If you didn’t head down to Shockoe Bottom this past Saturday make a point to head down there. Soon.
The area surrounding LaDifference has a new identity. Wonderfully designed by JHI, the Shockoe Design District boasts a colorful array of art, design and hand-crafted products. Ten Thousand Villages has opened a new location to counter it’s long standing Carytown store. Rounding out the mix is a photographer, custom jean maker, custom shirtmaker and a new locally made craft gallery.
The Market Umbrella is best known for it’s South of the James Market at Forest Hill Park but through the holidays they will have a large, indoor space on Virginia Street. Event spaces, gallery space and vendors galore, they hope to see it thrive and continue past the holiday season.
The concept of a design district isn’t new. Fountainhead Properties has been working towards a similar goal in the Manchester District but it wasn’t until Andy Thornton, owner of LaDifference, who coordinated the effort with other local merchants and City Hall to brand the Shockoe area. Despite recent issues with various clubs down the street, area merchants are pushing hard to take control of their image. Coinciding with the i.e.* initiative from the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Shockoe Design District seeks to promote the creative energy and innovation with the area. It’s no coincidence that the district is also the gateway to Manchester which houses the largest artist collective in the city. Andy clearly states that the new district belongs to everyone.
For years the city’s marketing efforts have been based in tourism, promoting Richmond’s history to surrounding states while significantly neglecting it’s own citizens. The VMFA‘s recent Picasso exhibition proved that people all over Virginia will come to Richmond. The greatest number of exhibit visitors came from the northern Virginia, DC area. Far exceeding anyone’s expectations and thus causing marketers to rethink.
How does all of this effect Richmond’s creative community? It may not have a tremendous impact initially. Richmond certainly isn’t known for its long term goals because it rarily makes any or any that make sense. Ideally the Shockoe Design District will resonate throughout the state to further establish the vibrant creative community housed here. So for us locals it garners more exposure, more opportunities and hopefully more business.