Megasuburbia Woes One Reason for Concern About City Neighborhood 

I enjoyed your article “Neighbors in Waiting (Cover Story, June 3), particularly because of the surprising relevance of its premise to my neighborhood in the East End of Richmond. Our neighborhood was the topic of another of last week's issue, “Neighbors Clash About City Oversight of Union Hill” (Street Talk). In the first article Peter Galuszka discusses the failure of transportation-based design and how, due to the economy, changing tastes and a greater desire for sustainable development, house buyers are returning to urban centers.

Union Hill and neighborhoods like it have seen such housing trends come and go.  Our modest houses were built by the men and women who lived in them, both black and white, mostly before the invention of the automobile or even the trolley car. They built houses that met only their needs within walking distance of work, church, school and all the goods and services required for urban life.

Our neighborhood is once again embodying that urban ideal and so it is little surprise that Union Hill's historic houses have seen steady restoration, despite economic woes. It stands in stark contrast to the megaprojects and monster developments featured in Mr. Galuszka's article. When banks once again lend money to speculators and developers, you can be certain Union Hill will be first among their targets for easy profit. Our remaining vacant historic homes could easily be torn down and our empty lots filled with low-quality replacements, destroying the neighborhood we have labored to protect.

That is why our neighbors have worked for two years toward an old and historic district designation from the city. It is the only tool we have to protect our neighborhood and to give it the recognition it deserves. A strong majority of us support this designation, because we have seen the good it has done for neighborhoods to our south and west.  Union Hill's architectural history and its roots as one of the oldest working-class, integrated communities in America are a story worth telling and a heritage worth protecting. We hope our city's leaders agree.   

Matt Conrad

Union Hill Civic Association




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