Tag Archive | "Richmond"

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Windshield tour drives home the problems of a community

Posted on 31 May 2011 by admin

In Richmond’s East End, six housing projects huddle around the Peter Paul Development Center. Then, I-64 wraps around the entire area, successfully positioned as a moat, or wall, which isolates the concentrated urban poverty from the resources of greater Richmond.

In this bleak city island,  poor means an average income of $8,900, says Rev. Lynne Washington, executive director of the Peter Paul Development Center (PPDC).

Rev. Washington is our guide on the Windshield Tour, which safely carries us into areas of town many will never visit; to witness landscapes many of us would never forget were we to see them.

The Windshield Tour is about a 90 minute event. Aboard the bus, participants learn interesting and shocking facts about the neighborhoods served by the PPDC.

For example, no new schools have been built in this neighborhood–even though there are 4,000 children in Churchill–since the 1950’s, says Rev. Washington.

Or that “ Newsweek” magazine considers Armstrong High one of the nation’s worst “drop-out factories.”

For complete article, click on over to Pergula, a community news portal.

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Tattoos in the RVA Workplace

Posted on 23 May 2011 by admin

Face it Richmond. You’re surrounded. By art.

It flatters the walls of numerous galleries, ornaments our streets and buildings and also adorns the skin of many locals.

They don’t all work in downtown restaurants and bars either, although tattooed culinarians and mixologists might be seen more often. No, tattooed folk don’t all band together like a heathen zombie army.

Actually they’re everywhere, just not always visibly. They also teach children, save lives, prepare fancy pumpkin spice lattes, labor at state agencies, report the gritty city news, fashion your hair, hawk real estate, mark Richmond criminals and ink grants. Many have infiltrated well-known, Fortune 500 corporations.

Please follow the link to read the rest of this article and view a great slideshow on Richmonddotcom! Thanks!

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20/20 Visions of Alternative Transportation

Posted on 12 May 2011 by admin

The visions of 13 people—what you missed and how you can be involved in the city’s new transit plan.

Richmond Connects, a City of Richmond project, staged its kick-off event Tuesday night at the Byrd Theater. Participants were asked to present alternative visions of transportation in an alternative format: 20 slides, 20 seconds a slide.

This trendy and effective method known as “Pecha Kucha” is loved by the Japanese and seems to abate long-winded, awkward presentations.

The format itself was a breath of fresh air, as were many of the ideas presented.

Richmond Connects is the abbreviated moniker for The Richmond Strategic Multimodal Transportation Plan, a yearlong planning study to “update, revise and re-invent the transportation plan,” for Richmond.

The evening moved along like a well-oiled machine, hopefully one with a small carbon footprint, but whether or not the talks are just a bunch of hot-air remains to be seen.

The City of Richmond, with its recent creation of a Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail Commission, as well as proposed funding in the 2012 budget for a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, appears committed to reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Money has been pledged to develop the plan, but more than that half a million will be needed to complete any infrastructure (Portland, Oregon spent an estimated 52 million).

At the very least, Tuesday nights’ presenters made it clear that the city ought to take transportation reform very seriously.

SPOKEN QUICKLY, DRIVEN HOME

Some clambered on stage to speak their 6:40 (20×20) as concerned residents, bringing out-of-state experiences to the envisioning process.

CONTINUE READING AT RICHMOND.COM

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The ABC’s of Social Media and Happy Hour

Posted on 16 February 2011 by admin

Numerous restaurants in Richmond are violating, some without knowing, some simply disregarding, what many see as an invasive prohibition on social media promotion.

Gone are the days of Speakeasies, Prohibition-era liquor establishments, where liquor discreetly flowed for those whose tongues were agile with the correct password for entry. Even though billions of dollars now steadily pour into the coffers of alcohol manufacturers, in Virginia restaurants dare not speak easy about happy hour pricing.

Not too long ago restaurants were completely prohibited from promoting happy hour outside of the storefront. In late 2009, the ABC board approved the posting of a 17″ by 22″ sign in the window of a restaurant. This action symbolized forward movement from an organization often thought of as conservative.

When but not What

The momentous change spawned signage in windows, announcing, yes the business has a happy hour–a fact probably already known by 10 of 10 adults. In an urban setting, the sign might make a difference, but in a suburban setting, most restaurants receive specific destination traffic.

What really matters to those seeking the heaviest drinks for recession-light wallets are the prices, the choices, and the times. Times are actually allowed on the posted sign, but no specific mention of available selections, or the special prices is permitted.

“What the customer is deprived of is the information about what kind of specials are being offered,” said Thomas Lisk, an attorney at Eckert Seamans who previously served as chairman of the Industry Advisory Panel to the Virginia ABC Board during its regulatory review process.

