison, who has dubbed Richmond the "Gem
on the James." Jamison told those assembled at the Canal Walk's opening
that the restored Kanawha and Haxall canals would become the gateway to
a new millennium in the city.
"Welcome to the next gateway to the Gem on the James," he said
to the audience. "Twenty years from now, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren
will look at this place and say, 'Wow.'"