The following story was submitted by Coldon Martin.
There is something special that happens when our community unites under a common cause. Whether it’s spending an afternoon at the Richmond Folk Festival, putting on your best makeup for the Richmond Zombie Walk, or finding the freshest vegetables in town at the Chesterfield Farmers Market, RVA is clearly a region that thrives with the pulse of participation. That was the same vibe experienced at the recent Public Workshop revealing plans for the revitalization of the Hull Street corridor.
After months of public outreach, surveys, focus groups and planning, the Hull Street 360 project, a coalition of the City of Richmond, Chesterfield County and Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corporation, held a public workshop with a program presented in Spanish and in English at Ramsey Memorial Church October 23. As the meeting kicked off around 6, it became clear that the project was as important to the community as the planners had hoped it would be. From inquiring citizens and neighborhood-watch leaders, to representatives from GRTC and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the church’s gym was alive with the spirit of curiosity and cooperation from a very diverse community. Upon arriving, visitors could “take a tour” of the project area as they walked amongst posters and displays outlining the various improvements that could take place over the next several years. At each stop along the way, officials were able to answer questions, take suggestions (all of which were written down and displayed next to the posters), and find out exactly how the project was perceived by the people it affected most.
Following a complimentary spaghetti dinner provided by Hull Street caterer — CandleWick Catering — the group settled down to hear an informative presentation that further outlined the scope of the project. Led by Deana Rhodeside of Rhodeside and Harwell, the planning and urban design firm behind the latest improvement plans, the presentation showcased the various ways the corridor could “catch up” with other economically stronger regions of the city. More than anything, these improvements were based around the idea that Hull Street should feel more inviting than its current condition suggests. As one speaker put it, the corridor needs to be a destination in itself as opposed to being merely a passageway to others. From building better sidewalks (or even sidewalks at all in many cases) and dedicated bike paths to converting underused parking lots into green-oriented mini-parks, the presentation certainly made the case for giving the area another shot.
As the presentation moved on, attendees were able to offer their perspective through a lengthy question/comment session. For many, this was clearly the reason for attending. What could have been merely a sounding board, however, actually became the perfect centerpiece of the evening. Concerns ranging from gentrification to budget issues dominated the discussion, but never de-railed the optimistic tone of the evening. Even as the night concluded, the room was still bustling with thoughtful conversation, the sharing of ideas, and many handshakes and phone numbers being exchanged.
All in all, the event was an incredible testament to our community. Though the revitalization process is only now gaining momentum, the success of events like last this workshop are a surefire sign of the exciting times ahead of us. In the meantime, the organizers still welcome input in the form a quick survey found on Hullstreet360.com. Additionally, they also welcome everyone to attend their next community meeting. That event will be held on Tuesday January 8th at Manchester Middle School from 6-8 pm (programs in English and Spanish).
The slide-shows from the October 23rd meeting can be downloaded here: