Placemaking in Downtown Richmond

Making a Place in Downtown Richmond

Whether it’s wayfinding, beautification, or turning parking spaces into gathering places, we have a hand in placemaking efforts throughout downtown.

What is Placemaking?

“Placemaking” is a people-centered approach to the planning, design, creation and management of public spaces. For us, an effective placemaking process results in inviting and well-maintained public spaces that contribute to downtown Richmond’s health, happiness and well-being. We do this in small- and large-scale ways like film screenings in outdoor public spaces, decorative street banners, beautification along the Canal Walk and some of our downtown streets, advocating for accessible transportation and multi-modal options for all and collaborating with community partners on long-term planning for downtown and riverfront public space.

We are constantly working on ideas and community placemaking projects to improve the quality of life and place in downtown Richmond. Stay tuned for updates on new placemaking projects!

Keep scrolling for updates on new projects!

Placemaking in Downtown Richmond

Community Placemaking: Brown's Island Improvement Plan

Brown’s Island, located on the James River, has the potential to be the crown jewel of the downtown Richmond riverfront. In 2012, City Council adopted the Richmond Riverfront Plan, which made recommendations to transform Brown's Island into a daily destination for recreation, exploration, socializing and experiencing the beauty of the James River, as well as music and cultural events.

The Brown’s Island Improvement Plan is a more detailed conceptual plan developed by Venture Richmond and 3north to help the City of Richmond implement the Richmond Riverfront Plan recommendations for Brown’s Island.

Brown’s Island should be attractive and comfortable for every Richmond resident and visitor, both during events and as a public park all other days of the year. While the 2016 opening of the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge has dramatically increased visitation to the island—approximately 500,000 crossings per year—the rest of the island also needs improved amenities to accommodate this increased demand.

The Brown’s Island Improvement Plan received conceptual approval from the City Planning Commission in December 2019. Venture Richmond is committed to raising private funds to implement the Riverfront Plan recommendations for Brown’s Island, which include river and canal terraces, play spaces for children, more trees and landscaping, more ADA accessibility and other pedestrian improvements, shade, seating and running water/permanent restrooms among other amenities.

Download the full Brown's Island Improvement Plan (103 MB)
Download a truncated version of the Brown's Island Improvement Plan (33 MB)
Placemaking in Downtown Richmond

Urban Placemaking: Parklets

Parklets—public outdoor patio areas that occupy curbside right of way—are a relatively new addition to Richmond’s streetscape. Starting in the spring of 2021, the City of Richmond began installing prefabricated parklets at different locations across the city (photos above). This pilot program gave us an opportunity to try parklets on for size as a way of providing more urban public space and supporting small businesses by offering people a place to enjoy take-out food and beverages.

The pre-fabricated parklets were purchased by the City using federal CARES Act money and locations were identified through the Picnic in a Parklet program, a partnership between the City of Richmond and Venture Richmond. LaDiff donated patio furniture for each of the parklets. The locations included:

Two unique and custom-designed parklets also appeared in 2021, one in front of ART 180 (114 W Marshall St) and one in front of Ms. Bee’s Juice Bar (114 W Brookland Park Blvd).

The ART 180 parklet (image below) was part of an Asphalt Art Initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies (more on that in next section). It was designed by downtown firm Walter Parks Architects and built by CB Chandler Construction. The parklet is regularly activated by ART 180 but is open to the public at all times. Venture Richmond served as the project lead for this collaborative community effort.

The Ms. Bee’s Juice Bar parklet (image below) was funded through a grant from the AARP Livable Communities program, designed by local architects Nick Cooper and Marcos Borjas, and built by An Liu and his team of helpers (all three are now at downtown architecture firm Hanbury). The parklet serves as much-needed seating and respite for people shopping and dining along Brookland Park Blvd. Venture Richmond acted as the fiscal agent and project manager for this parklet.

Asphalt Art Initiative

Creative Placemaking: Asphalt Art Initiative

A new parklet, public plaza and community-painted mural at a gateway to the Arts District

The intersection of Brook Road and West Marshall Street now hosts a three-part urban placemaking project consisting of a custom-designed parklet, pedestrian plaza, and intersection mural designed to provide space for community gatherings and art appreciation.

Designed by local firm Walter Parks Architects, this is the first custom-designed public parklet built in the City of Richmond. Located outside of ART 180, it will provide a safe space for participants in the nonprofit’s youth programming to gather before and after class, and is open to the general public as well. Local artist Chris Visions designed the mural, which references the rich history of Jackson Ward and the neighborhood’s enduring mission to carry on a legacy of Black excellence. The design is based on the Sankofa, an Andikra symbol from Ghana meaning “to go back and retrieve/get,” and the colors echo the red, black and green of the Pan-African flag. ART 180 youth painted the mural as part of the culmination of their Community Program earlier this fall.

