When Mayor Dwight Jones was ready to make public his plan for a ballpark development in Shockoe Bottom, some local groups wanted to inject a little love into the pitch.
The result was “Loving RVA,” a marketing campaign designed to rally Richmond around the mayor’s proposal, which that he says will bring economic development – and baseball – to Shockoe Bottom.
Behind the campaign are Venture Richmond and the Greater Richmond Chamber, which enlisted local PR agency Alliance Group, said Jack Berry, executive director of Venture Richmond.
The campaign’s logo is a red heart that says “Loving RVA Starts Downtown.” Organizers have printed fliers with the layout of the proposed project and stickers with the heart design. There’s also a website called LovingRVA.com.
The initial push was hard to miss at the mayor’s Nov. 11 press conference announcing the proposal, where heart-laden posters, stickers, and T-shirts could be seen throughout the crowd. Jones wore a Loving RVA sticker on his lapel. Developer Brian White, whose firm will play a major role in the project, wore a Loving RVA T-shirt.
Berry explained the motto: “It is a play on the word Loving, which refers to the name of the family which has owned much of the Shockoe site for many years, and it expresses our love for RVA and our optimism about its future,” he said.
The Loving family owns Loving’s Produce and about a dozen properties in the Bottom around 17th, 18th, Franklin and Grace streets that would eventually make way for the ballpark village development.
The plan includes a $200-million-plus ballpark village development. In addition to a new playing field for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the project would include 750 apartments, a hotel, a grocery store and a slavery museum site.
Leslie Bruno, director of marketing for the Greater Richmond Chamber, said the Loving RVA campaign is designed to be educational. They want business owners and downtown residents and workers to know exactly what is planned and how it will benefit the city.
Berry said the campaign is expected to cost between $15,000 and $20,000 for expenses such as the website, stickers, fliers and T-shirts. The group plans to cover those expenses with donations from local business leaders who support the project.
Alliance Group will be paid for its services on the campaign, said Rob Jones, the firm’s owner and chief executive.
No city money is being used to fund the campaign, said Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s spokesperson.
Andy Poarch, vice president of communications at Alliance Group, said the firm is happy to be involved.
“I think it shows there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm from folks who want to live, work and play downtown,” Poarch said.
Hawley said the mayor’s revitalization plan is complex, so public education is important.
“While we are working to educate the public through the traditional government platforms, the Loving RVA campaign is also an educational effort to inform the public about the plan and we welcome that support,” Hawley said.