We’ve published over 1000 stories on countless topics and themes this past year. Here are the top 10…
Stories of the Year for 2009
1) Murder is Down to a Historic Low
Murder is down in the East End, a fact ignored by the local media for most of the year. Through December 20 there have been only 9 people killed by other people in the East End this year, as compared to 12 at this time through 2008. Some perspective: in 2004 there were 27 people killed in the area.
It has been well over 100 days since the last killing, likely the longest quiet spell in at least the last 10 years. After a note-worthy city-wide decline in homicides last year, Richmond as a whole has seen a slight uptick in fatal violence in 2009. The East End has seen a 25% DROP in killings.
The high profile shootings in Union Hill, at Chimborazo Elementary, and of a delivery driver in Whitcomb got the media up here in droves. They jumped on alarmist and ill-informed reports calling Church Hill one of the 10 most dangerous neighorhoods in America (which were subequently refuted). Lets see if this good news makes their radar…
2) Politics, As Usual
Two months after winning reelection to her long-held City Council 7th District seat, Delores McQuinn jumped to the House of Delegates. This set in motion a controversial scramble to fill the interim position and led to the election of Cynthia Newbille to the council seat in November.
The next round of City Council/Schoolboard elections isn’t for 3 years, so enjoy the break.
3) More Small Businesses Open in the Neighborhood
The heart of Richmond neighborhoods are the small businesses that serve them. 2009 was quietly a banner year for the area, as Cyclus, Alamo BBQ, Church Hill Cleaners, Something Like a Deli, and Bustah Shop opened their doors.
4) The Robinson Theater
Its hard to believe that they’ve only been open just over 10 months. The Robinson Theater had their grand opening in February and have been going ever since, hosting political debates, movies, classes for kids and adults, talent shows, and even winning an award for their renovation.
5) New Civic Organizations for Oakwood-Chimborazo, Church Hill North, Church Hill Central
The civic associations in the East End are strong voices for the residents of the area. From New Visions in Fairmount to the Church Hill Association, residents have organized and fought to shape the future of their neighborhood. It is this history of engagement and activism that invests the new the Church Hill North, the Church Hill Central, and Oakwood-Chimborazo civic associations with such promise.
6) The Plague of Vacant Houses
The glut of vacant houses has been a smoldering topic all year. In the spring, activists called for folks to squat the vacant houses. The city announced that Church Hill North leads the city in vacant houses and vacant lots. Notorious slumlord Oliver Lawrence was sentenced to time in one of his own vacant houses on 19th Street and to pay a hefty fine.
The new blog Richmond Slumlord Watch was started to shed light on the people that own the long-time vacants. Follow-up work exposed the hundreds of vacant houses in the area managed by Stacy Martin of Hermitage Realty and the chilling effect of all of these vacant, boarded up houses.
7) New Development is Contentious
Oakwood Heights, Echo Harbor, and Shockoe Center were stalled or defeated in 2009, while the development at 2100 Broad has been quietly embraced and seems to be moving forward. In February, City Council overturned CAR’s decision to block Oakwood Heights, sending the battle to the courts. Look for Echo Harbor to heat up again in 2010. The Shockoe Center proposal, so contentious in February, was dead by June. We’ve heard a little bit about another project for the new year in Church Hill that will be big if it’s true.
8) Union Hill becomes a City Old and Historic District
After more than a year of legwork and sometimes contentious back and forth, the Union Hill Historic District became the newest of the Richmond Old and Historic Districts.
9) The Committee for Architectural Review
The ongoing discussion on what is an appropriate guide for development in historic areas launched a public meeting on the Committee for Architectural Review and historic preservation and a move to reform CAR. The CAR Taskforce, established by Richmond City Council in July to review the process and guidelines of the Richmond Commission of Architectural Review, has meetings scheduled through April. See also: Contrast vs continuity for new development in historic communities, A petition on new development in Richmond Old & Historic Districts, What is appropriate in an Old & Historic District?, and are historic standards destroying historic districts?
A Richmond TImes-Dispatch story on the use of clothlines to dry clothes quoted a few local folks, some of whom came across as perhaps a little hoity toity. The New York Times picked up the story 4 months later, and it all broke loose again.