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A call for gentrification with justice by Corey Widmer

Pastor Corey Widmer from East End Fellowship offers his take on the recent resurgence in the area:

North Church Hill is on the map. Recently Richmond Magazine called it Richmond’s “hottest neighborhood.” It’s also been dubbed Richmond’s “bakery district,” boasting of WPA Bakery, Proper Pie, and the just re-opened Sub Rosa. Throw in a couple of high-end award winning restaurants and some new boutiques, and you’ve got a bona fide urban resurrection.

This is the neighborhood that my family, along with several others, moved into 10 years ago to live out the principles of Christian Community Development. We were inspired by the vision of Dr. John Perkins, who called Christians to relocate to blighted urban communities and join with others in working for reconciliation and redistribution. But now, sometimes as I am eating my vegan butter crust kumara pie and sipping my flat white, things aint lookin so blighted any more.

This is all a matter of perspective of course. The East End still has the highest concentration of poverty in the city, is home to four of the city’s six housing projects, and contains some of worst performing public schools in the state.

But there is also a new dynamic of gentrification taking place, in which many new, mostly white educated residents are moving into Church Hill and calling it home. Most of the time these two populations, the poor and the middle class, the mostly black and the mostly white, the hipster beards and the homeless beards, operate in separate universes even while sharing the same streets and sidewalks.

The standard line on gentrification is that it tends to displace long-term residents of neighborhoods like North Church Hill. As real estate values rise, rent and property taxes follow suit, making it increasingly more difficult for lower income residents to stay. I experienced this first hand when a neighbor told me in 2006 that her rent had risen significantly since my family had moved in. There is a real danger that when gentrification occurs, the accompanying amoral market forces act without reference to the interests of existing populations and institutions, and the historic core of a neighborhood can be eviscerated.

However, a recent study examining the effects of rapid gentrification in urban neighborhoods all over the country found some different results than expected. Sometimes, it seems, the good of gentrification can outweigh the bad. Dr. Lance Freeman, the conductor of the study, set out to quantify how much displacement was occurring in gentrifying neighborhoods like Harlem, and to his surprise he found that low income residents in neighborhoods classified as gentrifying were moving less frequently.

The study found that low-income residents were no more likely to move out of their homes when a neighborhood gentrified than when it doesn’t. Gentrification certainly can push out longer term residents, but it can also create fresh environments in neighborhoods that help encourage people to stay. But this occurs especially if – and this is really the key finding in my mind – the neighborhood is generating and improving community assets that benefit everyone, especially parks, safer streets, better schools and critically, job opportunities for middle and low income residents.

So here is my appeal to my fellow North Church Hillians. I am not hating on the recent new developments in our community. After all, I have helped to precipitate them. I love my Proper Pie, WPA in the morning warms my soul, and the D&C perfect egg is indeed perfect.

But let’s together work to ensure that the recent surge of interest and investment in North Church Hill does not just benefit new residents, but generates life and opportunities for all residents of Church Hill, especially the most vulnerable ones. There’s a couple things we might do.

First, let’s listen deeply to people who have been here a long time before us and learn from them. There are so many rich and beautiful assets in this neighborhood that have been here way before any new restaurant ever came on the scene. Second, let’s get involved with organizations that work for the benefit of all the residents of the East End. Ones like Urban Hope, which gets folks into homes as renters or owners at affordable rates. Volunteer with CHAT, which among other activities generates jobs and skills for youth in our community. Join the effort to implement the first IB Primary Years program in Richmond city at our very own Chimborazo Elementary School. Or help brainstorm about new businesses that can create jobs for the exceedingly high number of unemployed people in our community, few of whom have accessibility to fair waged jobs.

In Jeremiah 29:7 God calls his people to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which He has called you.” For those of us called to North Church Hill, that means seeking the flourishing of our neighborhood for everyone, not just those of us who like a good cappuccino. Maybe, just maybe, North Church Hill can become a place of peace and prosperity for everyone within its borders.


