Church Hill "Hobbyists" Have Revived Area 

I've owned my home in Church Hill, well North of Broad Street, since 1993. While the cognoscenti weep and gnash their teeth over the redevelopment here, repeatedly expressed in your "There Goes the 'Hood" cover story (April 11), they conveniently overlook the fact that as decrepit or abandoned houses have been reclaimed for responsible owner-occupants, an entire neighborhood has been brought back to life.

By ridding our community of venues for the worst elements of Richmond — the drug dealers, prostitutes, and gang-bangers — the people Ben Campbell calls "hobbyists" have done the residents of Church Hill — black and white, rich and poor — a great service.

Our neighborhood is safer, residents no longer find used hypodermic needles and condoms on the sidewalks, and we are able to live and often raise our children in a healthy and aesthetically pleasing environment among diverse neighbors who value the sense of community we share.

It makes me wonder if the city wouldn't benefit by finding some similarly enterprising folks who could make it their hobby to redevelop the public school system.

Meanwhile, before the Rev. Campbell waxes judgmental about the issues of redevelopment and the availability of affordable housing, I encourage him to note that the retreat center he runs just south of Broad, surrounded by a Bastille-like 10-foot wall, was itself part of an earlier wave of redevelopment on Church Hill, and that its 40-odd fully furnished rooms go unoccupied many more nights of the year than they're occupied.

Charles "Stretch" Ledford

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