September 13, 2016

City of Hopewell approves plans for gateway project

Entering into a new endeavor that is anticipated to add to the city’s revitalization momentum, Hopewell city officials have agreed on plans to move forward with a community gateway project in partnership with The Cameron Foundation. City Council approved the preliminary concept for the project during its regularly scheduled meeting on September 13. Council also endorsed the recommendation to commission nationally recognized artist Ralph Helmick to create the sculpture that will serve as the gateway’s centerpiece. The site is located at the east end of the Route 10 Bridge over the Appomattox River, which is a key corridor for travelers entering the city. It is a targeted area for economic development that includes plans for a river walk and Boathouse restaurant overlooking the Appomattox. The art’s location also is near the trailhead of a multi-purpose linear park featured in the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River’s (FOLAR) trail master plan for the community.

Although this is the second of The Cameron Foundation’s community gateway projects to be announced, the Hopewell venture is unique in featuring public art. Helmick, of Newton, Massachusetts, has over 40 major public commissions sited throughout the United States. He is known for creating sculptures that challenge perceptions and take on different forms when viewed from different visual perspectives. His concept for this project incorporates the city’s industrial landscape, with the design calling for a monumental letter H made of geometric scaffolding. One vertical member of the letter slices higher upward than the other, creating different visual effects when viewed from various angles and distances. Helmick was chosen by an artist selection committee of Hopewell city representatives; art curators; as well as Cameron representatives.

Discussions began in 2014 for the City of Hopewell and the Foundation to explore the possibility of working together on the project. The partners previously had signed agreements regarding gateway funding, maintenance, and the artist selection process. Hopewell will construct and maintain the gateway, including making landscape, streetscape, and other site improvements. The Foundation will enter into a contract with Helmick to commission the work. Once the sculpture is installed, Cameron will gift it to the City of Hopewell.

“The use of public art as an anchor to this project creates an iconic symbol for the City of Hopewell,” said Cameron President J. Todd Graham, adding, “When leveraged, gateway projects have the potential to transform communities by fostering a sense of place, stimulating economic development, and promoting tourism. We see how the Hopewell Community Gateway Project can capitalize on all of these benefits.”

Graham emphasized that these large-scale projects have a long-term implementation timeline, often taking several years to develop plans and secure the necessary permits and approvals before being able to implement the improvements. The Hopewell Community Gateway Project is slated for completion by the end of 2017. “We would not be able to make a commitment of this scale without significant buy-in from the city and a clear understanding of the strategic contributions that the project will make to larger efforts led by city officials,” he explained. The total estimated cost of the gateway project is $1.2 million, with the Foundation committing up to 50% of the funding and the City of Hopewell providing the balance.

City Manager Mark A. Haley discussed how the gateway project ties into other initiatives that are in progress across the city. “We recently solidified plans for The Boathouse to establish a restaurant near the site of this gateway. It already has been determined that the Boathouse project has the potential to stimulate more than $17 million in commercial and residential development along that river corridor,” Haley said. He added, “We are witnessing a revitalization of downtown, with Hopewell Downtown Partnership estimating that it has brought in more than $2.5 million in new investments to that area. Those are just two examples of large scale efforts that will gain leverage from the gateway enhancements.”

Haley also was enthusiastic about the timing of these accomplishments. “As we celebrate Hopewell’s 100th anniversary this year, seeing some of these important projects take form gives us a great sense of optimism about the city’s future,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Foundation announced a major planning grant to FOLAR for linking and enhancing the parks and trails along the river. The Hopewell Community Gateway Project complements FOLAR’s plans for improvements along the entranceway to the city, with the sculpture’s location in proximity to the trailhead.

The Cameron Foundation’s initial gateway project, announced in the summer of 2015, is with Prince George County and is for the South Crater Road Exit 45 off of Interstate 95. The plan calls for gateway spires, lighting, landscaping, and other site improvements. The county had targeted the area for revitalization because of its potential to serve as a hospitality hub for tourists and travelers. Construction is under way for that project. Once both are completed, Graham also suggested that the Hopewell and Prince George gateways could generate a larger benefit for the region’s travel and tourism market. “Both localities see potential revenue growth for their communities as a result of these gateway initiatives, and we view the investments as important to our community and economic development priorities for this region,” he noted.

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