Cristina 01/27/2014 at 11:23 PM

I appreciate that this post was made here in CHPN and hope it starts some good conversations on the topic of gentrification in the neighborhood. I think Corey gave some great examples of ways to engage with the historic community and I’d also like to reccomend volunteering or donating to the Peter Paul Development Center and the Blue Sky Fund, who are also doing great things for kids in the neighborhood. I wanted to bring up the topic of ways that new businesses in the neighborhood can be more inclusive to the historic neighborhood since that was not addressed as much. The benefits of new resources in the neighborhood was brought up but it’s hard for everyone to be able to feel like they can participate if they are excluded in various ways, often unspoken. Price points are the obvious but most important way new businesses can be welcoming to diverse residents with varying levels of employment, income and family needs. I know that from a business perspective, it can be hard to make it without making certain sacrifices on pricing but a business could still offer inexpensive options, menu items, store items that make entering your establishment worthwhile for a person who has been historically marginalized. Visible diversity in staffing is another message that comes across to folks and with all due respect to the talent and hard work of the people who labor in our newer establishments, it’s looking pretty white. That’s just the plain ol truth. People notice this and it does make a real difference in how in touch people feel this business is with where they are coming from. It could really improve the diversity of clientele to do more outreach into the historic community to include their talent in the mix. Also, I don’t pretend to know all the zoning or red tape involved in this but if at all possible, accept EBT and/or WIC aka food stamps. Food stamps are often the first form of public assistance that individuals who are struggling financially might enroll in and there are a growing number of people nationwide who rely on this service to make ends meet. You probably know a fair amount of people who at some point have been on food stamps, I certainly have. Even if only one person a month buys a can of diced tomatoes using EBT, knowing it’s an option still sends a very strong message to these individuals that they are welcome here too and having a checking account is not a prerequisite to eating quality and healthy foods. I could give more examples but would prefer to continue this as a conversation with other commenters who are also interested in respecting the right of all of our neighbors to take part in and enjoy this place we call home.

Justin 01/28/2014 at 1:14 AM

@1 “It’s looking a bit white” – maybe this is just something you’re focusing on, because it’s what you want to see? Of the places I’ve enjoyed, I’d disagree with you. And you’re a bit misguided to suggest these new businesses should accept EBT/food stamps – they’re not authorized for alcohol or foods to be eaten in the store – including restaurants.

Karen 01/28/2014 at 1:43 AM

Well, Cristina, I was on board with you until your comment about everything “looking pretty white.” Then I stopped reading. I agree that diversity and a wide range of price points is necessary for Church Hill to grow and thrive but lets not single out people who are doing what they can to make this a better neighborhood all around.

laura 01/28/2014 at 9:09 AM

Cristina- I know your heart is in the right place and you’re looking to protect those who are more dependent on the government. I’m sure all of the businesses in this neighborhood would love to adopt your formula and survive in business. The perspective for which you advocate is naive and ill-informed at best. I suspect that if you had some real-world experience operating a business, your perspective would change. Every business up here has to make choices in order to keep their doors open. They don’t operate on a big box model where volume drives revenue. Every transaction must be profitable to sustain on-going operations. Opening price point items will not pay the payroll taxes, the rent, the insurance, or the utilities.

If you know a business owner, sit down with them at some point and break down the dollar to gain a better understanding of what their profit margins are. I assure you, they’re razor thin already.

Cristina 01/28/2014 at 9:25 AM

i don’t pretend to be a business person or to even be offering a formula that actually works fyi. all i’m doing is starting a conversation on some things that people could be self aware of. gentrification IS happening whether we like it or not, i don’t even necessarily agree with the perspective of this article suggesting that gentrification could be done well- it’s going to hurt families and push people out no matter how “nice” you try to be. i am bringing these things up because they are just things that stand out to me when thinking about the stark difference between the new business and the “old” businesses in the neighborhood. obviously new businesses are still on their way and there is a lot to think about here if you plan to open up shop in a mixed income neighborhood and this self-awareness is part of it. for what it’s worth, i’m also a social worker serving kids and families in church hill and have seen how this has affected the community.

ann 01/28/2014 at 9:28 AM

At one of the many recent meetings about the revitalization of Shockoe Bottom, David Hicks gleefully told his audience that a side benefit of the project is that all the property values in the area would rise! Like, how lucky we would all be.

Sarah 01/28/2014 at 9:34 AM

Great points Cristina! Its obvious from some threads that follow that not everybody is concerned about gentrification and what roll they play in it. For those that are interested, you offer some great suggestions.

