You’ve got 103,000 square feet of empty retail space? I’ve got ideas:
- Computer server data center
- Children’s museum
- Indoor market and food court for artisan growers, chefs, brewers, etc.
- Paintball, anyone?
- Tourism/visitor center
- Convention center
- Artist colony
- Entertainment complex (pool tables, video games, movie theater, escape rooms)
- Community center and public gathering space
- Retail incubator
- Tear it down and make it a park
- Day care center
- Warehouse and fulfillment center
- Grocery store and general store
- New space for Morrisson-Reeves Library
- Small-scale manufacturing incubator
- After-school youth center
- Nudist colony
- Tool and equipment co-op
- Luxury downtown condominiums
- Athletic complex
- The Globe Midwest: all Shakespeare, all the time
- An actual co-working space
- So much yoga
- Jazz museum
- Showroom for Wayne County-made products and services
- Temporary housing and food service for those in need
- Consolidated social services complex
- Archery range
- DIY auto repair garage
- New home for Richmond Civic Theatre
- Vocational training center
- The NEW new Reid
- Ice and roller skating center
- Concert venue
- A constant reminder
Some of these ideas are serious and realistic, some aren’t. It’s fun to consider the possibilities.
In the end, I’m not sure Richmond needs a hundred thousand square feet of anything right now. It seems like the people and projects that are thriving are working on smaller scale. A “mixed use” label is probably inevitable.
And let’s be careful; the worst thing we could do is pursue a vanity project for someone who talks up grand plans but ultimately just wants to make their mark on the city, leaving future generations to clean up after them.
Any use that’s going to succeed long term will strategically take into consideration the wide range of opportunities, challenges and obstacles facing our community. It will look at the rapidly changing global economy and the coming waves of automation. It will bring something to Richmond that makes us stand out in the region, perhaps in the nation. It will probably be a little bit uncomfortable, a little bit wacky, a little bit ahead of its time.
If we can’t figure out what that thing is right now, that’s okay. Find the funds for basic upkeep, make sure it doesn’t detract from other downtown efforts, and then wait until clarity comes.
Hopefully in twenty years we’ll look back at it and think, “it sure was sad that Elder-Beerman closed, but thank goodness we got so creative and turned the building into such a wonderful resource that benefits the people who live here.”
What do YOU think should happen to the Elder-Beerman building?