Low-income housing could be coming to tony West End ... 

Street Talk

Low-Cost Housing In Short Pump's Future
Red Cross Faces $300K of Red Ink
Easter Celebration Gets Jewish Twist
The Little Park That Could, Did
Work Inc. Scores NFL Ads Project
SOS Quits Push for Police Animal Control

Low-Cost Housing In Short Pump's Future

Just think: You could earn near-minimum wages at the future mall in Short Pump and still afford a new apartment only blocks away from your high-salary customers in neighboring Wellesley.

That's if a low-cost housing complex proposed for the Far West End clears its next hurdle. The Better Housing Coalition, a Richmond nonprofit group that is developing the planned 290-unit apartment complex, expects to receive state tax-credit approval for the project next month.

After that, "it'll be a go, provided we do all of the community involvement piece," says Lynn McAteer, BHC marketing director. In fact, the BHC already has started discussing the $22 million Gayton Greens North project with Henrico County officials and neighborhood groups to secure "their involvement and their blessings" — and freebies such as utility hookups and a community development block grant to make the affordable housing affordable to build.

Gayton Greens North, targeted for near the intersection of West Broad Street and North Gayton Road, would be less than a mile from the vast, upscale Wellesley development. While not designed as housing for Short Pump Town Center employees per se, in future years "there will be a couple of thousand people working out there, and they won't all be store managers" earning decent salaries, McAteer notes.

Up to half of the 290 units would be designated "affordable," making them available to low-income residents who meet the BHC's income-to-family-size formula. The apartments could become available about the same time Short Pump Town Center opens: summer 2002.
— Rob Morano

For more information, view Richmond Better Housing Coalition

Red Cross Faces $300K of Red Ink

Richmonders' record-setting generosity last year to national and international Red Cross causes has had the unintended effect of leaving the charity's local chapter with a six-figure shortfall.

Richmond Red Cross CEO Heath Rada says that while local donations to refugee crises in Kosovo, earthquake victims in Turkey and flood victims from Hurricane Floyd and the deluge in Mozambique exceeded $1 million, "we are still in need of about $300,000 in order to meet our local budget."

That's because 100 percent of the donations designated for specific disasters go where they are earmarked to be sent, and not to local Red Cross efforts. The high level of local giving to national and international efforts apparently has come at a cost of funds for Richmond-area families in need.

"Folks who would donate to the local chapter have donated to those relief funds," Richmond Red Cross spokesman Bill Harrison says.

Rada adds that "with the increasing expenses that we've had ... we're cutting it close." Winter storms and an increase in the number of families left homeless after fires are to blame for increased local expenditures.

The $1.5 million budget for the chapter's fiscal year, which ends June 30, appears headed for a $300,000 shortfall if present trends continue. According to statistics from Rada, the Richmond chapter has helped 287 families financially so far this fiscal year, up from 214 families at this time last fiscal year.
— R.M.

Easter Celebration Gets Jewish Twist

Christian members of Ginter Park Baptist Church in North Side will soon get a taste of Jewish tradition. Literally, in the form of a bona fide Seder meal.

It's rare that the Christian holiday, Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, commemorating Christ's Last Supper with his disciples, falls on the first full day of Passover, the Jewish ritual honoring the Israelites' flight into Egypt. But this year, coincidentally, on April 20, it does.

And for participants in the church's annual Holy Thursday service, it means a traditional Passover menu of unleavened bread, bitter herbs and boiled eggs.

"We were going to ask a local rabbi to do the service," says church member Elaine Lidholm, "but it's kind of their big night. It'd be like a Jewish [synagogue] asking a Christian minister to talk on Easter."

Instead, member Dr. Don Polaski, an adjunct professor of Greek and Hebrew, will assist the church minister, Dr. R. Lee Gallman Jr., by conducting the service in Hebrew.

The interesting thing, says Lidholm, is that the service is authentic, "there's not a Christian twist on it."

Dr. Gallman insists it's even more, something that Christianity and Judaism share. "It's the common story of God's liberating power. We're not dealing with another God or another story." The Seder meal and service begins at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Reservations are suggested. Call 359-2475 for information.
— Brandon Walters

The Little Park That Could, Did

Few so-called "grass-roots" efforts actually involve pulling weeds, but after two years of looking out of her Floyd Avenue home at a seedy, litter-studded city park, Pat Daniels put the garden gloves on and got busy.