Please Laura, enlighten us naïve ‘non-business owners’ as to how hiring a racially diverse staff, striving to sell a few lower-price point items, and researching whether you would be able to accept WIC or SNAP at your business is going to sink a business. I see all of these endeavors as having the capacity to reach a larger customer base, but perhaps I’m just ill-formed as well.

Sean 01/28/2014 at 9:53 AM

Tell me about the old businesses that were in, say, the 27th/Marshall corridor? How exactly did THEY get pushed out? Pre-SubRosa? Pre-Alamo? Pre-Blue Sky? I’m pretty sure Church Hill should be excited for ANY activity going on. I was a huge fan of Church Hill when it was run down, now I’m an even bigger fan…

Mandy C. 01/28/2014 at 10:10 AM

For your consideration – an interesting NPR article that was published a few days ago:

Brad 01/28/2014 at 10:16 AM

When we moved to Church Hill 10 years ago my wife and I discussed the idea of gentrification and what if any role our moving to the neighborhood would play in its gentrification.

After 10 years, I think gentrification has done way more good for the neighborhood and its residents (old and new) than harm. It has greatly diversified the business mix in the neighborhood. No, not every business caters to every member of the community, but so what? Each business has its own niche and market.

The point is that there are now way more options that serve a much broader and more diverse portion of the community than there were 10 years ago. It has also increased property values and hopefully will continue to do so. It will be a long, long time before Church Hill North runs out of affordable housing options.

The increase in property values does increase property taxes, but it also increases household wealth, especially for those families who have lived here for decades and saw the wealth represented in their real estate evaporate over decades of white flight from the city and the following decade long drug war/mass murder spree of the 90s.

Finally, I applaud the Richmond Police for all of their hard work and give them all due credit for the drastic reduction in crime in our neighborhood over the past 10 years, but I think that gentrification has also played a major role in the reduction in crime in our neighborhood by renovating and filling abandoned houses, creating a more diverse neighborhood (economically, educationally, racially) and bringing in people who have different expectations and relationships with the police and local government and who are willing to demand services and protection. That said, I recognize that there are those in our neighborhood who may find the evolution of the neighborhood challenging and greatly appreciate Pastor Widmer’s and Christina’s call to lend a helping hand to our neighbors in need.

Craig 01/28/2014 at 10:23 AM

I knew this would get snippy when I read the original post. Gentrification is generally a good thing for most and a very bad thing for some. I hope people are just realistic in the benefits/process/outcomes. Yes, home values will rise, yes rents will increase, yes some people will need to move. In an area full of blighted historic houses on the cusp of collapse…I hope young, gainfully employed people continue to flood the neighborhood. I can’t see Urban farmhouse carrying del monte tomatoes next to their upscale, organic stuff…nature of the beast…

We can either resist change and push income generating businesses and people into the county or fan…or accept change and do our best to facilitate negative consequences for some. We should volunteer more, we should donate to local charities, but no one should consider stopping a positive movement for the sake of a few.

On a final note, I do hate seeing crap about “it’s looking white here”….if I ever said “it’s looking brown around here” i would be crucified as a racist. Comments like this add NOTHING to the discussion. Kinda sort of racism is still racism.

I hope people hire whoever they feel will be the best employee…because I plan to support the local businesses with great service and products…

Justin 01/28/2014 at 10:41 AM

@8 Yes, you are misinformed. Again, SNAP benefits can NOT be used to purchase alcohol or foods for “immediate consumption”. So, no Alamo, no WPA, no Proper Pie, no Buzzy’s, no Roosevelt/Dutch & Co./Hill Cafe, no Urban Farmhouse, no Sub Rosa, no Sarah Frans. But yes to the Farm Fresh. This really isn’t complicated. If you need these benefits, “dining out” is not the way towards improving your financial situation.

FormerLibbyHillResident 01/28/2014 at 10:55 AM

My first house in Church Hill was a bombed out shell with a giant hole in the roof in the 300 Block of North 27th. That was in 1985.

I renovated it with blood, sweat and tears, buying 2×4’s when I could afford to buy them. I did most of the work myself as I couldn’t afford a contractor at the age of 25.

The same gentrification issue was discussed back then. What WAS different were all the shootings, dead bodies and the on-going crack cocaine wars. Who needed cable TV when you could look out the window and watch CSI and Miami Vice right outside?

