Shockoe Bottom

At Risk 4

Update: August 27: LAST CHANCE TO COMMENT!


Share your thoughts and comments:

Update: August 16, 2021

Historic Richmond Comments on the Shockoe Small Area Plan

The Shockoe Small Area plan lays out a guide and vision for making Shockoe a national and international destination through the recognition and memorialization of the powerful and complex narrative of the oldest sector of the City once tied to the domestic trade in enslaved Africans.

There are many great things about the Plan, including the creation of a Heritage Campus to serve as a central feature of the district. This will link key sites within Shockoe, connect to a broader narrative of Richmond, Virginia, and the nation, and serve as a catalyst for economic development for the neighborhood and City. The plan also calls for the creation of an archaeological ordinance, expansion of the Shockoe Valley Old & Historic District and a Demolition Review Ordinance to protect Shockoe’s surviving historic fabric.

However, the sequencing of some of the draft Plan’s policies – by prioritizing rezoning over the archaeology ordinance, demolition review ordinance and small expansion of the City Old and Historic District – present a threat to the surviving historic resources. If the rezoning happens before an archaeology ordinance is implemented, development is likely to proceed quickly throughout Shockoe and we will lose the opportunity to learn more about our past through additional archaeology. If we rezone before the historic buildings are better protected, then we risk losing them and the unique and authentic sense of place of Shockoe. It is absolutely critical that an archaeology ordinance, demolition review ordinance, and small expansion of the City Old & Historic District be implemented simultaneously with any rezonings.

You can read our full comment letter here.

Update: August 8, 2021:

Historic Richmond Brown Bag Lunch; A Virtual Walk Around Shockoe

Shockoe is the valley where Richmond began. It is not only Richmond’s oldest neighborhood, but also has Richmond’s oldest surviving residential, commercial, industrial and civic structures. Many of Shockoe’s historic resources have been lost or are no longer visible on our developing urban landscape. Join Historic Richmond Executive Director Cyane Crump for a virtual walk around Shockoe’s most significant surviving (above ground) historic resources.

To learn more about the City of Richmond’s planning efforts for Shockoe, including a Heritage Campus, see

The link also describes how you can weigh in with your thoughts on the draft plan.
You can help shape the future of Shockoe!

Update: July 27, 2021:

Draft Shockoe Small Area Plan
Open for Public Engagement
July 19 to August 27!

The Shockoe Small Area plan lays out a guide and vision for making Shockoe a national and international destination through the recognition and memorialization of the powerful and complex narrative of the oldest sector of the City once tied to the domestic trade in enslaved Africans.

Read the Draft Shockoe Small Area Plan now!
Credit: Shockoe Small Area Plan draft.
Shockoe is one of Richmond’s oldest neighborhoods and has been the focus of many of Historic Richmond’s preservation efforts.

Throughout the Shockoe Small Area Planning process we have been advocating for:

  • Vision:
    We want to see a Shared Vision for Shockoe as a “welcoming, inclusive, diverse, innovative, equitable, and thriving community; honoring and commemorating its past and ensuring a high quality of life for all.”
  • “Big Move” to develop a Heritage Campus:
    We support prioritizing planning efforts for a Heritage Campus. These planning efforts must be informed and accompanied by robust community engagement with the descendant community.
  • History, Historic Buildings and Culture:
    We support Goal 1 of this Plan to “support growth that preserves the historic urban fabric and enhances an understanding of Richmond’s multi-faceted past.”

    • We support the map on page 126 (Figure 31) reflecting recommended heights for new buildings and believe that it should be used as a basis for any rezoning of the legacy M-1 Industrial zoning in Shockoe. These heights will allow development of maximum density on many of the district’s vacant parking lots while protecting the core historic area with  many of the City’s oldest historic buildings and the City Old and Historic District zoning overlay.
    • Archaeology: We support the creation of an archaeological ordinance through a community process. We support the “Priority Project” to hire a Cultural Resource Management Firm to prepare an archaeology context and sensitivity maps for Shockoe and to perform additional research and analysis at the burial ground. This should not only be a “Priority Project” but should happen in Fiscal Year 2022, as set forth in the draft Plan.
    • small expansion of the Shockoe Valley Old and Historic District (OHD) to protect Shockoe’s surviving historic fabric to be initiated in Fiscal Year 2022 (sooner rather than later).
    • Demolitions of historic structures in Shockoe have occurred on a regular basis in recent decades. Since the Shockoe Valley and Tobacco Row Historic District was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, approximately 70 “contributing resources” (historic structures) in Shockoe have been demolished. A small expansion of the Shockoe Valley OHD as reflected in Figure 26 on page 113 will help to protect several additional blocks of very old and rare surviving historic fabric from the very real prospect of demolitions. The City OHD guidelines include a form of demolition review, but the Shockoe Valley OHD does not include many of Shockoe’s historic buildings within its boundaries. This proposed small expansion is drawn narrowly to include a small number of the oldest buildings and to provide a protective buffer around them. In addition, the City should adopt a demolition review ordinance delineating a process for owners of historic structures to explore alternatives to demolition. Importantly, the Richmond 300 also includes as an objective such a demolition review ordinance.
      The Plan should be revised to initiate the recommended expansion of the Shockoe Valley OHD and the adoption of a demolition review ordinance in Fiscal Year 2022 (rather than FY2024 as set forth on page 203 of the draft Plan). These items should be implemented simultaneously with any larger rezoning of Shockoe.
    • We support the Plan of Development (POD) Design Guidelines initially articulated in the Pulse Corridor Plan and the Six POD Form Elements Adapted for Shockoe. As was recommended by the Pulse Corridor Plan and as was done with the Monroe Ward rezoning, a POD Overlay District should be created for Shockoe with the rezoning.
  • Inclusive Housing:
    We support Goal 6 to preserve, expand and create mixed-income communities, and foster the inclusion of increased affordable housing and preserving existing housing units and developing new ones – both rental and owner occupied – throughout the city.
  • Diverse Economy:
    We want to see Shockoe become home to a variety of businesses and industries that offer opportunities for quality employment and capital investment. We are pleased to see the Plan include a range of new and/or expanded incentives, including an expansion of the façade improvement program, a special tax district, a reduction in the Business, Professional and Occupational License fees, and the expansion of the partial tax exemption to rehabilitate smaller commercial storefront buildings in Shockoe, among others.
  • Thriving Environment:
    As development and density increase in the area, it must be accompanied by a prioritized focus on increasing the amount of green space and the tree canopy, reduction of impervious surfaces, and flood mitigation efforts.
  • Equitable Transportation:
    We support expansion of equitable transportation, the non-car network and other multi-modal transportation options. We recommend redesigning the Shockoe Valley Streets Project to remain within the existing right of way, particularly on 17th Street and Oliver Hill Way.

