Conservation group buys riverfront land once slated for Echo Harbour project

The 5-acre parcel on the James River is currently greenspace, and will be in perpetuity once a conservation easement is placed on the land. (Mike Platania photo)

Riverfront real estate planned for a major condo project over a decade ago has sold to a local conservation group.

Earlier this week, The Conservation Fund purchased 5 acres at 3011 and 3021 Dock St. for $4.87 million.

The Conservation Fund, a Northern Virginia-based nonprofit, is working with the Capital Region Land Conservancy and James River Association to put the parcel under a conservation easement to prevent it from future development and eventually give it to the City of Richmond to become part of the James River Park System.

In the mid-2000s, developers planned a 12-story condo project on the site dubbed Echo Harbour, but those plans were eventually scrapped. The plans to conserve the land were announced in April.

CRLC Executive Director Parker Agelasto, a former city councilman, confirmed the land deal.

He explained why The Conservation Fund was the buyer in the deal, rather than his organization.

“We’ll work collaboratively with them to pay off the amount of the purchase. One thing it does is take some of the financial risk away from CRLC,” Agelasto said. “The Conservation Fund is a national organization, they have their own supply of funding they can tap into.”

Capital Region Land Conservancy Executive Director Parker Agelasto, a former city councilman, was joined by Mayor Levar Stoney and others at the site in April. (BizSense file)

Agelasto said CRLC already has raised about $3.6 million in cash and commitments to help pay down the loan The Conservation Fund took out for the deal.

The property was most recently assessed by the city at $4.15 million. The seller was The USP Cos., a Chantilly-based firm.

The process has already begun to put the land under a conservation easement, something Agelasto estimates will take about a year.

In the meantime, Agelasto said, they’re talking with the city to see if it can lease the land for a year, something that would allow the fencing surrounding the land to be taken down.

“It’s a liability thing, like do we want liability on our shoulders or if we’re opening it up to the public?” he said. “My understanding is a one-year lease with the city doesn’t need to have a financial obligation, just indemnification.”

The Virginia Capital Trail currently runs adjacent to the property along Dock Street, but will eventually be rerouted to go through the land. Agelasto said the specific route hasn’t been selected yet.

“We’re going to be doing some community visioning now that everything is closed and we can put together a site plan,” he said. “They still have to raise the funding to do the build out of it, but that could be done pretty quickly.”

Once the conservation easement is completed and the gift is given, decisions will be made by the city and James River Park System on how the land is ultimately used.

“The questions about programming are still a little bit unanswered,” Agelasto said.

“There will obviously be some restrictions within the conservation easement as to what could be done on the property. But that would not preclude 99 percent of what the public would be interested in.”

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John Lindner
John Lindner
1 month ago

woooohooooo!!!!!! this is fantastic news. I wish the city would back more of these efforts to expand the James River Park system.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
1 month ago

way to go, Parker! This nice flat stretch of wide land could be used so productively for passive and active recreation. Take a look back toward East Main Street. The new Shiplock Watch Apartment building looks like a docked cruise ship, looming over the riverfront.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Unfortunately, this does continue the disconnect between Shockoe and Fulton/Rocketts. While the parks are nice, they are closed at night creating a less safe environment for walking between neighborhoods. Hopefully new developments on and around Fulton Gas Works will properly fill this gap.

Last edited 1 month ago by Justin Fritch
Lee Gaskins
Lee Gaskins
1 month ago

This is great news! The city can definitely support more access (including parking) to the river and the JRPS. Thank you for doing this, Conservation Fund!

Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee Gaskins

I am all for improving access to the river and JRPS, but parking isn’t lacking East of Downtown. You can easily park within a few blocks and/or use Pulse.