We got so used to random gunfire, we barely flinched when it happened. One day, my car took 3 bullets in the side….as did the guy that got shot. Leaning out my window, I held the shooter at bay with my own little pea shooter until he took off running as the cops came.

The 300 Block was 70% vacant with un-occupiable homes. At one end we had Four Corners Charlie renting rooms in places that were barely livable and at the other end was slumlord Stan Smith who also rented rooms.

Good times. Then there was the den of iniquity called the Rendezvous (Now the Hill Café). Everyone hunkered down when they walked past it.

After the Rendezvous, Fast Mart and Quick Check closed, the neighborhood started becoming a better place.

While one may lament gentrification, the houses that were coming up for sale were basically un-inhabitable and subject to numerous code violations. After the slumlords wrung every penny out of the houses, they either went vacant due to condemnation or inability to rent. Eventually they went up for sale.

I think if you checked out the economic demographics of the people who are moving into the neighborhood, you’d find a different story than what you think it is.

I sold two properties in this area last year. One I owned for 25 years or so, the other was one I built about 8 years ago. Both were sold to first time home buyers. Good for them!

Cristina 01/28/2014 at 10:57 AM

It’s interesting how stuck people have gotten on me pointing out the obvious lean toward white in the staffing of new Church Hill businesses, out of all the other points I made- this one seemed to literally turn some people’s brains off. I’ll admit that it was a blunt way to point that out- how do you prefer we talk about race as it fits in with the topic of gentrification then? There is no way to have this conversation without talking about race. I brought it up because when you are a minority you notice race more. I don’t know if those of you who have been critical are white or not but when you are the dominant race in a society and have enjoyed the privilege of this your whole life, you may not walk into a store and mentally note that everyone in there is white like you because that is simply what you are used to. I will go ahead and acknowledge that talking about race is a generally uncomfortable subject for most people and it’s a well-documented phenomenon. Here’s an article that addresses this:

coreywidmer 01/28/2014 at 11:34 AM

Cristina I don’t have any business experience and can’t really speak to that. But I do appreciate your comments and have found them to be true in attempting to build a multiracial church. Each Sunday, we work hard to have both men and women and both black and white leaders who are leading in different ways, because it doing so it communicates to any kind of person in our community that they are welcome here. We have become very accustomed to speaking openly about race, because we have found that when we don’t, invisible power dynamics are still at play. I am one who believes that more open conversation about race is part of what we as a Church Hill community will need as we move forward.

Gentrification 01/28/2014 at 11:39 AM

gentrification = higher property values = higher tax base and revenues for local government = (at least hypothetically) higher budgets for police and emergency services as well as higher allocations for social services = less crime = better educational systems (over time) = better opportunities for all children living in the area.

Gentrification also brings in more businesses, which means more jobs – jobs that hopefully go to the best person qualified, no matter what race they are

Next Friend 01/28/2014 at 11:56 AM

Another missing piece to this conversation is that decay and crime displace more people than any flavor of gentrification. Detroit is a key example of this.

L 01/28/2014 at 12:15 PM

Christina: I don’t dispute your observation – there is a certain truth to it. However, I think there are structural reasons that this occurs – reasons rooted in historic and not present racism. For whatever reason, the majority of the young people moving to the neighborhood are white, and from a present/contemporary perspective they are also “coincidentally” better educated or otherwise more employable than much of the preexisting population of the neighborhood.

Now, I say “coincidentally” because, in reality, past racism resulting in a lack of opportunity is the cause of this disparity. However, I don’t think business owners are intentionally hiring with any sort of malice or racial bias. They are simply hiring the best candidates. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure equality of opportunity going forward and we should all make a good faith effort to reduce or eradicate the existing disparity thereof, but no one who has recently moved to Church Hill and renovated a home or opened a business is responsible for the current disparity.

In my opinion, the solution is to improve educational opportunities for everyone in the neighborhood. But that’s no easy task either…

Wonkyeye 01/28/2014 at 1:20 PM

@Justin- urban farmhouse and union market both have many ebt-eligible items. They wouldn’t be the most economical ones, but possibly a more healthy choice than 40 lbs of meat from Chimbo Mart.

