Reno Will Honor NationsBank Prosecution Team 

Street Talk

Reno Will Honor NationsBank Prosecution TeamUR Feels Freshman Squeeze, TooShockoe Bottom Gets Preservation BoostOld Homes Targeted for Renovation, SaleBarkley Bounces into Buddy'sNo Sidewalk? No ProblemU Va. Grad's Book Full of Fan FlavorPowhite Toll Signs Hang Pretty in PinkReno Will Honor NationsBank Prosecution Team

Attorney General Janet Reno will present awards for superior performance next month to the team of local prosecutors and assistants who successfully prosecuted the NationsBank murder case.

Receiving the annual national Director's Award will be Kenneth E. Melson, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas S. Altimari; Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Stone; paralegal Susan Vick; and secretary Elizabeth Watson.

The team secured life sentences last year against Lafawn DeWayne Bobbitt and Rashi Taque Jones for the Jan. 30, 1997 robbery of the NationsBank branch at 1718 Williamsburg Road. Bobbitt, the trigger man, killed 21-year-old teller Lori Robinson, and wounded three others, including a bank guard who was blinded in the attack.

The team will receive the awards Oct. 1 at the Ronald Reagan building in the International Trade Center in Washington.

"Although grateful to the department for these honors, we are still to this day mindful of, and touched by, the tremendous sacrifices still being made by the victims of this senseless crime and their families," Altimari says.

— Richard Foster

UR Feels Freshman Squeeze, Too

VCU isn't the only college this year to flex its creative muscle with student housing.

University of Richmond also has a dormitory dilemma. "We have a complex situation here," says Dr. Leonard Goldberg, the college's vice president of student affairs. Of the college's nearly 900 first-year students who are guaranteed student housing, 52 men and 80 women are being accommodated in spaces other than in usual dorms. The overflow, claims Goldberg, is a result of more freshmen than expected, more returning students, and fewer students moving off-campus. And while administration officials like Goldberg say these factors show the campus' growing popularity, they've had to construct makeshift dorms in a hurry.

On the men's side of the campus, recreation areas and study lounges — many of which were created last year, ironically, from extra dorms — had to be transformed, complete with technical wiring for phones and computers.

"The women were more problematic," says Goldberg. Formal parlors known as the Blue Room and Pink Room in North Court on Westhampton's women's side of the campus were converted to dorm rooms. And a house two blocks off campus owned by the university is home this semester to nine freshman women. "The house has a sun porch," says Goldberg "and they really like it." There was even talk that one of the rooms at the Robins Center used by visiting teams would be converted to female dorm space for six students. But Goldberg says this last resort wasn't needed. The crowding should ease up this spring. "We'll have space then because a large number of our students study abroad."

— Brandon Walters

Shockoe Bottom Gets Preservation Boost

After last month's demolition of two of Jackson Ward's most historic houses, it's nice to have a restoration success story. Or at least the plans for one.

The long forlorn-looking antebellum Crump double house and the two Lockwood houses on East Grace Street in Shockoe Bottom have been selected by the William Byrd Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) for restoration.

"Our goal is to restore it to a residential duplex as it was in 1819," says Joseph Lahendro, restoration architect for the Crump double house. Lahendro says it is not known yet how much the project will cost or when it will be completed, but says the it's a positive move for historic preservation.

Throughout history, the Greek-revival-style building has also been used as a grocery store, and churches have held services there. "We're taking it step by step," says Lahendro. "The William Byrd Branch's mission is historic restoration," he says. "They're not into it because it's a good business venture."

— B.W.

Old Homes Targeted for Renovation, Sale

Thousands of Richmond's oldest vacant residences soon will be documented and marketed to prospective homeowners as part of an effort to renovate the homes themselves and to preserve the historic neighborhoods they define.

The Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (ACORN) is taking an entrepreneurial approach to historic preservation, says Dixon Kerr, chairman of the 2-year-old nonprofit group. ACORN's ambitious first project will begin with digitally photographing and compiling information on the 3,500 to 7,500 vacant residences of historic interest in the city. ("Figures vary radically," Kerr says.)

Then the group hopes to entice buyers with help finding and financing the right home for them. Kerr and Historic Richmond Foundation Executive Director Chandler Battaile say the approach has been a huge success in places such as Charleston and New Orleans.

"I feel they're really filling a void in the preservation community here," Battaile says of ACORN. Historic Richmond is providing office space and other support to the group, and representatives will be among speakers at ACORN's free workshop for prospective historic-homeowners and others interested in improving their neighborhoods.

The six-topic seminar will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at Second Presbyterian Church, 5 N. Fifth St. Information on state and federal tax credits will be presented. Call 783-9246 for reservations.

— Rob Morano

Barkley Bounces into Buddy's

There's something about Buddy's that keeps Charles Barkley coming back.

