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City Council Proposes to Eliminate Funding for Manchester Revitalization

Richmond is in the midst of an artistic, educational, entrepreneurial, culinary, and cultural renaissance.

Manchester is a critically important emerging neighborhood in Richmond’s revitalization. Manchester’s diversity of new housing opportunities has attracted an equally-as-diverse group of new residents, artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses. We are dreamers, makers, and doers in Manchester…and we have a relentlessly positive can-do drive to make the neighborhood great again. As I write, local artists and donors are working together to remake the Manchester silos and the surrounding area by covering it with incredible RVA Street Art.

How did the recent “Manchester Renaissance” begin?

Private citizens, with deep roots in Richmond and an even deeper passion for Manchester, recognized the untapped potential of the historic Manchester neighborhood. Understanding the deep financial risk of such endeavors, entrepreneurs, residents, artists, and business owners began investing a significant amount of time, creativity, and resources into rebuilding Manchester. Instead of waiting around for something to happen, they took a gamble and committed to long-term investments in the community. In fact, just recently a group of 175 Manchester residents and stakeholders banded together to donate their own money and time to plant 100 trees throughout the neighborhood in City owned public tree wells. And there’s no denying the positive impact that has resulted…

But we need a little help from the City of Richmond

You may not know that Manchester was once an independant City. It wasn’t until 1910, that Manchester residents voted and agreed to a political consolidation with its sister City of Richmond across the James River. The 106 year old picture below of a thriving Hull Street in April 1910 shows a banner proclaiming the benefits of Manchester’s union with Richmond.

Photo courtesy of The Cook Collection. 1910.
Photo courtesy of The Cook Collection. 1910.

I wonder what those same residents would think now about that historic vote? Richmond has all but forgotten Manchester and provided virtually no infrastructure investments in 100 years. The time for that change is now!

The City of Richmond has been slow to recognize that the revitalization of Manchester requires partnership. Richmond has made worthy infrastructure investments in other parts of the City because the demand was there, residents and businesses alike were calling for it, and because of the long-term impact that those investments would have for the local Richmond economy. Manchester’s economy is rapidly emerging, yet our roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure have seen virtually no attention in 100+ years! In fact it took a local developer to map the hundreds of potholes in a small area of Manchester to get the City to finally come out and patch the ubiquitous potholes that line our streets.

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson has been a strong supporter of Manchester and its business owners and residents. With her help, Manchester was included in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 4 traffic circles and 2 choke points in the residential section on Bainbridge, Perry, and Porter. However, at a recent City Council meeting, it was proposed to cut all of the funding for these Manchester projects and other traffic calming projects in the City. Furthermore, funding to revitalize the Hull Street corridor from the Mayo Bridge to 26th Street was included in this year’s CIP, but was allocated no funding.

Funding for the Hull Street Revitalization Project ($200,000 which was not funded in this year’s CIP) and the traffic calming measures mentioned above, are small investments that would go a long way in a neighborhood that is often overlooked. These projects also have overwhelming support from the Manchester community as evidenced on our recent poll and as seen in the recent Manchester Alliance neighborhood meeting.

There’s no question that the City needs to adequately fund schools, roads, public safety, and other core functions of government. And we recognize that the City isn’t flush with cash, so tough decisions will need to be made. The Manchester community is simply asking City Council to consider funding these small, but impactful projects – projects that will help improve the quality of life and streetscapes in Manchester, slow down traffic, make our neighborhoods more pedestrian friendly…and most importantly…demonstrate to the residents and business community in Manchester that the City supports their efforts to bring new life to the neighborhood. And as rightly pointed out by The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s “Where is Richmond’s money going?” editorial, there appears to be massive inefficiencies in the City’s bureaucracy that should be streamlined to bring it into conformity with similar cities. If this streamlining was done, the City could simultaneously fund our schools AND maintain essential services along with badly needed infrastructure improvements.

Want to Help?

Please email Councilwoman Ellen Robertson today and tell her that you support her efforts to fund these important revitalization projects in Manchester! Her email is Ellen.Robertson@Richmondgov.com – be sure to include your name, address (if you would like), and company name (if applicable) so she can see that support for these projects comes from both Manchester residents and other Richmonders! Councilwoman Robertson is fighting to keep these projects funded, but she needs to hear that she has our support, so she can muster the energy to fight for the necessary City funding to revitalize Manchester’s worn out infrastructure!

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