Could the 17th Street Farmer’s Market renovations be in jeopardy?

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A plan to revamp the 17th Street Farmer’s Market calls for transforming it into a pedestrian only, open-air plaza complete with fountains, trees and patios for outdoor dining.

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However, some Shockoe Bottom business owners wonder now if it will ever happen.

The City recently requested bids from contractors to do the work and 8News has learned there’s a problem.

“We were basically told the bids came in too high for the project to start,” Helen Emerson, the co-owner of Rosie Connolly’s Pub which sits around the Farmer’s Market said.

During a meeting this week with leaders of the City’s Department of Economic and Community Development, Emerson said that Shockoe Bottom business owners were told all of the bids were over budget. 8News has reviewed the bids and confirmed that all are at least $1 million over what the city budgeted for.

A copy of the tabulated bids can be found here.

“We were talking about the revitalization of the farmer’s market in 1998,” Emerson explained, frustrated by delays with revamping the market.

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David Napier, the president of the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association agreed with Emerson.

“If it’s done right it’s going to be a good project,” Napier said.He likes the renderings for the project but admits there’s a

He likes the renderings for the project but admits there are many questions about the project beyond the bids.

“There’s been no plan to do anything else for parking down here,” Napier said.

Emerson also commented on the parking that would be lost with the renovations.

“So where are the customers and the staff supposed to park?” Emerson asked.

When they ask the City the same question, Emerson said they received no answers.

“I know if I lived in one of the apartments upstairs I wouldn’t want to lug my groceries five or six blocks, or if I was a waitress leaving at 2 a.m. I wouldn’t want to walk five blocks to get to my car,” Emerson said.

The business owners are also concerned about the homeless in the area.

“I have a private patio that is owned by this building and we do have people coming up asking for cigarettes, asking for beer,” Emerson said. “What is the City going to do about that?”

Both Emerson and Napier complained about maintenance around the market. In our time there, 8News spotted garbage and broken lights.

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“I want to know who is going to pick up the strands of lights that are lying on the ground,” Napier said. “They have been on the ground for three weeks now.”

8News wanted to know what happens now that those bids were higher than initially planned. Will the City scale back the plans? Will the City redesign the project?

When asked, all the City and ECD had to say was the bids were under review and evaluation.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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