Thalhimers Razing Kicks Off Richmond’s Revitalization

Wed November 24, 2004 - Southeast Edition

On Oct. 23, Richmond, VA’s Thalhimers department store began crumbling, marking the end of an era and the next step toward a performing arts center in downtown.

A “deconstruction” crew released the wrecking ball at 10 a.m. from the corner of Seventh and Broad streets, concretely representing the beginning of about 16 weeks of demolition and debris cleanup.

Although demolition officially began June 12, “extreme demolition” began [on Oct. 23], Brad Armstrong, chief executive officer and president of the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation, told the Richmond Times Dispatch.

The foundation is responsible for the demolition and the construction of the Virginia Performing Arts Center on the site. Organizers unveiled the center’s design June 12 during a street festival. Since the festival, a crew has been dismantling the infrastructure of the building to prepare for the external demolition.

The construction of the performing arts center highlights the beginning of downtown revitalization.

“[Today] represents a milestone in the visible transformation from old to new,” Armstrong said. “The Thalhimers building has been a symbol of a downtown that needs help. The symbol is going away [today] to be replaced with a symbol of hope, newness, life and energy.”

According to the Times Dispatch, the center’s construction is just one project in a downtown revitalization that includes a new Hilton hotel, a new federal courts building, a new convention center, VCU expansion and other projects

The Times Dispatch reported that the performing arts center, including acquisition of the building, demolition and renovation of the nearby Carpenter Center, and construction of the center, will cost the arts foundation $93 million. Officials said they hope to complete construction by mid-2007, in time for the 400th anniversary celebration of the Jamestown landing.