Cristina 01/28/2014 at 1:25 PM

L, I appreciate your perspective and agree that there is a lot of history at play here. I also want to make sure it’s clear that I’m not suggesting business owners in Church Hill are racist in their hiring practices because I understand that there is a complex web of factors here related to education, socioeconomic status and the cultural history of the neighborhood that has created dynamics that still exist today. I believe that all of the Church Hill business owners are all honest and well-intended people but given the history of Church Hill, hopefully we can all be aware that there needs to be mindfulness in how we conduct ourselves in this place and how that is making people who have been here longer than us feel. I also appreciate the perspectives of some of the folks who have reported positive experiences with gentrification so far and I’m curious about how their race may have impacted that experience. I’m not sure if any people of color have shared their experience with gentrification on here yet but Style Weekly wrote an excellent piece about that perspective that you can read here:

Eric Huffstutler 01/28/2014 at 2:17 PM

This is a hot button topic and not one I will dive in on right yet. I can say that the issue of gentrification is not new and even dates back further. It was brought up in the 1980s and shot down. At that time (and think this still happens in some degree) the residents South of Broad (SOB’s) in the St. John’s District did not want anything to do with those North of Broad (NOB’s) and vice versa when a merger of neighborhoods was suggested long before the Church Hill North Historic District. Most areas North were still boarded up, in slumlord hands, and extremely blighted. That too did not happen overnight. It was going on in the 1860s and started taking off in the 1930s . And there are still racial boundaries rather people want to admit it or not which has a trickledown effect. But as with any progress brings change and with any change brings opposition. It is just the nature of the beast. Part of the solution is education of the communities at large in knowing the pros and cons ahead of time.

edg 01/28/2014 at 3:00 PM

The way to ensure diversity in this neighborhood begins with the MLK middle school and Armstrong HS. As long as these schools remain a poor alternative, families will continue to move out. This will leave only the very well-off and very poor left. The middle ground will relocate in order to give their child a chance to attend a better school. We have done a great job with Chimborazo. Now it is time to put our resources into the upper grades.

Alex 01/28/2014 at 3:02 PM

The reason I hate debates like these is they are usually a bunch of paternalistic middle class college educated whites speaking for a demographic that they have nothing in common with and understand even less about. Beyond that, they tend to look at the problem through an “us” and “them” lens. The truth is that if there’s 10,000 people in Church Hill, there’s 10,000 stories that need to be considered.

While it’s probably impractical, has anyone ever considered some sort of a system to allow newcomer and long-timer households in the area to actually get to meet each other and stop treating each other as some kind of alien species? What if folks interested in improving relations were to sign up to be paired off with another household with whom they could share a meal? We all have a lot to learn from each other (and yes, that includes the smarty pants college educated folks too).

coreywidmer 01/28/2014 at 4:29 PM

Alex, we have all those folks (newcomers and old timers) as part of our church community. Sundays at 4pm at the Robinson. There’s also a meal after every service so we eat together too. You are welcome any time. You’re right, this conversation must be rooted in real relationships.

Eric Huffstutler 01/28/2014 at 4:43 PM

Alex, definitely not a “smarty pants” here and not even college graduate. My comments are purely from printed findings and facts. I did not inject (much) by way of personal comments.

In a perfect world yes, we should all be “neighborly” but as the age gap widens as well as generational upbringing (and often lack of) and beliefs, you find more and more people not wanting to “Get Involved” and definitely not wanting to follow traditions. That also means getting to know your neighbors. Today it is all about who they meet on Facebook or Twitter. Their world is in the palm of their hand and not outside of elbow reach. How many here actually socialize with their neighbors on either side of them or even across the street? I bet there is more talk “about” them rather than “with” them. You get the idea.

Alex 01/28/2014 at 5:39 PM

@25- Corey, thanks for the tip. I’ll take you up on that. Do I need to bring anything?

Karen Kellman 01/29/2014 at 12:25 AM

Just for conversation: The one Churchhill business that does a hire a multicultural staff and has a multicultural clientele is Captain Buzzy’s at 27th and East Broad. If you truly believe what you have been saying, maybe you could show appreciation to the business that is doing just what you are suggesting.

crd 01/29/2014 at 7:10 AM

@28: and support a guy who is suing a bunch of his neighbors? Not happening for me.

laura 01/29/2014 at 8:21 AM

@28 That might explain what some of the prior posts have eluded to…hiring the best person for the job. Sorry, Buzzy’s has some of the worst service going.

