Virginia’s Capitol Master Plan

Richmond, Virginia

When Thomas Jefferson designed the state capitol in Richmond, Virginia in 1788, he never envisioned a campus of 24 state-owned buildings with 3.3 million square feet of floor space. Nevertheless, the nation’s oldest state capitol still commands the site and overlooks one of the few large green spaces downtown.

That’s the power of strong architecture and urban design, in this case by the author of the Declaration of Independence: It can benefit a community far into the future.

VA Capitol Masterplan Richmond overview
An overview of the project area. Source: WRT.

Now, Virginia’s Capitol Master Plan provides a long-term vision for renewing a campus that has been scarred by parking lots and poor pedestrian connections and serves as the basis for organizing, budgeting, and funding long-range capital improvements. Modernizing the existing 50-plus-year-old building stock and renovating historic assets are key components of the plan.

The project improves stormwater management and energy efficiency and provides alternatives to automobile use in a congested area. A parking structure replaces scattered surface parking lots that have scarred the district. The design incorporates a planned Bus Rapid Transit system.

A major new public space called the Virginia Green is proposed to unite the historic square with the less-compelling eastern part of the Capitol Square Complex. Virginia Square is fronted by two new office buildings and “provides a new gathering space with pedestrian amenities for visitors and office employees,” notes Wallace Roberts & Todd. Water-oriented parks, porous paving, and underground stormwater storage will reduce the impervious surface of the overall complex from 85 percent to 61 percent.

VA Capitol Masterplan Richmond new park
The proposed Virginia Green. Source: WRT.

Virginia’s Capitol Master Plan “maximizes useful space within the Capitol Square complex in order to bring efficiency and economic benefit to the Commonwealth,” the authors report. “It also provides recommendations to improve energy efficiency, reduce operational and maintenance costs, and achieve the Commonwealth’s sustainability goals for the next 5 to 30 years.”

In other words: It carries Thomas Jefferson’s design into the 21st Century.

Top photo: An aerial of the project area. Source: WRT.

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