The group tackling redevelopment of Big Hill Avenue offered a number of ideas, including landscaping, improved walkability and family-friendly restaurants, parks or other destinations that would attract a wider variety of consumers.
“There’s not a reason to go to Big Hill except for maybe happy hour,” said one participant, drawing laughs from the crowd. “So we need to create a destination that will draw people.”
Creating more retail choices for consumers was another hot topic, as some participants suggested courting retailers such as IKEA and Target – businesses that would not only cater to the general community but would also serve consumers from the university.
If dreaming big was Friday’s objective, some chamber members certainly weren’t timid. Participants offered a diverse range of possible businesses for I-75 Exit 83, including a convention center, casino, an elite hotel, an outlet mall, a brewery, an industrial development center, a zoo and even a NASCAR track.
Some ideas seemed more quickly attainable than others, as some suggested the need to sustain the old Richmond Mall, establish a transportation link to Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport and add new eateries, such as opening a Malone’s at Arlington or a Cheddar’s – an establishment that in the past has expressed interest in a Richmond franchise.
For Tonita Goodwin, executive director of the Richmond Industrial Development Corp., merely entertaining new ideas for Richmond and Madison County, no matter how ambitious, is a step in the right direction.
“All of this is music to my ears. I’m loving every bit of it,” Goodwin said.
Richmond Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mendi Goble said the chamber brainstorming session was critical for identifying common goals for the community, serving to rally Richmond leaders to dream big when it comes to the future of the city and Madison County.
She said the next step will be to consolidate the ideas from Friday’s session, then employ them to spark community action.
“This is just a perfect time to bring everyone together, because even though we all have our own areas, we want everyone’s ideas, too.” Goble said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s not going to happen at all without a plan. We have to start somewhere.”