James River Center to offer leading-edge science learning for local youths

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 5/18/2023, 6 p.m.
Richmond’s riverfront is gaining a new center whose purpose will be to introduce thousands of area schoolchildren to the James ...
Artist rendering of new center

Richmond’s riverfront is gaining a new center whose purpose will be to introduce thousands of area schoolchildren to the James River each year.

The James River Association (JRA) broke ground on May 8th on the James A. Buzzard River Education Center to be developed on a nearly 1-acre site in the 3000 block of Dock Street.

Mayor Levar M. Stoney was on hand to celebrate the start of the multimillion dollar development that is named for a now-deceased board chair of the nonprofit group that advocates for the river and promotes environmental learning.

The property is part of 5.2 acres the Capital Regional Land Conservancy purchased two years ago between Great Shiplock Park and Intermediate Terminal. The land was slated for a private development that never went forward.

“Our goal is to make sure that every child growing up in what Outside Magazine named ‘The Best Rivertown Ever’ is introduced to the James River and is able to enjoy the benefits it provides,” Bill Street, president and CEO of JRA, said at the ceremony.

“Breaking ground on this project is the culmination of more than six years of searching for a site, planning and design. We are thrilled to finally have this project on its way to becoming a reality.”

JRA purchased the land last year. The new center, to open in about 14 months, is one of three the association is building along the river, with a second located near Lynchburg and the third planned for the Williamsburg area.

Funding for the centers comes from a portion of the $26 million that JRA raised through its James Changer campaign. The fundraising campaign, which exceeded its original $20 million goal, began July 1, 2019, and ended June 31, 2022.

“Meeting the most ambitious campaign JRA has ever set and finishing it before the three-year campaign officially closed is truly extraordinary. This remarkable progress was made possible only through the generosity of our donors,” reads a statement on JRA’s website.

“Building a leading-edge education center on the city’s riverfront will expand our ability to engage local youths, particularly from the East End,” Mr. Street said.

This center will particularly help Richmond Public Schools in its efforts to provide place-based science learning, Josh Bearman, program director for the Blue Sky Fund and former RPS science instructional specialist, said when the project was first announced.

“The James River Center would represent a great opportunity for students to take part in meaningful environmental science education that focuses on the issues and resources within their city,” Mr. Bearman had said.