vision for Brookland Park Boulevard

There have been many plans hatched (and, subsquently, never developed) for Richmond’s Brookland Park Boulevard. Most of these plans have been for a grand redevelopment without the necessary funding or even a startup plan. It’s time for something a bit smaller in which the entire community can participate (read: volunteer for a day) to make the Boulevard a better place.

In November, I read this story, in which the first example showcases local residents who painted murals of viable storefronts and restaurants on their neglected business corridor, and within a year, it came true.

Recently, and more locally, Richmond’s Storefront for Community Design worked with local associations to brighten up sections of business corridors. Style Weekly highlights the work that was done on one block of Broad Street here.

the picture is no longer current

The headline picture on this blog was taken from a house on my street. That house is currently under major renovation and, until recently, belonged to a very notorious slumlord in Richmond. In fact, five houses are currently being flipped/just flipped in the span of two blocks on my street. Only one of those houses had residents that were required to move (due to their extended family selling the house). All four of the others, I’m happy to say, were unoccupied, and will soon be put to better use!

It’s refreshing to see these houses being brought to new life, to be homes for lives and new stories within them.

npr story: gentrification may help longtime residents

This story, from NPR, explores a study that shows many longtime residents are not displaced during the gentrification process.

do it yourself

When a local government failed to complete much needed road repairs, one man took it upon himself to take on the responsibility. See story here.

the flip side

This art installation centers on NYC pre-Giuliani when Manhattan had scary, gritty places. Sometimes, when an area is rehabilitated, it looses a unique flavor for which early inhabitants can only reminisce. Where does the balance lie in making a neighborhood safe and attractive, while not making it so vanilla that it becomes indistinguishable from the suburban life that we rejected?

power of one person

Here is a story of how one man used his wealth to benefit his town, and stop the trend of blight from eroding it.

how to: effect change #3

Some efforts in our neighborhood have been officially sponsored by our civic association, while others have been done quietly. What I mean here is that, in order to get things done, you have to learn discretion. Each situation calls for a different tactic, and, if it isn’t working, change your tactic.

3. Create a core group that isn’t afraid.

Most people won’t get involved. Everyone has to decide life priorities as it’s necessary for sanity, but, surprisingly, most won’t even bother about what’s happening in front of their house. Whether they are afraid of the situation itself (e.g. drug dealers), or of the work involved to improve the situation, a core group that can overcome these fears to achieve a greater good will be small. Depressingly small. But, if you have even five committed neighbors that are ready to support each other (and the cause at hand), you can make change.

In 2008, there were a few well-established drug houses which were connected with each other. After some frustrating interactions with police, various members of our core group secured meetings with the Chief of Police and our local Commonwealth’s Attorney. We secured the attention of local law enforcement, and were able to have an investigation opened. Our core group was dedicated to shutting these houses down. We fed information to police for two years. They were able to raid all of the involved houses, and send the ring leaders to jail. Everyone in the neighborhood has benefitted, but very few have the courage and perseverance to achieve the end goal.