When in town, the Houston Rockets' forward picks the popular Fan restaurant and bar as his hangout. On a recent Monday, Barkley, along with 20 friends and members of the VCU Athletic Association — which brings the NBA all-star to town yearly — stopped in for a few thirst quenchers. But they weren't drinking Gatorade.

"It was quite a little entourage he had with him," says Buddy's owner, Jeff Sullivan. "It was kind of nice because it was one of the slower nights." Buddy's received a celebrity heads-up earlier that afternoon from VCU, but the restaurant staff was asked to keep mum. Otherwise, it was business as usual. And for those who happened into Buddy's that evening, two rounds were down the hatch, compliments of Barkley. And according to Sullivan, Barkley got a kick out of choosing the music — Motown — that played in the bar. Barkley and friends stayed nearly three hours until midnight. "He ran up a $500 tab," says Sullivan, most of which was for margarita shooters. And yes, he's a good tipper.

— B.W.

No Sidewalk? No Problem

"Just because the city won't put in a sidewalk ... doesn't mean that you don't have to clean up after your dog!"

So read the small signs stapled to a utility pole and tree on Davis Avenue between Floyd and Grove. Guess what? Pet owners appear to be complying.

A scientific examination (the bend-and-look method) of two cement-free stretches on Davis found paw prints but no other evidence of canine, er, movements. And on a recent stroll down the dirt path with her aging beagle, Chelsea, renter Nichole Bower proudly displayed puppet-style her plastic bag scoop.

But homeowners say they're worried not only about what they might step in as they tread the weedy and seedy-looking sidewalk-less zones, or their effect on property values, but the pedestrian hazard they present. The untended areas naturally lead people to walk in the street, "especially if it's muddy, as it has been recently," says Denny Fox, who lives at the corner of Davis and Grove. He's seen vehicles nearly clip school kids in the morning and restaurant-goers in the evening.

Mayor Timothy Kaine, who represents the Fan, said he's aware of the situation and is trying to help. Fan District Association President Paul Feine says the city actually has put the sidewalks project on its list of things to do and should get to it within 18 to 24 months. "It seems like an excruciating amount of time," Feine agrees, but he applauds Kaine for pledging some of his discretionary funds to the project.

"I've used council district discretionary funds to put sidewalks in ... but I sort of do 'em as they come to my attention," Kaine said. "If the FDA could kind of give me a list, I'd do what I can to get them all done."

With the bemused patience of a 30-year Fan veteran, Davis Avenue homeowner Randy Swyers says he can wait. Still: "I was all excited, thinking it was going to happen real soon."

— R.M.

U Va. Grad's Book Full of Fan Flavor

Just what is it that makes spaghetti … la Joe so darn good?

If the secret's in the sauce, you may soon find out.

Ann Meade Besenfelder, a recent U. Va. graduate, and Jefferson Scholar, has taken her love of Richmond's Fan restaurants to heart — and to press. "I've always loved the Fan. My picture's hanging in the bathroom of the Robin Inn from when I was 4," she says.

Besenfelder, a Richmond native and current Fan dweller, says the time is ripe for her book idea. After six months of research, financing and negotiations — including the start of her own publishing company, Meade Press — Besenfelder hopes fellow Richmonders will not only want to eat at the popular Fan mainstays, but also will want to buy a book about them. The yet untitled book includes 12 historic eateries such as Joe's Inn, Julian's and Soble's, complete with a brief history of each, lots of pictures and recipes for each restaurant's most-famed dish. The large glossy book is due to hit local bookshelves this November. And for $20, you could get that Joe's Inn spaghetti sauce recipe you've always wanted. But be prepared to feed the masses. It's only revealed in its 60-gallon version. Now that's a lot of Joe.

— B.W.

Powhite Toll Signs Hang Pretty in Pink

Toll plazas aren't known for their aesthetic appeal.

And motorists don't demand it. Instead, they're too busy digging for change and scrambling into a lane they hope is speedy.

But travelers of Richmond's expressways can't help but take notice, if not pause, at the new magenta-and-green toll signs that hang like bright billboards over Powhite Parkway and the Downtown Expressway.

The Richmond Metropolitan Authority, which owns and operates the toll plazas, decided it was time — with Smart Tag's debut July 1— for a new look, says Linnie Carter, community affairs coordinator with the RMA. The previous white-and-black toll signs were the originals and hung for more than 20 years.

The hot pink and green colors were chosen because they were "distinguishable and did not conflict with the colors of other transportation signs," notes Carter. The perky-colored signs were made by Detroit sign company Vultron.

Now motorists with exact change zip under magenta signs, those in need of full-service head for the green and Smart Tag owners steer toward white signs.

It's unlikely the rainbow signage will reduce road rage. But it could make the 50-cent toll toss a little more agreeable.

— B.W.

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