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ACORN announces 2008 Golden Hammer special award winners

September 9, 2008 5:35 pm by

The Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (ACORN) has announced the Golden Hammer winners for 2008. The winners of the 6 different awards are: Rachel Flynn, Calder Loth, Historic Housing LLC (David White, Larry Schifflett, Louis Salomonsky), Three Strands Management (Gray Oliver, Cynthia Oliver and Tory Smith), Better Housing Coalition (T.K. Somanath), and Shanna Merola.

The Preservation Advocacy Award:
Rachel Flynn

Honored for spearheading the monumental effort to establish a new Master Plan for Downtown Richmond. 

Her inclusion of the public in the planning process is unprecedented for this city.  Further, the resonating tone of “traditional city” appears throughout the Master Plan document suggesting that Richmond should be about the business of creating a Downtown as many remember; a city of integrated economic activity and where residents actually live all facets of their lives in one dynamic, easily accessible and walkable area, as opposed to the forced segmented lifestyle in suburbia that centers around the automobile rather than people.  Additionally, Ms. Flynn included – for the first time ever – Historic Preservation as a significant component of the Master Plan, acknowledging that preserving Richmond’s historic resources is a necessity for creating a vibrant downtown.  Flynn believes that Richmond’s citizens deserve great public spaces and has presented a Downtown Master Plan that is designed for all Richmond’s citizens, not just corporate, business, or government interests.  As Ms. Flynn recently stated in John Sarvay’s popular Internet blog on all things Richmond:  “we’re not the Department of Individual Development, we’re the Department of Community Development”.  A.C.O.R.N. salutes Rachel Flynn’s dedication to creating a great Downtown for all Richmonder’s to enjoy.

The Edmund A. Rennolds, Jr. Excellence in Architecture Award:
Calder Loth

Calder Loth is the Senior Architectural Historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and has worked for the agency since 1968 when it was established.  

He has advised countless historic property owners throughout the state (indeed the world!) and mentored the scores of preservationists with whom he has worked. He has been the author or co-author of numerous books and scholarly articles, beginning in 1975 with The Only Proper Style and including The Making of Virginia Architecture in 1992, Virginia Landmarks of Black History in 1995, and Lost Virginia: Vanished Architecture of the Old Dominion in 2001.  He has been the editor for four editions of The Virginia Landmarks Register, the essential reference for devotees of the Commonwealth’s rich architectural heritage.  Mr. Loth is a member of the Virginia Art and Architecture Review Board and serves on numerous advisory committees for Virginia historic properties including Stratford Hall, Maymont and the University of Virginia, among others.  For years he has conducted a public lecture series that promotes basic architectural literacy.  A long-time resident of the Fan District, Mr. Loth is an avid gardener and devotes many volunteer hours to the Garden Club of Virginia working to restore or recreate original gardens in landmark properties like Gunston Hall, Stratford, Monticello, Montpelier, and the Executive Mansion.  In his own neighborhood Mr. Loth has transformed the alleys flanking his property into a flourishing public oasis.  During four decades of public service, Calder Loth has lectured, advocated, written, taught and provided an example that increases the awareness of our rich architectural heritage.  A.C.O.R.N. is privileged to honor Mr. Loth for his passionate commitment to preserving Richmond’s historic resources.

The Neighborhood Conservator Award:
Historic Housing, LLC, David White, Larry Schifflett, Louis Salomonsky – Founding Partners

Honored for their persistent long-term efforts in the revitalization of Shockoe Bottom. 

