Standing up to the corporate elite is never easy, especially against the promise of much needed financial investment in Richmond’s communities. It takes courage.
Last week, five Richmond City Councilors took a stand against corporate interests and sent a clear message: we see through your fog of propaganda. Their decision to vote against the Navy Hill redevelopment project only revealed what Richmond’s taxpayers already knew, that this was a deal between Mayor Stoney and Dominion CEO Tom Farrell, cooked up behind closed doors and not with our interests in mind.
Let’s be clear, large-scale investments in the Navy Hill neighborhood are welcomed. A redevelopment plan for the area provides an opportunity to build wealth in Richmond and expand prosperity in the state. The question and concern remains to be who benefits.
With the first proposal pushed aside there’s a chance to return to the drawing board, this time with the input and vested interests of those who already call the area home. Downtown Richmond certainly has a long way to go before reaching its potential as an economic engine of Virginia. But we believe it is possible. Starting with a fresh slate, here are a few suggestions for building a downtown Richmond that works for us all:
Continue to invest in infrastructure that benefits Black Richmond – which will benefit all of Richmond.
This includes investing in updates to Richmond public schools, many of which cannot adequately house our students. This also means expanding the rapid bus lines to serve the surrounding majority Black neighborhoods like Churchill and Southside, Richmond. The funding intended for an unnecessary coliseum can find better use here, connecting existing communities to jobs downtown, and preparing the next generation for the workforce of the future.
This area is rich with Black history -- build on it.
Any redevelopment must build on Richmond's rich Black history. By investing in its foundation, there is an opportunity to create a sustainable tourist destination and generate more visitors in downtown Richmond. This area is rich with history: it is the home of various slave rebellions, the rallying center for Black forces leading the liberation of Richmond as the Civil War concluded and the birthplace of the Readjuster Government, a brief moment of progressive, bi-racial governing in Virginia’s history. Oliver Hill, Barbara Johns and other leaders of the Black freedom movement called Richmond home, right up to former Mayor Henry Marsh and the first majority Black City Council Majority of the late 1970’s. Richmond’s history has much to offer. All it requires is a meaningful economic investment in the communities that raised it.
There is hope for a new chapter in Richmond, as we close the door on elite business redevelopment schemes and look forward. We hope it is one that can attract new revenue for downtown AND invest in our lowest income communities. It does not need to be one or the other.