So we walked Manchester this weekend, and the construction boom is staggering. Developers are building market rate duplexes and single family homes at a blistering pace. The infill construction is located along Bainbridge, Porter, Perry, and McDonough Streets between Commerce Road and Cowardin Ave. Many, if not most of the old historic homes located on these blocks have already been restored. Robin Miller and Dan Gecker of Urban Development Associates are filling the remaining blank parcels in this area quickly. In fact, their work at Manchester Green which is underway as we speak, will fill an entire empty block bounded by Bainbridge, Porter, 12th, & 13th Streets.
It is an entirely different story East of Hull however where there is virtually no market rate infill construction. There are a few instances of new low-income housing being built by various non-profit groups which sit unsold for months on end awaiting buyers who are below the maximum income thresholds, which would otherwise be sold quickly. And just recently a smattering of old home renovation was kicked off within the last 6 months which is a very good early sign of new investment. However, the bulk of the blank land, and low income rental housing between Hull and Maury Streets (and further southeast within Oak Grove for that matter) is all owned by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority much of which sits idle as a result. In fact, there are countless RRHA owned low-income rental properties that sit vacant and boarded up in this area, contributing to blight and stagnation.
I wonder, will RRHA begin disposing of its inventory so the private sector can get the area moving forward and out of neutral? RRHA holds the cards for virtually everything East of Hull Street, given the massive stock of land and properties they are sitting on. While in some instances they may not own an entire block, surrounding property owners are often afraid to move first with new construction for fear that RRHA will either swamp the area with newly constructed low-income housing, or let the parcels sit idle for years on end. It is truly a dilemma that is negatively affecting the entire area. It will be interesting to see if the logjam breaks at some point, but that will require a change in direction at RRHA.