2012-05-30 / News

City-county team seeks to revitalize Hull Street corridor

Residents concerned about safety, sidewalks
By Michael Buettner

A city-county team looking at ways to revitalize the neighborhoods around a fourmile stretch of Hull Street in Richmond and Chesterfield has spent almost a year getting input from residents about what the area needs. Now, the group is ready to seek more input as it readies a detailed plan to address those needs.

Officials with the city and county governments and representatives of a consultant hired to help manage the Hull Street Corridor Revitalization Plan have been holding community meetings recently to update residents on their findings to date.

Transportation-related issues, including pedestrian safety, were among the top concerns raised by people who live in the area, which stretches for four miles along Hull Street from the railroad line near Southside Plaza inside the city to the intersection with Walmsley Boulevard/Hicks Road in Chesterfield County.

Also included are “all the neighborhoods that feed into Hull Street” along that stretch, according to John Taylor, an official with the Richmond Planning Department.

Residents who talked with the study team expressed strong concerns about the lack of sidewalks throughout the area. Pedestrians are forced to walk on dirt paths or in roadways, many of which are narrow, heavily traveled two-lane roads with drainage ditches on the sides rather than curbs.

That’s typical of roads throughout the county, but it’s also true of the side roads within the city’s portion of the study area, reflecting the fact that most of this section of the city was part of Chesterfield until 1969, when the city absorbed it as part of a controversial annexation.

The lack of an urban-type drainage system contributes to frequent ponding or flooding of streets in the area, further compounding transportation problems that also include unsafe intersections, a lack of stoplights and crosswalks, and limited bus services, according to residents.

Another big concern is a lack of recreational amenities, especially for young people. “Within the city, we don’t really have anything except a couple of schools with ball fields,” Taylor noted.

Residents also are concerned about the number and type of businesses along the corridor, and feel there are too many fast-food outlets and not enough places to buy fresh, healthy food. In general, they believe there’s a lack of economic drivers in the area and that more tax incentives may be needed to get more people to invest in businesses there.

About 13,000 people live in the four-mile stretch of Hull Street Road and the areas surrounding it, and that number has been increasing by about 1 percent per year for the past couple of decades, according to Frances Stanley, a research analyst with the Virginia branch of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC). Virginia LISC has been consulting with the Richmond and Chesterfield government team on the project, which was funded by a federal grant.

As the population there grows, it’s getting more racially and ethnically diverse, Stanley said. More than half the residents are African- American, but the fastest growth in the past decade was in the Hispanic population, which roughly doubled from 2000 to 2010 and currently stands at around 18 percent of the total population.

But it’s also economically disadvantaged, with a 15 percent unemployment rate, a median household income of $46,938; just 36.7 percent of the homes in the area are owner-occupied.

In Chesterfield County as a whole, average unemployment last year was 6.1 percent, median household income in 2010 was $71,321, and 78.4 percent of the homes were owner-occupied.

Latisha Jenkins, revitalization coordinator with Chesterfield County Economic Development, said the next step for the project is to draft a detailed revitalization plan for presentation early next year to the Board of Supervisors and Richmond City Council.

Taylor said the local team expects to award a contract soon for consulting services to a team led by Rhodeside & Harwell, an urban planning and design firm based in Alexandria. Once a detailed plan is approved, he said, project backers will seek federal funding to implement the plan. “That will involve millions of dollars,” he said. “It’s going to take some alternate funding sources” to complete.

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