Officials Seek Ideas for Hull Street Revitalization 

click to enlarge The city and Chesterfield County are joining forces on a revitalization plan for a stretch of Hull Street. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The city and Chesterfield County are joining forces on a revitalization plan for a stretch of Hull Street.

What Richmond and Chesterfield County want to see on Hull Street: "unique, attractive communities," parks, shops and jobs.

What's there now: a trailer park, 1960s apartment complexes, empty lots and 21 vacant commercial and industrial buildings.

The city is seeking experts who can see the potential in the much-used but long-neglected street and advise on how to bring it back to life.

With $400,000 in federal money plus $213,000 in matching funds, the city and Chesterfield County are joining the nonprofit Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corp. to commission a comprehensive "corridor revitalization and livability plan." The plan would cover a 4.7-mile stretch of Hull Street, between Walmsley and Belt boulevards.

It's the first time the county and city have collaborated on a corridor plan, to the best knowledge of urban planning professor John Accordino — and that's a "wonderful thing," he says.

The request for proposals lays out the problems with Hull Street in detail. The vacant buildings create a "run-down look and feel." There's hardly any green space, and people in the area, especially Latino children, have few options for sports and play. Buses don't serve county residents, preventing them from getting to work.

The terms of the grant require the city and county to make some changes: adding daily public transportation, doubling the number of pedestrians and bicyclists, and increasing affordable housing by 10 percent. The consultant will be required to solicit ideas from the public and hold community meetings.

The city is reviewing consultants' proposals, and procurement staffers don't know yet when they'll award the contract.

Hull Street has been studied before. Three years ago, Accordino led a group of urban-planning graduate students at Virginia Commonwealth University in developing their own plan for Hull Street. Among other ideas, they suggested an open-air mall and farmers' market to attract and promote more Hispanic-owned businesses to the area.

Both Richmond and the county were "delighted" with the plan, Accordino says, but didn't take any action to implement it. Perhaps, as has happened in the past, the paid consultant will adopt suggestions from the students' plan, he says: "Regardless of what happens to it, we're happy."

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