Is this cultural, education, training?

ann 01/29/2014 at 9:32 AM

To #14, FormerLibbyHillResident. Right on. Much my experience on Venable. I bought my house cheap for cash and paid for the renovations out of pocket as I could afford it. I certainly didn’t come to the neighborhood with money but bought a house that nobody wanted because it’s what I could afford.

jean mcdaniel 01/29/2014 at 10:05 AM


It is better to sue someone who has done you wrong that to attack them with flower pots. The attacker has been found guilty in a Court of Law.

I guess behaviour such as that inflicted upon Mr. Buffington is supposed to be ignored?

Amy Beem has been outed as one of the people who used the CHA logo in an attack ad against Buzzy’s and yet she is welcome to attend CHA meetings. The message sent is, ” That’s O.K. Amy, we don’t mind you using our logo to promote such visciousness”!

There are other participants who will be named shortly. You cannot stop the power of a subpoena and a response to a subpoena is a matter of public record. So Amy Beem can threaten to sue for being outed all she wants to, but that’s O.K. Amy, I checked Court records!

coreywidmer 01/29/2014 at 10:55 AM

@27- Alex, no need to bring anything but yourself!

jean mcdaniel 01/29/2014 at 11:00 AM

Former Libby Hill Resident and Ann

I was in the same position as you, making monthly financial decisions about wheather to pay the phone bill or buy a little insulation. Insulation won because it was September. I purchased what I could afford too and spent many nights with a crow bar, scrappers, hammers and bleeding knuckles.

Nobody wanted this wreck, and nobody objected to me being here ( except my relatives ). I do not recall hearing the word “Gentrification”

I do recall hearing, “We don’t deliver there, we can’t issue an insurance policy on that property,” and most common of all. “You Live Where?”

I could not afford to buy a house here now and although I don’t owe anything it costs in the thousands yearly to turn the key in the door.

I have enormous sympathy for those who have financial challenges, I was and am one of them.

The bottom line is, you cannot improve an area and not have it appreciate in value.

Thornley1 01/29/2014 at 11:40 AM

OMG…this post list is morphing into ANOTHER CAPT. BUZZY’S DRAMA diatribe. Please come back on topic folks…

Eric Huffstutler 01/29/2014 at 1:49 PM

Jean, keep posting court records on the Buzzy threads as an FYI to all.

We can also appreciate where you are coming from with limited funds, especially now that one of us has terminal cancer and many bills but these old historic houses take a lot to keep them going, especially the wood frame ones.

Church Hill North has changed dramatically in the past 15 years from having a stigma of being slums and high crime to one of the top places to move to. I remember when even the newspaper carriers would not even deliver to certain streets but unfortunately some pizza chains still won’t claiming it is out of their boundary – old boundaries that extend well past our area in other directions. The West Ender’s have their head stuck in the sand when it comes to the East End today.

jean mcdaniel 01/29/2014 at 2:53 PM

Eric, Thank you for the support! Many attempts
( directed at me ) have been made to keep certain actions by a select few from being made public, but that is rapidely changing.

Old houses are like my geese, they don’t care if you are low on funds, energy, strength or supplies, they want to be fed, watered, cleaned and rubbed down…..

Alex 01/29/2014 at 3:39 PM


Your point about “The bottom line is, you cannot improve an area and not have it appreciate in value” is a great diagnosis. Well put.

On the bright side, generally gentrification is a positive for all since even if folks get “priced out” they end up making big bucks on their house.

When gentrification is a bad thing is in cases where you have intact communities where folks may be poor but they have a good support system. If gentrification breaks that network and make it so folks need to move to new places their quality of life is going to suffer. It’s been plugged here in the past but for those who haven’t already read “The World of Patience Gromes”, that’s a great view of one such situation and the disastrous consequences of breaking up a poor but healthy neighborhood (not through gentrification).

I don’t know enough about pre-gentrification Church Hill but what I’ve heard makes it sound as if what was here was not healthy for the most part.

bozatwork 01/29/2014 at 10:15 PM

How about the churches focus on acquiring and flipping the vacant and blighted properties through a partnership with Habitat or RRHA or other groups? That would give jobs to some unemployed, teach valuable skills, provide more affordable housing, increase the city’s tax base and population and improve the neighborhood for all.