Share your thoughts and comments:

Ways to get involved:

  • “Let’s Talk Shockoe” – stop in and chat about Shockoe with staff and Shockoe Alliance members
    • Wednesday, July 28th, 5:30pm: Station 2 (2016 E. Main Street)
    • Saturday, July 31st, 10:00am: Ironclad Coffee (1805 E. Grace Street)
  • Public Meetings
    • Tuesday, August 3rd, 6:30pm-8:30pm: Main Street Station (1500 E. Main Street)
    • Wednesday, August 4th, 12:00pm-1:00pm: Microsoft Teams (link to be posted later)
  • Saturday, August 14th, 5:00pm-9:00pm: Night Market @ 17th Street Marketplace

Thank you for your engagement in the Shockoe planning effort and helping to shape the future of Richmond!

Update: April 8, 2021

Masons’ Hall is only one of the many important historic resources in Shockoe. Shockoe is the valley where our city began. Our physical, cultural, religious, governmental, judicial and economic history was formed and shaped in Shockoe. This history is not just important on a local level, but also on a state and national level. As such, its historic resources include multiple significant resources (both above and below ground) that are critical to protect. We are advocating for Shockoe’s historic resources on multiple fronts:

• In connection with the Richmond 300, we advocated for the preeminence of the detailed work of the Shockoe Alliance on the Shockoe Small Area Plan.

• In connection with the Shockoe Small Area Plan planning effort, we are advocating to preserve and protect the core historic area containing Richmond’s oldest surviving structures and most significant intact architectural character, for the Heritage Campus, and for economic development. See our website for more information about our advocacy for Shockoe’s historic resources

• As a consulting party on the proposed Shockoe Valley Streets Improvement Project, we asked for the project to be redesigned to avoid certain historic archaeological resources and to remain within the existing right of way, particularly on 17th Street and Oliver Hill Way where it adversely impacts development potential. As proposed, the project with its multiple roundabouts and significant widening of 17th Street/Oliver Hill Way would adversely affect Richmond’s historic street grid by creating a suburban sinuous style in place of the historic rectilinear street grid, giving large amounts of land to the car and ignoring the historic urban setting. Please write your City Council Member to ask that this project be redesigned.

Historic Richmond’s mission is to shape the future of Richmond by preserving our distinctive historic character, sparking revitalization, and championing our past and future architectural legacy. Historic Richmond supports the preservation of Richmond’s most important cultural resources. Shockoe Bottom is critically important to our understanding of Richmond’s and our nation’s cultural history.  This preservation and interpretation should acknowledge the history and character of Richmond and promote cultural enrichment and understanding of all aspects of our history.

Historic Richmond believes this can be accomplished through:

  • Preservation of Shockoe Bottom’s significant historic and architectural character by reusing existing historic structures and discouraging demolition;
  • Adoption of a form-based code or the creation of a design overlay district for new development in Shockoe Bottom to be based on the district’s existing historic architectural character;
  • Promotion of the understanding of our city’s earliest history, including the history of the slave trade and its role in shaping Richmond’s cultural and architectural landscape, through a comprehensive archaeological survey of Shockoe Bottom;
  • Development of interpretive signage, exhibits, digital projects, and educational tools to help understand our city’s past through all its dimensions; and
  • Dedication of city-owned property and funds to design and build an architecturally significant and inspiring heritage site in Shockoe Bottom commemorating the history of the slave trade and the lives, contributions and sacrifices of enslaved persons.

In accordance with these principles, Historic Richmond will review specific plans as they are presented to us.

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