Commercial corridor in Richmond economic redevelopment

COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR REVIVAL IN RICHMOND

In the 1940s and 50s, Richmond’s Fulton Hill was a bustling, working class neighborhood with vibrant commercial streets and residential blocks. But over the years, businesses closed, people moved out and the community’s social fabric frayed. Conditions deteriorated to the point that, in 2011, neighborhood organizations and local officials embarked on a plan to reverse the decline.

The top goal of that plan was to revitalize the business district. To kick-start that effort, they recruited Joel Bookman and his colleagues at LISC MetroEdge, who walked the business corridor along Williamsburg and Government roads, talking to residents and business owners, getting a sense of how people thought redevelopment should proceed and what their participation in the process would be. A MetroEdge Comprehensive Retail Scan combined in-depth quantitative analysis with on-the-ground community engagement strategies.

Soon, residents were involved in projects such as new landscaping, painting murals and sprucing up vacant storefronts. Local councilwoman Cynthia Newbille saw the level of resident commitment, and the tangible results, and secured $100,000 of City funds for new lighting, curbs, sidewalks and street furniture.

Those improvements caught the attention of prospective business owners, who began occupying the formerly vacant storefronts. It didn’t hurt that construction of 30 new houses had begun in Fulton Hill and that a new residential community, Rockett’s Landing, was in the works less than a mile away.


The crowning achievement of the revitalization effort was when California’s Stone Brewing Company selected Fulton Hill as the location for a new $75 million, 200,000-square-foot brewery and brewpub, employing more than 200 people. That opened the floodgates.

 

Richmonder Matt Sanders told the Richmond Navigator that he’d seen how the once economically depressed neighborhood had made an amazing transformation over the past decade or so. But it wasn’t until Stone’s announcement that he got serious about investing in Fulton.

“As soon as I heard Stone Brewing was coming,” he said, “I started looking at houses there.”

So did other prospective buyers and businesses. Fulton Hill has come a long way, as have the residents and business owners who helped start the redevelopment. They were in on the ground floor. And still are.

 

For more information:

In Richmond, Va., the first steps to revive a once-vibrant business strip

Assessing the Fulton Hill commercial corridor

Working to break free from the past