I would focus less on those who have moved here recently, as it is no fault of theirs that they found beauty in the neighborhood and want to be part of its fabric. The community aspect was as much a factor for us choosing to buy here than anything else. I have yet to meet a new property owner in Church Hill who doesn’t appreciate the history of the place and respect it and neighbors. No one’s trying to drive others out or pave over their past (well, arguments could be made for some large scale developers).

There is so much unrealized potential in the neighborhood. I’ve had fun times talking to neighbors about the past but what really excites me is what we could do together in the future.

Nandalal Nagalingam Rasiah 01/29/2014 at 10:29 PM

@boz, don’t some area churches already own properties in the area—especially those which are in dire need of repair?

Eric Huffstutler 01/30/2014 at 10:24 AM

We only have a couple sizeable churches in Church Hill. One like New light Baptist had their own plans to expand the church building but can not collect the required funds so doubt they have funds to buy up blighted buildings. Most of the blighted ones usually end up in the hands of people out of state who buy them for tax write-offs and could care less about what they look like since they are no where close to be bothered. Others are developers who have good intensions but just sit on them due to the housing market. Others banks own from foreclosures. And the rest the city owns sometimes from back taxes.

BAF 01/30/2014 at 11:38 AM

A church on my block (or perhaps the pastor of the church on my block–can’t remember now) owns at least one vacant, run-down property on the block. The property is regularly cited by the city. If that is any indication, I don’t know that strapped inner-city churches are a real answer here.

crd 01/30/2014 at 1:16 PM


Looks like we had the discussion about churches and vacant properties before, four years ago.

Tired of the dissatisfied over gentrification 01/30/2014 at 3:48 PM

@Craig, I agree with all you posted + Former Libby Hill resident, you made very factual points.

However, I have to ask why should I be concerned about the displacement of people.

Most of the people being displaced are renters, and from living here for over twelve years. I have observed a huge difference in the behaviour of most rental persons, and owner occupants.

I really do not care who is /is not offended by my post. I do not care for the lower class people who litter our streets, play music so excessively loud it shakes my windows, and uses profanity as if it is a second language.

It thrills me every time I see these rundown old barely habitable houses’ property taxes raised.

I want the best for church hill; we have the ability to be the Georgetown of Richmond. Moreover, as long as I live up here, and own other property here, I will do my best to see it become a Georgetown.

For those of you who literally think we all can live harmoniously side by side with very low-income people. You are living in a very idealistic world, and you need to get your head out of the sand. If gentrification offends you, why are you contributing to it by living in a renovated house?

I want to see chimbo market become an upscale grocery store, and it makes no difference to me if you are black, purple, green or white shopping there.

It is my wish the black people reading these blogs from the so-called liberal white people who love you so much (the great white hope). You will realize they utilize the very businesses they complain about being here. Also, when was the last time some of them invited you into their homes for a dinner party or over for cocktails. I hope every black person who has been directly affected by some of these people realizes they think you are too dumb to understand what is best for your future.

I am not a member of the great white hope, and I have no misguided illusions, that you need my help in telling you how to live your life. I think everyone makes his or her own choices in life and I am only responsible for my own choices.

I used to volunteer five days a month in the public schools here in the city, and some of the homes the children lived in was quite sad. However, it was not my job to try to tell the parents how they should or should not raise their children. It was my job as a volunteer to help the children by reading to them, answering questions about their schooling and try to make them feel safe for at least seven hours a day etc.

The author of the article claims the interest in church hill is based on Christian ethics. You of all people should know the Lord never has promised any of us life is fair. Life will never be fair, and no man/woman will ever make it fair.
In reference to your bible, verse Jeremiah 29:7 you left out the first three verses, which gives your verse it’s real meaning.

Jeremiah 29:4-8 (verse five in particular)
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; 29:6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. 29:7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

Diana 01/30/2014 at 4:53 PM

Where are the updates regarding captain Buzzy’s law suit against CHA, etc.

Houdon 01/30/2014 at 7:45 PM

Actually I think Corey has it right. And 29:5 proves his point all the more. It is a charge to newcomers to a particular “neighborhood” to pursue full lives not just for their personal benefit, but for flourishing of themselves and their neighbors.

Alex 01/30/2014 at 8:45 PM

CHPN bible study hour!