…Finish reading the article, find out what promotions are legal and illegal, and take the poll at Richmond.com

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Devil’s Triangle Shapes Up

Posted on 14 September 2010 by admin

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Untangling the Urban Myths Behind Shoe-Tossing

Posted on 14 September 2010 by admin

Fear not, gentle readers and citizens of Richmond. Those shoes often seen suspended high from power lines do not mark gang territory or availability of crack-cocaine.

At least, that is the final word from the Richmond Police department.

“Richmond police, through the intelligence that we have gained has found no correlation between dangling tennis shoes and criminal activity,” said a spokesperson for the police department.

On the other foot, from Gang Reduction & Intervention Program (GRIP) at the attorney’s general office, is word that dangling shoes have several meanings, and those meanings change over time. A spokesperson did confirm that the shoes can indicate gang activity.

“Currently, shoes hanging from telephone wires can indicate gang presence or a drug territory, or it can simply be a youth prank,” said Amy Kube, program director for GRIP, whose information came from law enforcement partners at the Virginia Gang Investigator’s Association (VGIA).

THE MEANING FLIP-FLOPS

The number of urban legends surrounding these cultural artifacts rivals the shoe collection of Imelda Marcos. All around the globe, people use shoes to decorate power, cable and phone lines. Except for the places where they don’t have powerlines. Or shoes. Or in Iraq, where shoes, especially the soles, are considered unclean. In Arab culture it is rude to even show someone the bottom of your shoe.

There are explanations that range from victorious to menacing. Sometimes the well-heeled participants are simply celebrating.

“I have heard that it means that someone has achieved something lofty, like graduating from school,” Heather VanderPas said, a former Richmond resident who has explored many a local neighborhood.

Hightops could adorn the blacktop as covert flags for illegal drag racing.

“The guys in Henrico County use them as markers for drag racing,” Samantha Fotovat said, who first heard of this when in high school and she knew some people who knew some people who illegally drag raced.

“Territory markers is all I have ever heard, ” said local hairdresser Meredith McGlohon.

And she isn’t talking about Sacagawea’s moccasins.

Sometimes, it’s just because. Just because they outgrew their shoes. Just because they were drunk. Just because they were bored.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Alison Stokes said, who sees the shoes frequently in her neighborhood off Carytown. “Just that kids are goofing off but there are no drugs sold right in this area.”

LEADERS CAST LIGHT ON SHADY SNEAKERS

Although Ronald Savage, founder of United Coalition Association in the Bronx, N.Y. didn’t return my calls or emails, he has previously gone on record declaring a connection between sneakers and criminals.

Savage, who works with gangs in N.Y., spoke on film last year to the BBC and confirmed that tossed shoes serve as a memorial to fallen street soldiers, or, “that another gang has gone into someone else’s neighborhood and they beat him up…and after they beat him up they threw his sneakers up.”

In 1999 Beth Shuster (shoe-ster, seriously?) reported that Los Angeles Councilman Nate Holden so earnestly believed gang members used shoes as territory markers that he tried to have a law passed for their quick removal.

Like many other policemen around the nation who have been pumped for information on the correlation between gangs, drugs and sneakers, LA police did not believe Holden’s theory.

SHOE + GRAFFITI= SHOEFITI

In 2005 Ed Kohler coined the term “shoefiti” and started a website that “chronicles Shoefiti from around the world while trying to find meaning in this common act.”

Kohler’s first reply to my inquiry on foreboding footwear was a bit evasive.

“Clearly, there are a ton of reasons why shoes end up on power lines,” said Koheler. “For example, I think it’s safe to assume that soccer cleats near a stadium are either hazing or a post-season celebration situation.”

I persisted, asking if he ever had a direct “tie-in” from a detective or police officer.

“I haven’t heard of any police confirming a tie-in,” said Kohler. “Our gang strike task force head in Minneapolis has said there is no relationship, which may be true.”

“Or, he may be trying to avoid alarming citizens who’d then view ALL Shoefiti as gang related,” added Kohler.

IF THE SHOE FITS

Poke around on the Internet and ask your friends what the shoe-tossing represent. You will find a mixed-bag of responses. In most cases, what is worse than there being an actual problem is the perception there is a problem.

Fear not those shoes decorating the Powhite Parkway for the past 15 years. The only gangs on that road are the toll collectors.

Wikipedia calls the act of shoe-tossing a “folksport.” Sort-of a universally shared tradition without a universally shared intention.

“It’s been around since I was a kid,”  Mark Holmberg said, a local reporter tall enough to perhaps remove the decorative shoes himself.

