Improved infrastructure, redeveloped housing and better health care are some of the goals city planners are setting for Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward.
Known as the Jackson Ward Community Plan, project goals include replacing some public housing with mixed-income housing, building new community and recreational facilities, and improving streetscapes, sidewalks, and traffic. ‘lighting.
At a community meeting two weeks ago at Jackson Ward’s Hippodrome Theater, city and housing officials said the plan would be a two-year process of outreach, engagement and workshops.
“One of the great opportunities we have as a community is to align efforts so everyone in the Jackson neighborhood knows what those plans are,” said Maritza Pechin, Richmond’s associate director of equitable development. “Then where there is conflict between some of the planning efforts, we can find alignment and synergy.”
The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority received a $450,000 Choice Neighborhood grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to kick-start planning.
RRHA coordinates redevelopment efforts with the Richmond City Health District, Storefront for Community Design and other organizations.
In its current form, the goals of the Jackson Ward Community Plan focus on three main goals: renovating the neighborhood itself, meeting the needs of residents, and redeveloping housing in troubled neighborhoods.
Some of the two dozen residents who attended the meeting asked how they could invest in redevelopment, help preserve historic elements of the area, and how redevelopment would address long-term issues such as redlining, an issue that residents have faced for decades.
“We have to make sure we are intentional in the decisions we make about this community,” said Valeria Burton, a Jackson Ward resident of 15 years. “The offer that’s on the table, how is that actually going to help embody the community that’s always been there? Is it going to feel like we were never part of it?
Part of the answer to Ms. Burton’s question is provided in the language of the grant, which requires consistent meetings with residents, conducting community surveys and hiring a coordinator to hold Gilpin residents Informed courts must take place so that officials receive a second HUD grant that would help implement any substantial change in Jackson Ward. If officials and developers meet these requirements, millions of dollars in funding could be available for redevelopment in 2024.
“We will likely start working on an implementation towards the grant towards the end of the planning process so that we can hopefully be successful,” Ms. Pechin said. “We can’t get this big implementation grant without first having a plan.”
The community plan is just one part of several revitalization projects planned for Jackson Ward. The RRHA and the City of Richmond have previously matched HUD planning grant funds with their own funds, as part of efforts to reconnect Jackson Ward and Gilpin Court after the creation of intersection 95, which separated the parts north and south of the community decades ago. .
Officials stressed that while the community plan is a work in progress, some small-scale improvements may be in the works. For example, $200,000 of the planning grant has been set aside for community murals, facades, playground repairs and other area improvements.
Other residents of Jackson Ward, for their part, have turned to larger-scale changes in the neighborhood and Gilpin Court that go beyond redevelopment as a solution to the problems they face. Gary Flowers, a fourth-generation resident of Jackson Ward, sees a need for institutional investment for people already living in the area. He believes public policy initiatives and private financial support are ways to heal “old wounds” inflicted over decades by laws that have harmed residents of Jackson Ward.
“I would invest in the people who are there, not take them out, and I would invest in the people who aren’t there yet,” Flowers said.
The next meeting for residents of Gilpin Court will be June 14 at 6 p.m. in the Fay Towers Community Hall, 1202 N. 1st St., followed by a community meeting on June 16 at 6 p.m. at Gallery5, 200 W. Marshall St.