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Media Coverage
Growth Reshapes City Image
April 26, 1999


Monday, April 26, 1999
Section: news
Page: A16
Caption: The year-old Pacific East mall on Pierce Street near Central Avenue is one example of Richmond's growth. (Herman Bustamante Jr/Times)


Motto: "The City of Pride and Purpose, Serving the Richmond Community"

Incorporated: 1905

Population: 92,800

Growth since 1990: 6.1 percent

Median home value: $154,500

Web site: www.ci.richmond.ca.us

By Shawn Masten

Times staff writer

RICHMOND Contra Costa County's second-largest city is in transition.

Long plagued by crime, drugs and poverty, Richmond is working to reshape its image through aggressive economic development.

Luxury homes with sweeping bay views are planned along its southern shore along with new technology centers and business parks, which could bring thousands of new jobs. Business centers, residential communities and neighborhood retail centers are planned on its north shore and along the newly constructed Richmond Parkway.

And affordable new homes and a transit village with a performing arts center are planned for the inner city.

"This town is booming," said Terry Kwong, developer of the year-old Pacific East Mall at the city's southern edge. "With its geographic location, its open land and its views, Richmond is on the verge of something big."

Richmond is in the unique position of being one of the few cities in the Bay Area with an abundance of vacant land.

For surrounding West County cities such as El Cerrito, which is already built out, development in Richmond could be a boon.

"What happens in Richmond will lead to some success for us in the retail end," El Cerrito City Manager Gary Pokorny said. "It has a real impact on our efforts to generate new revenue."

Taking advantage of a thriving economy and the shortage of housing in the Bay Area, Richmond has more than two million square feet of commercial development and 3,000 new houses planned or pending.

"We want to raise revenue, generate jobs, build new homes and give people places to shop," Richmond City Manager Isiah Turner said. "We want the community to say I'm looking forward to spending my whole day in Richmond.' "

Since its incorporation in 1905, Richmond has undergone a series of changes especially along its 32 miles of shoreline.

During World War II, the city was dramatically changed by the Kaiser shipyards, which churned out 747 victory ships in support of the war effort and boosted Richmond's population from 23,642 in 1940 to 101,519 in 1947.

Today it is home to about 93,000 residents and draws home buyers and renters from across the economic spectrum.

"I truly think that the key to Richmond's future is what we do to the shoreline," Councilman Tom Butt said. "If we capitalize on this shoreline and market it, the entire image of this city can change dramatically. And if we fritter it away, we will have lost our chance at greatness."

Richmond has a 500-berth marina, a port, 248 acres of parks, affordable housing and three nationally recognized arts organizations: the Richmond Art Center, the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and the National Institute of Art and Disabilities.

The city also has 37 active neighborhood councils, community policing and one of the easiest commutes in the Bay Area with access to Marin County by the Richmond-San Rafael bridge and to Interstates 80 and 580. And it has the distinction of being the only place in the East Bay where commuters can make a direct connection to Amtrak from the downtown BART station.

"You put it all together with the new businesses and the housing development, and it's exciting what's happening in Richmond," said Judy Morgan, Chamber of Commerce president and longtime resident. "It will just help upgrade our image to the outside world."