While nobody seems to agree on what they really mean, most concur that it’s best to leave the removal to the experts.

Dominion Virginia Power removes the shoes only if they pose a safety issue or interrupt service to customers. Don’t try to get them down yourself.

“This could allow the electricity in the power line to flow through them to the ground, hurting or even killing them, ” said Jim Norville, spokesman for Dominion.

I’ll keep my eyes out for suspicious activity, in case. A pair just went up last week behind my house.

Help us understand this folksport of shoe-tossing. Tell us what you know.

 

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The Devil doesn’t live here anymore

Posted on 14 April 2010 by admin

The Devil Doesn’t Live Here Anymore from Alix Bryan on Vimeo.

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Birth of a nickname

Posted on 14 April 2010 by admin

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A seedy neighborhood transformed into an economic corridor

Posted on 14 April 2010 by admin

The exorcism and transformation of one tiny neighborhood in Richmond.

While Richmond is home to many historic neighborhoods, not all can claim such infamous tales, nor independent revitalization, as the Devil’s Triangle.  Concentrated efforts in the past six years have transformed this once rough neighborhood  into an economic corridor and designation for locals and visitors alike.  Overall, it was a slow, gradual change lasting more than 20 years, but one that the city just recently recognized.

Conversion of the Richmond area known as the Devil’s Triangle has involved many factors, people, and investors. The area’s time-line extends far back, before it was even known by such a moniker.

Trolley’s came through in the 1920s. The streets bustled and hosted a hospital, butcher, pharmacy, barber, newsstand, cigarette shop and even briefly, the city’s second Ukrops.
In the late ‘70s through the early ‘90s, a darker side of history cast a long shadow in which many seedy activities took place. Drugs. Prostitution. Alcoholism. Bar brawls. Gunfights. Robberies.

THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE
The Devil’s Triangle spans less than a mile, and is bundled into an urban area that Richmond locals refer to as the Upper Fan, which developed much later than the rest of the Fan, a general term for the part of the city that boasts VCU and historic homes.

The boundaries of the Devil’s Triangle run from Monument Ave. on the north to Kensington Ave. on the south, from the Boulevard on the east to Belmont Ave. to the west.

An aura of ill repute once enshrouded this tiny neighborhood area with a big reputation. There was a lot of crime, and a rougher clientele made the bars too foreboding for most Fan residents.

“If there was any corner of Richmond that was notorious, it was this corner,” said Rich Holden, former owner of the bar Felix, and current partner in Bandazian & Holden, the investors who have contributed substantially towards the area’s transformation.

For three decades The Devil’s Triangle has been Holden’s beat.  He has been involved with these streets since the early ‘80s; as a proprietor, resident, and now, major real estate investor.  Holden owned and operated Felix seven days a week, one of the three bars which formed the original Devil’s Triangle; Felix, The Ritz, and Cafe 21.

“It was very Southern blue collar, lower income, lots of people on welfare,” said Holden, as he explained the common denominators among residents.

There were also Vietnam vets with psychological problems, biker gangs, and criminals. When the police were out looking for someone, their first stop was The Ritz, and odds were good the suspect would be apprehended.

“One reason the police sort of tolerated The Ritz, and didn’t put more pressure on them was because their suspects would gravitate towards the bar and it made them easy to find,” said Holden.
“It was a place where you would see a lot of drunken fights and could find drugs, even prostitution,” said Sean McClain, the owner of Banditos Burrito Lounge, now in its 13th year of operations.

HOLDEN EXPLAINS THE ORIGINS OF THE NICKAME.

Holden purchased Babe’s restaurant in anticipation of Fan renovations moving over the Boulevard, a former boundary that divided the more desirable city area from the less. The renovations didn’t really begin to happen until the later ‘90s, almost 20 years after Holden had opened Felix.

The local oasis for sundries and octane, a 7-11, opened in the late ‘80s. It brought floodlights and 24 hour activity to a dark corner once inhabited by an auto-body shop that doubled as a drug trafficking hotspot.

“It was one of the worst things we could have had. At night there was no lighting and it provided opportunity for all sorts of questionable characters and activities, especially drugs and drug dealing,” said Holden, who watched cars steadily come and go in the evening.

At that time, drug customers were the only destination traffic that the area received, no outsiders or families visited the bars. Clientele for the bars came only from within the small neighborhood. By the time Holden closed his doors, there were 250 people banned from the bar. His wasn’t the roughest location either, of these Wild West saloon-like bars, where people were sometimes asked to check weapons when entering.

The tales are numerous, as Holden attests, and for years, he had a front row seat.

