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New River Center taking shape on the James

Dock Street riverfront and dock small

The site of the future James River Center on Dock Street.

Photo via James River Association

The new James River Center will soon rise at Echo Harbor along Dock Street — the result of a collaboration between the James River Association, the Capital Region Land Conservancy, and The Conservation Fund.

The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit, announced the purchase of the 5.2-acre property back in August. The land is adjacent to Great Shiplock Park.

On March 16, almost an acre of the property was purchased from the fund, which will be the site of the new center. Eventually, the entire property will be transferred to the City of Richmond to become part of the James River Park System.

James River Center Rending

The James River Center will not obstruct the view from Libby Hill Park. | Rendering by 3North

The Dock Street location means students will be able to get their hands dirty + their feet wet during environmental education programs.

Since the site sits near a tidal portion of the James, JRA can take its education boats up to the center. The conditions are prime for paddling novices + access to Chapel Island means access to forests in the heart of the city.

Bill Street, the president + CEO of JRA, shared what excites him about the new center:

“We often see with students that they didn’t realize it was there and how much life is there, how much progress we’ve made in bringing back the health of the river,” Street said. “Seeing all those personal connections being made and just knowing what the river can mean to someone on an individual basis… to be able to make more of those connections is what this center is all about.”

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Only plants native to VA will be installed at the center. | Map by 3North via James River Association

Street said they’d like to break ground later this fall and anticipate around a year for construction — with a hopeful opening in Spring 2024.

The new center is part of JRA’s James Changer Campaign, a $25 million initiative to connect people to the river. The association recently received a $2 million commitment from the Richmond-based Cabell Foundation to continue its work. Check out the campaign website to learn more.

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