The public plaza is a result of reclaiming unused public space in front of Gallery 5 and restoring the historic bricks that existed beneath the asphalt. Artist Chris Visions created an artistic extension of the intersection mural into the plaza space and Venture Richmond provided bike racks for people visiting Gallery 5, ART 180, and neighboring businesses and residents. The Broad Street Task Force, a group of proponents of Richmond’s Downtown convened by the mayor, shared that residents want more vibrant spaces to gather in the area. This, alongside an Asphalt Art Initiative placemaking grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the advocacy of community partners, acted as a catalyst for this new creativepublic space placemaking project at the intersection of Brook and Marshall.

City of Richmond staff from Planning and Development Review, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Public Utilities and the Public Art Commission worked alongside Venture Richmond to make the project possible. Additional project partners include ART 180, Big Secret, CB Chandler Construction, Cite Design, Gallery 5, LaDiff, Richmond Toolbank, Vanderbilt Properties, and Walter Parks Architects.City of Richmond staff from Planning and Development Review, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Public Utilities and the Public Art Commission worked alongside Venture Richmond placemaking consultants to make the creative placemaking project possible. Additional placemaking project partners include ART 180, Big Secret, CB Chandler Construction, Cite Design, Gallery 5, LaDiff, Richmond Toolbank, Vanderbilt Properties, and Walter Parks Architects.

Asphalt Art Initiative

Find more information about the Asphalt Art Initiative here!

Placemaking Events: Park(ing) Day in Richmond

Started in San Francisco in 2005, Park(ing) Day is a global event that occurs annually on the third Friday of September, aimed at reclaiming on-street parking spaces by temporarily transforming them into exciting and imaginative park spaces, or “parklets.”

In 2019, Venture Richmond sponsored a Park(ing) Day design/build competition that featured over 20 pop-up parklets designed and built by creatives, architects, local businesses, and community members. The contest entries were judged and awarded by a panel of notable Richmonders, with the winner receiving funding assistance for a more permanent installation. You can read more about the 2019 event here.

Since Park(ing) Day 2019, six parklets have been installed throughout Richmond as long-term installations and you can visit them today (see Parklets section above).

If you would like to participate in annual September Park(ing) Days by building a temporary pop-up parklet for the day, please reach out to Yessenia Revilla at the City of Richmond for guidance:

Placemaking in Downtown Richmond

Downtown Richmond Street Pole Banners

Street pole banners are another part of how Venture Richmond promotes downtown and all that it has to offer. We are responsible for managing the banner program and over 200 banner poles on behalf of the city. Our job is to create and maintain the banners and campaigns. If you would like to inquire about downtown street banners, please email

Placemaking in Downtown Richmond

RVA Bike Racks in Downtown Richmond

In partnership with Sports Backers’ Bike Walk RVA program, we have purchased and installed 12 high-capacity bike racks throughout downtown Richmond.

Locations include:

• 300 block of W Broad St @ Common House

• 200 block of W Broad St (north side of the street)

• SW corner of W Broad St & N Jefferson St @ Quirk Hotel

• 100 block of W Broad St (south side of the street)

• 0 block of W Broad St (south side of the street)

• NW & NE corners of W Marshall St & Brook Rd @ Gallery 5 & ART 180

• SE corner of E Broad St & N 2nd St @ Storefront for Community Design

• NE corner of E Broad St & N 3rd St @ Code VA & Urban Hang Suite

• SW corner of E Grace St & N 5th St

• NE corner of E Broad St & N 9th St @ City Hall

• Virginia St & Canal Walk @ Turning Basin/Riverfront Canal Cruises

Placemaking in Downtown Richmond

Beautification in Downtown Richmond

Venture Richmond maintains gateway city beautification projects for Downtown Richmond, including weeding, watering and installing seasonal plants (spring & fall). Richmond community beautification projects include: 155 sidewalk and median planters, 126 hanging baskets, and 13 planting beds throughout downtown and along the Canal Walk.

Learn more about downtown Richmond's beautification efforts and the Clean and Safe program here.

Canal Walk Placemaking

Venture Richmond manages and maintaines the Canal Walk, and in doing so has made the following improvements recently:

  • 5 redesigned downtown directional map kiosks installed along the Canal Walk/Capital Trail
  • 17 new “Welcome to the Canal Walk” signs redesigned and installed at all Canal Walk entrances
  • $70,000 invested by Venture Richmond and the Community Foundation in the redesign of the approach ramp to the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge
  • 437 square feet of new public deck space installed on the Canal Walk at the Tidewater Locks, replacing stairs that had become hazardous; including signage
  • 29 feet of stairway bicycle access ramp installed on the Canal Walk at the new Tidewater Locks deck
  • working with Dominion Energy to enhance the user experience at the 10th St Canal Walk stair access, improving the stairs, adding bike racks, adding bike runnels and signage
  • working with the City of Richmond on the Phase II Canal Walk Improvement Project, making the north side of the Canal Walk more accessible to bike traffic