"I was out this morning," she says. "But what I'm finding is that I'm not the only one picking it up now." And on Thursday, the Friends of Sydney Park, a group she co-founded last year with neighbor Mary Sawyer, will officially dedicate the now-pristine plot that was reclaimed in November with more than a little help from individual and organizational friends. What started as a one-woman cleanup crusade has evolved into a multimember blight-busting band.

Tops on Daniels' and Sawyer's list is Vice Mayor Rudy McCollum Jr., who matched from his discretionary budget the $6,000-plus the Friends of Sydney Park raised from residents, businesses and groups, including the Greater Richmond Environmental Action Trust, the Fan District Association, the Clean City Commission and the Fan Women's Club. McCollum will lead Thursday's 3 p.m. dedication ceremony.

At the three-way intersection of Floyd Avenue with Morris and Brunswick streets near VCU, the park long was notable only as an overgrown triangle the city mowed but twice a year, and as a place where drunks dozed and fraternity and sorority pledges were hazed. But the wooden benches spray-painted and carved with graffiti now have been replaced with new, green, metal benches and trash cans. The holly and crape myrtle trees have gotten some long-overdue maintenance, and the volleyball-court-sized grass plot looks great.

"It's really an extension of our patio, almost," says Jay Rupkey, co-owner of the new World Cup coffee house that also officially opened at the site this week. "We put a fence up ... with an opening to the park. It's going to be such a draw."

There are even flowers now, and an irrigation system, and a stone marker that proudly proclaims the park's name. But why "Sydney Park"? Sydney is the name of the town west of the Richmond city line of the early 1800s, an area that encompassed all of the Fan — south of Park Avenue, that is.
— R.M.

Work Inc. Scores NFL Ads Project

The commercials that every ad agency yearns to create are those for clients willing to pay to air them during the Super Bowl. But only a small, young Richmond firm can say it's got the Super Bowl itself for a client.

Work Inc. has landed part of the NFL's in-house "Feel the Power" TV campaign and is the only agency with a shot at getting the rest of it. Sheri Lawson, account service director at Work Inc., says the firm will learn this week — in a meeting expected to include NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue — if it will get to produce the TV spots it has been concepting with the NFL's in-house creative staff.

The NFL does not have an agency of record and usually only uses in-house staff to create and produce its ads. But with increased competition for viewers expected from the Summer Olympics in September, the NFL decided it could use a few fresh ideas to ensure a good kickoff to the season.

"We saw Work's proven creative reputation, as well as their tenacious enthusiasm as the perfect combination for working on this project," NFL Creative Director Bob Stohrer says in a statement. Lawson and Work Inc. President Cabell Harris say the "Feel the Power" campaign also could include online and outdoor components. The TV spots themselves will start airing in August and use game footage to promote the theme that "anything's possible" in pro football, Lawson says.

Work Inc., a 5-year-old, 15-employee firm, has been seeking client companies only for the past two months, previously serving only as an "agency to other agencies," Harris says. "The best agencies are working on sports-related brands ... so I think this helps put us in a league where we want to be."
— R.M.

SOS Quits Push for Police Animal Control

After months of urging City Council and local police to move the city's Division of Animal Control out of the health department and return it to the auspices of the Richmond Police Department, Save Our Shelters, the animal rescue, adoption and advocacy group has given up. And, oddly, this time without a fight.

But only because it's seemingly been given the cold shoulder by police Chief Col. Jerry Oliver and, what's more, it's gotten everything it asked for in the first place.

"We received a lot of resistance from the chief." says SOS president Jeanne Bridgforth. "It would have been set up for failure."

SOS had been trying to get the animal control department moved back under police control to make animal crimes like dog fighting more visible and prosecutable and to better address issues of public safety.

Under the new proposal, submitted by shelter Program Manager Thomas Chatman and given the go-ahead in an informal City Council meeting April 11, animal control officers now will be trained and armed as special police officers. Also new, police officers will be trained and educated about animal violence. And, most important, the police and shelter will work together to investigate animal violence, even sharing resources like the police communications dispatch system.

"We have a working relationship with the police," says Bridgforth, "and everything we want. It's actually not a compromise at all."

Officially, the department will remain under the health department, and, Bridgforth says, if all the changes go according to plan, SOS will not push for future incorporation into the police department's authority. In addition, Bridgforth says the proposal calls for the creation of a commission to oversee the administration of the animal control shelter, which should be set up by February 2001. "All around," says Bridgforth, "it's going to make a big difference."
— B.W.

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