Go back to listing calendar items by day, not event; Response to Blackwell coverage; Convenience store could reverse progress 


Go back to listing calendar items by day, not event
As a devoted reader for many years, I have very mixed feelings as to the changes in Style.

I always look forward to Tuesday mornings to see what exciting informative stories appear each week. I used to quickly scan the easy to read contents page to see what exciting news awaits inside.

However, the two columns, multi-type faces and sizes of the contents page (while perhaps more "modern") seem to me to be more difficult to attack than the old format.

Style has always been my choice for planning which events to attend. I always keep a copy at home and an extra copy in my car when I am trying to hit several events, gallery openings, concerts, etc. in a single evening. I strongly urge you to go back to listing events by dates and days of the week, not just by categories in the new section titled "night and day."

The Thursday weekend section calendar of Richmond's other paper still lists all events, theater, gallery, openings, concerts, classes, etc. by specific date. Hope you will continue your winning ways of showing all events by day/date of the current week. I look forward to my next issue!

Tom Yeaman Jr.

Response to Blackwell coverage
I appreciated your on-the-ground, extensive article on the Blackwell neighborhood Cover story, May 30. Different folks spoke from their own perspectives. The tone was balanced; no perfect answers here. Only with coverage like this do I know what's going on in Richmond.

Mary Garber

Style Weekly's article in the May 30 edition bears the headline "The Promised Land" and talks to residents of the Blackwell area who have "been there, done that" when it comes to talk about revitalizing this historic part of our city. The article focuses on the sentiments of some longtime residents who understandably may be overwhelmed by the enormity of neighborhood decay and the complexities involved in attempting to reverse decades of deterioration.

But working through those complexities is exactly what the HOPE VI Program is all about. The decay of our communities did not occur over night and the solutions to reverse that cannot be implemented overnight. Just as the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step, so too does Blackwell's journey. Its "first steps" have been well under way since Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority was awarded the HOPE VI grant. When the dust literally settles, as a result of the HOPE VI partnership effort, there will be hundreds of new homes and apartments, a furbished park, a new community center and new streets, complemented by the recently opened Blackwell Elementary school.

Our commitment to improving the quality of life in Blackwell extends to the intensive social services and various educational enhancements that the HOPE VI grant also provides.

By using these tools, Blackwell's families, who are making the commitment, are preparing for better lives for themselves and for a revitalized community.

At the start of it all, we engaged residents and neighborhood leaders as community partners in this project and as we progress, we will continue to welcome their involvement and input.

RRHA is serious about the mandates and responsibilities of the HOPE VI initiative, and we are proud of the contributions the community and RRHA are making to revitalize Blackwell.

Tyrone P. Curtis
Executive Director
Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority

Here are a few facts about Blackwell: 440 units of public housing are being demolished. These units are to be replaced by 420 units of housing in Blackwell. That means 440 families have had to be relocated. Of the 232 units of rental housing to be built, only 82 will be provided to public housing residents. Of the 188 new single family homes, only 90 will be reserved for public housing residents. In order to qualify for home ownership, a two-person family must have yearly income in excess of $16,000. Only 10 percent of Blackwell residents have any earned income, while the median income, according to Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA), is about $8,000. It is anticipated that of the 10 percent with earned income, poor credit will disqualify many of them from the home ownership program. This means that more than 90 percent of the people who live or used to live there will not qualify to purchase a home in the "new Blackwell." Further, if 130 people among 314 families said they want to return (according to RRHA), and all of those folks live in public housing or have Section 8 vouchers, then there aren't enough rental units available anyway to house those who wish to return to Blackwell. For a program purportedly designed to help the poor, this HOPE VI project is little more than forced relocation of the poor population. Once the poor are moved, RRHA intends to bring in predominantly middle- and lower-middle income residents attracted by home ownership incentives designed to target them.

The loss of public housing further illustrates the loss of the affordable housing stock in this country. The benefit of public housing is that it guarantees rental opportunities for people who could not otherwise afford housing. Section 8 housing is only available as long as a landlord is willing to participate in the program. With few exceptions, they can opt out at the end of a lease. Currently, there are more than 2,000 families on the RRHA waiting list for public or subsidized housing. Tearing down Blackwell has put a significant strain on the remaining available stock, without even touching the waiting list.

Under this HOPE VI project, many of the Blackwell residents relocated using Section 8 rental vouchers have had problems finding suitable housing within the metro area, or have had problems with RRHA utility allowance calculations, or have had problems with moving costs. Many others vented their general frustrations at a town meeting at the Imani Center several months ago.

The final outcome in Blackwell remains to be seen. Tenants should be at the table as partners creating the plan and not just be presented with a plan and asked for comments. RRHA needs to understand that residents and tenants know what they want but need to be educated about the tools available to them. These are critical elements in fostering good will and good plans. RRHA's policy of simply relocating the poor from Blackwell is cosmetic. It does nothing to eliminate poverty or achieve its stated goal of increasing home ownership.

M. Maureen Skahan
Community Educator
Brandon K. Beach, Esq.
Staff Attorney
The Virginia Poverty Law Center

Convenience store could reverse progress
I too share the concern of Ed Eck and all those who will have to share the misery of having a convenience store located on West Main Street Metro, June 6.

I have only been a resident of Richmond and the Fan for three years but have seen clearly the effects these types of businesses can have on unstable neighborhoods. Clear signs of the deterioration convenience stores have on neighborhoods are very apparent merely one block over on Cary Street or near my own neighborhood around the 7-Eleven in the "Bermuda Triangle." In the few short years I have lived in the city, I have witnessed the Fan's fight to reclaim its once proud character and beauty. When I first found out about the plan to build a Rennie's on West Main Street, I was appalled. This is a clear reversal of any steps taken to improve the area.

I have been fascinated by the improvements made on Main Street. I feel very strongly that the construction of this gas station will only ruin it. I believe that you will find that residents of the Fan live there because they seek character, personality and individuality, not convenience and repetition; otherwise they would live in the counties.

Joseph Archie Oglesby


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