Bodies would fly out the Ritz. Someone checked a hand grenade. Gunfights. A dent in the door frame at Cafe Diem, formerly Cafe 21, is claimed to have come from a ricocheting bullet.

Mark Holmberg, former reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, once arrived on the scene of a gunshot call to find the victim still chugging beer at the bar, as blood oozed from his wounds.
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Listen to reporter Mark Holmberg’s account of a gunfight in the Devil’s Triangle.

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Richard Arthur, owner of Cafe Diem, was actually born in this neighborhood, at the former Johnston Willis hospital. He purchased Cafe 21 nine years ago, when the original owner died.

Arthur explained that the bar’s design was with intention to minimize causalities. He recalled the tire irons that hung from each end of the bar when he took over it. The bar’s brick construction was built four deep, with intention to halt a 357 magnum bullet in its path.

His first year in business, Arthur held a fundraiser to replace the old bar stools.

“The bar stools were clunky and heavy, designed so that a rowdy patron would topple over if they tried to wield one above their head,” said Arthur.

Those days are gone.

AN EXORCISM
Street lights, brightly colored paint, and hefty financial investment are a few ways to cast out the devil.

Eventually, the Fan spilled over the Boulevard. The integration and extension of the Fan, and a keen focus on redevelopment finally prompted the long awaited, and necessary, exorcism.
Old rooming houses were converted. Buildings were gutted and restored. The demographics began to change. The median income jumped from $25,000 to $75,000 and crime dropped. No one knows where all the former residents went, but the Fan migration took away the rowdy clientele.

“I sometimes am amazed. It’s a totally different place. I look up and down these streets and can’t believe the change since the ‘80s,” said Holden, who rarely, if ever, sees anyone who used to frequent the area.

“It’s a historic neighborhood that offers all modern conveniences,” said Ray Bonis, a Devil’s Triangle resident for 10 years.

Bonis, who lives in the apartments located in the converted Johnston Willis hospital, never anticipated staying this long. An avid historian employed by the VCU collections department, Bonis not only benefits from the neighborhood’s accommodations, he also blogs about the area.
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Ray Bonis, a local resident for ten years, describes the appeal of the Devil’s Triangle.

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IT TAKE A VILLAGE, AND MONEY.
Holden mentioned that a lot of hands were involved in the revitalization of the neighborhood, and doesn’t think that Bandazian & Holden can take complete credit. Bandito’s relocated here in 2003, and had prior success changing the gateway to Oregon Hill, their former location.

Bandazian & Holden purchased all the commercial properties along the notorious two blocks, and also have numerous residential holdings in the area. Inspired by a district in Charleston, S.C., renovations included adding more street lights for safety, coating the buildings in fresh paint of vibrant colors, and removing several awnings to make the storefronts more inviting.
Three bars still inhabit the original corners, but now they attract families and are considered destination spots from other neighborhoods.
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Take a look into the Devil’s Triangle

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The city has acknowledged the efforts made by the real estate company. Recently they met with Mayor Dwight C. Jones and his Deputy Chief Peter Chapman, to discuss future plans that include getting the power and phone lines underground and making other aesthetic upgrades.

Holden claimed that the city is considering giving them a special designation, similar to Carytown.

“The city really likes what we’ve done here, because it took a problem away from them. The police attention took man hours. Now it is an area that they can point to with pride,” said Holden.

While the city funds might be coming in soon, everything that happened previously was private investment. Business owners saw an opportunity to cast out the devil, to change the neighborhood’s reputation and existence.

Holden doesn’t seem to keen on the lasting nickname. Having worn many hats, from a bar owner deep in the trenches to an investor calling the shots, might make Holden leery to associate the infamous reputation with the burgeoning business district. And after all, those who refer to it as The Devil’s Triangle were not likely to have ever visited in its heyday.

Arthur likes the moniker, as does McClain.

“Now it seems to be one of those places that lives in the lore of the old days,” said Sean McClain, who noted the nickname is just a catchy way to describe a business district, much like Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y.
McClain shook his head thoughtfully and offered an observation that perhaps the devil really has nothing to do with this thriving business district.

“I don’t think the devil lives here. I have to say, I don’t think he lives in this triangle,” emphasized McClain.

Anymore.

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Community Center

Posted on 01 March 2010 by admin

Just off of Interstate 95 squats a mammoth, rainbow painted building. Located at 1407 Sherwood Avenue, the Gay Community Center of Richmond offer a diversity of events to the greater Richmond community. Many LGBT residents feel that the GCCR, which opened two years ago, has created a space that unites the community.

The GGCR opened just two years ago, although it is a part of the Gay Community Foundation, which just celebrated 10 years in Richmond.

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