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Allens Sell House, Move to Washington; After a Warning, T-D Settles with Union; Could Ukrop's Someday Offer Shop-and-Shower? 

Street Talk

Allens Sell House, Move to Washington

he back-and-forth between Richmond and Washington, D.C., finally got the best of Sen. George and Susan Allen, who have moved their family closer to the nation's capital — and to Allen's offices.

Last week, amid political events, the Labor Day weekend and back-to-school preparations, the Allens packed their bags for their new home in Fairfax County. They were in a hectic — and difficult-to-reach — mode of transition, says Allen spokeswoman Carrie Cantrell. "It's obviously a very difficult time."

Besides logistics, Cantrell says, the Allens are dealing with uprooting themselves and their three children, Tyler, Forrest and Brooke. "They are moving from a place they have really grown to love," Cantrell says, noting the good public schools in the area.

At least work and home will be a little closer together. After Allen's term as governor was over, the family moved out of the Executive Mansion and into a contemporary, two-story home at 10720 Cherokee Road. Then, in November 2000 the former governor was elected to the Senate. Since then, he's logged lots of miles.

Last week, the Allens weren't in their new house quite yet, but they left behind a very comfortable abode — one of the few million-dollar homes in the Richmond area.

They bought the home in January 1998 for $824,500, according to Chesterfield County property records. They had 5,470 square feet of finished space, five bedrooms, four and a half baths, a fireplace and a swimming pool. But it wasn't easy to sell.

The Allens put their house on the market for $1.3 million, according to a source, but eventually had to drop their asking price to just over $1 million. As of last week, a contract was pending, and the final sale price was unknown.

The newly Northern Virginian Allens will miss Richmond, Cantrell says. "But in order to keep their family together," she adds, "they needed to move to Fairfax County." — Jason Roop

After a Warning, T-D Settles with Union

It may have been the hand of a federal agency that nudged management at the Richmond Times-Dispatch toward the resolution of a long-running, contentious contract dispute with newsroom employees. Or the timing may have been a coincidence.

For 12 months, the Richmond Newspapers Professional Association, which represents 180 newsroom employees at the Media General-owned paper, have been negotiating a new contract with management.

Talks began in July 2000. Things got off to a rocky start. Within a month, a union representative had filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the National Labor Relations Board office in Baltimore, charging that the company was discouraging union activity.

In September the union's contract expired with no new agreement, and union members became increasingly riled. In January, employees showed up at the Times-Dispatch's 150th anniversary celebration with T-shirts and signs. In March union employees, angry at what they called the company's hardball negotiating tactics, boycotted the Virginia Press Association's annual banquet. Still no agreement.

Then last month something changed, says Michael Paul Williams, a Times-Dispatch columnist and reporter who is president of the T-D journalists' union.

In early August, the National Labor Relations Board told the Times-Dispatch it would issue a complaint against the newspaper for failing to bargain in good faith. That meant an NLRB investigation — which heard arguments from the union and the company — had found sufficient evidence to warrant putting the union's allegations before an administrative law judge.

"After that," Williams says, "we got more done in two weeks than we had the entire preceding year. And we were able to hammer out a contract that included fair provisions on grievance arbitration, discipline and discharge, and management rights."

So last week the union signed its new contract, for which employees had overwhelmingly voted on Aug. 24. The three-year contract, which expires in August 2004, includes a gradual 7 percent across-the-board pay increase, a 3 percent merit-pay increase and a signing bonus.

"We're happy to have an agreement," says Times-Dispatch spokesman Karl Rhodes, "and now it's time to move forward." As for the NLRB decision, which has now been dropped because the contract has been signed, the company is not commenting.

Employees didn't get everything they wanted, Williams says, but feel it's good to have the negotiations behind them.

"Obviously when you have a situation like that," Williams says, "it causes a lot of tension in the newsroom. All that's not going to go away immediately, but I have noticed a difference." — J.R.

Could Ukrop's Someday Offer Shop-and-Shower?

It could be the quintessential West End experience: yoga at Ukrop's.

In a very preliminary way, Ukrop's Super Markets and the YMCA of Greater Richmond are considering what kinds of services they could team up to offer.

The idea for a partnership sprang from Ukrop's during the past six months, says Don Jones, chief operating officer of the YMCA. "It's just an idea," he stresses. "At this point it's a seed, and it's getting a little water put on it."

By now, it's standard for grocery stores to bring in outside service providers, such as banks and pharmacies. Ukrop's, already involved in those areas, started thinking about opportunities in the area of wellness. So it approached the YMCA.

The question: What if a new Ukrop's store were to be built larger, to allow for space that could be leased to the YMCA? "It wouldn't be a gym," Jones says. "But it could be some of our wellness services. It could be a teen center. It could be a youth space for after-school tutorial programs. … We're exploring all the possibilities."

The YMCA has been trying to gauge public interest through telephone surveys and has been studying whether such services are offered elsewhere in the country. Ukrop's isn't ready to talk. "It's really premature to comment on," says Nancy Jo Ukrop, spokeswoman for the chain. "We're always open to options."

"This is at least a year or two away — if this were to come to pass," Jones says. But one thing he knows without a study: There will be no chlorine involved. "I don't think we're planning to build a swimming pool in any Ukrop's grocery stores, I can tell you that," he says. — J.R.

Mall Fight Takes "Grassroots" Approach

Local news media peppered our consciousness again last week with visions of dueling shopping malls.

But in a new twist, a grassroots community organization has formed to support the retail development in Short Pump.

"Grassroots"? Well, sort of.

For the past few weeks, tens of thousands of letters asking for support of the project have been mailed to residents of neighborhoods all across town. The letter, which has an earthy green logo in the corner, gives respondents a way to register their support for the mall and join a mailing list.

The "Friends of Short Pump Town Center" started as a group of six Henrico residents representing six different districts who either know the developer, Thomas Pruitt, or support his and the developer, Forest City's mission to build the "nation's first open-air retail center."

"It's the one thing we have in common," says John Fain, a member of the group and a senior vice president at Overnite Transportation.

"We have organized our efforts to appeal to county supervisors, people throughout the city, the state and the world," Fain says. There's no sense, he says, in his wife and others having to go to Norfolk or Northern Virginia to shop at an upscale mall.

In a few weeks, the Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the $25.5 million in bonds provided by Henrico County's Community Development Authority can be used to help Short Pump Town Center spring to life.

Taubman Centers, the group that owns Regency Square and is slated to open the Shops at Stony Point in 2003, continues to challenge the use of the bonds.

Fain and his grassroots buddies didn't actually mail the letters themselves. That was done with the help of the public-relations firm hired by Pruitt and Forest City, Richmond-based Carter Ryley Thomas.

"We used them as a resource," says Fain. "We don't have the ability to stuff 70,000 envelopes," he adds with a laugh.

Carter Ryley Thomas is more than a resource, though. The savvy firm is undertaking a wide-ranging PR campaign on Pruitt's behalf, including disseminating a thick packet to local news media detailing competitor Taubman's troubles with a mall in Denver.

A spokeswoman with the communications office for Taubman in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., says Taubman has not heard anything about its competitor's grassroots effort. She says she's never heard of a grassroots effort being launched this early in the game.

"That's very bizarre," says the Taubman representative, who asked not to be named.

Brandon Walters

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