Historic Housing LLC rehabilitates historic properties to create multi-family housing in downtown Richmond and Washington, DC. The focus of the partners’ efforts, even before Historic Housing was founded, has been in the Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom neighborhoods, where their work has had a profound impact. Louis Salomonsky, Larry Shifflett and David White founded Historic Housing LLC in 1995. These three men have persisted in efforts to revitalize the locks from 14th Street eastward, despite the ravages of floods and fires and a volatile real estate market.  Louis Salomonsky and David White have continued to direct the work of Historic Housing since 2003, at which point Larry Shifflett left the company to independently pursue preservation projects. Historic Housing’s family of companies provides the integrated services of architectural design, construction, property management and development. To date, the company and its affiliates have developed projects totaling over $250 million in total development cost with tax credit investor equity of over $100 million. Approximately 75% of the company’s developments are market rate and 25% are affordable or low income.  Abandoned urban landmarks like the Railroad YMCA, the Todd ham building, the city’s oldest Philip Morris manufacturing complex, and the group of buildings at the corner of 14^th and Main Streets now known as “The Wedge” were given vibrant new life through tax credit rehabilitations by Historic Housing. Most recently Historic Housing began renovation of three city blocks formerly occupied by Richmond Cold Storage, a 450 unit, three-phased project that will continue the company’s tradition of converting derelict properties into vital, attractive, inner city dwellings.

The Andrew Asch Historic Developer Award:
Three Strands Management – Gray Oliver, Cynthia Oliver and Tory Smith, Partners

Honored for renovating several houses along the northern edge of Union Hill. 

Relative newcomers to world of historic renovation, this group of three have taken on projects in sections of neighborhoods that even seasoned renovators previously avoided.  Three Strands most recent renovations sit at the edge of Union Hill, abutting Mosby Court.  Not dissuaded by the location, but rather inspired by the opportunity to stabilize this transitional section of Union Hill, this dynamic and energetic trio renovated five houses all located within a 1 block radius including 2235 Venable Street, 2235-1/2 Venable Street, and three houses in the 800 block of North 22nd Street.  Their dedication and renovation investment in a group of historic houses in Union hill has completely changed this decaying section of the neighborhood, now once again occupied and vibrant.  Their endeavors have energized others to follow suit, and renovation activity of several other houses in the area are currently in progress.

The Marguerite Crumley Preservation Award:
Better Housing Coalition (BHC), T.K. Somanath, Executive Director

Honored for leading this non-profit organization from its infancy in 1988, into its role as a major force – a Community Development Corporation – that has been improved the lives of hundreds of city-dwellers by providing numerous affordable housing options in Richmond’s historic neighborhoods. 

Their comprehensive approach to neighborhood revitalization goes beyond simply preserving houses.  Over the past two decades, BHC has recognized that the community must be an integral part of rebuilding neighborhoods that have been devastated by disinvestment and neglect.  Engaging citizens on how they want their neighborhoods to bounce back is all in a day’s work at the Better Housing Coalition.  Over the years, BHC has managed not only to preserve countless historic houses, but to sensitively rebuild entire demolished sections of our historic communities with new homes that seamlessly integrate into their historic settings.

Special Recognition:
Shanna Merola

Honored for her keen eye earlier this year for noticing an innocuous sign stating:  “LOT WILL BE CLOSED FOR IMPROVEMENTS, MAY 31, 2008 TO JUNE 30, 2008 on what she knew to be the general location of Shockoe Bottom’s more than 200-year old “Burial Ground for Negroes.” 

Before 1807, the Burial Ground was the only municipal cemetery in Richmond that accepted Blacks, enlaved or free.  Additionally, this same site is where Gabriel Prosser, a rebel slave leader, and his co-conspirators, were hanged for thier attemted revolution to free others from the chains of slavery on October 10, 1800.  Uncertain of who posted the sign, Ms. Merola did some quick research and determined that VCU had purchased the privately-owned parking lot, and the sign that was posted indicated their scheduled improvements.  Knowing that simply repaving the site without any sort of memorial would be unthinkable, but unsure how to quickly gain VCU’s attention, Ms. Merola swiftly staged a demonstration on June 2, 2008 – complete with signs and a call for participants – to march along East Broad Street on the bridge over I-95to try bring media attention to this important historic site.  That small “call of awareness” led to a flurry of attention and discussion regarding an appropriate memorial treatment of the Negro Burial Ground at this juncture.  Suddenly, print, television and Internet media, along with Richmond Slave Trail Commission, The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and Virginia Union University and VCU were in involved in the discussion about what to do with the parking lot and the Negro Burial Ground.  In a few short weeks, Merola’s effective grassroots effort to protect this important piece of Richmond’s past, turned into a commitment from VCU to work with all appropriate agencies on a plan to properly memorialize the area of the parking lot where the Negro Burial Ground is located.


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