Alex 01/30/2014 at 9:28 PM

Since we’re swapping verses, I thought I’d throw in a relevant one for the topic of gentrification:

Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Church Hillian 01/31/2014 at 12:34 PM

A little inspiration from a member of the Church Hill Hall of Fame – Thomas Cannon – The “Poor Man’s Philanthropist” – who would definitely been contributing to this discussion had CHPN been around in his day.

Never made more than a low to middle working class income ($25k in 70s) but gave away over $130k. To answer those who asked why? Made a list of 18 reasons why he gives money away:

1. I must give just as I receive – I have been receiving from others all my life

2. To thank God and humanity for all the lessons taught and blessings bestowed on me.

3. To show appreciation to my nation and state for education me by way of WWII G.I. Bill of Rights and state teacher scholarships

4. To emphasize that monetary/material values should be subordinate to spiritual values which are permanent.

5. To emphasize the fact that PEOPLE are infinitely more important than money or any other material commodity or consideration

6. To demonstrate personally how people should care for and show concern and compassion for each other without regard to racial, religious, color, national, political, ideological or sexual consideration.

7. To demonstrate the “brotherhood of man under fatherhood of God” philosophy and thus promote universal peace and brotherhood

8. To teach against the excessive attachment to money and other material treasures and sensual pleasures which delude and entrap us.

9. To help promote interracial, interreligious, and international peace and understanding

10 To help promote the Nazarene’s teaching as to how people ought to regard each other – “Love ye one another even as I have loved thee”

11. To inspire people, to encourage them to have faith in themselves notwithstanding handicaps of poverty and illiteracy.

12. To help restore faith among those who have lost faith in the basic goodness of human nature.

13. To demonstrate that POVERTY – like WEALTH – represents a state of specialized experience which has many valuable lessons to teach one.

14. To comfort and boost the more of those afflicted with catastrophic illnesses and those who must care for them.

15. To reward and inspire those who labor selflessly for others.

16. To encourage people to share their blessings with those less fortunate than they.

17. To further my own development toward detachment from money and other transient and illusory attractions of this material world.

18. To put into practice those principles of humanitarianism I am learning in the process of expanding my own conscious state of awareness.

bozatwork 02/03/2014 at 11:10 AM

A friend in Oakland shared this article, which I found relevant to the discussion here:

John M 02/03/2014 at 11:29 AM

Great link, thanks for sharing.

Hill Lifer 02/03/2014 at 7:52 PM

FYI – Gentrification in modern times doesn’t have to be a conversation about whites in, blacks out. Its about income disparity and a shift in socioeconomic factors.

SueWho 02/04/2014 at 7:34 AM

#49. Than for mentioning Thomas Cannon, I’ve been thinking about him this past week. He lived his beliefs, not just preached them.

Melissa Nickerson 02/05/2014 at 4:45 PM

Thank you Cristina for bringing up a delicate subject and offering suggestions that could make us all feel welcome. I hadn’t realized it till you pointed it out, but diverisity in staffing and a wide range of price choices on the menu sends a message that speaks volumes, at least it would speak to me.

I’ve been recently reading accounts of the Jim Crow years, 1st person narratives, for a class I’m teaching. And I’ve read every account in the Slave Narrative Collection that was funded by the WPA, so I’m somewhat aware of the facts and the experience, but I just finished Black Like Me, and what I finally realize is there is just no way to fully understand the extent of the brutality endured by African Americans.

So it doesn’t seem like much to make choices that are inclusive, that take into account where we live, that strive to be sensitive to that history, and that say you matter, you are welcome. And in all truth, it’s not history, it’s an ongoing reality.

Unfortunately, the racism that fueled 350 years of slavery of one kind or another did not suddenly dissolve into thin air when the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. We still live in the aftermath of the Civil War and there are open scars of all kinds, spiritual, physical, geographic, psychogical, economic, social… and I know I want to be part of the healing, wherever, whenever, and however possible.

Thank you Bos for the link with so many fine and wise suggestions for approaching this question of gentrification with sensitivity and care.

Corey Widmer 06/19/2014 at 4:29 PM

Read this great blog post by Bob Lupton today. A wonderful reflection on how to steward the process of gentrification with compassion and collaboration for the benefit of all residents. North Churchillians, please read!


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