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Assessing the Fulton Hill commercial corridor

A week before a recent community cleanup day, Helen Dunlap and other consultants from the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), walked the business corridor along Williamsburg and Government roads in the Richmond, Va., neighborhood of Fulton Hill.

The goal, said Dunlap, a LISC consultant and community developer, “is to learn as much as possible about what the community is seeking. Everyone should ask questions.”

Veronica Jemmott, a senior program officer with the Virginia office of LISC, agreed. “It’s an active neighborhood,” she said.  “They said they want to meet you all and give you the once-over."

Walking the corridor

What the team saw was:

  • A privately owned day-support facility for mentally ill clients.
  • A Quick Mart in a space formerly occupied by a 7-11 store.
  • A Krispies Fried Chicken, sitting on the corner of Williamsburg Road and Parker Street.
  • The New Life Outreach International Church, next to Krispies.
  • A few feet east of Krispies, a vacant with a sign: “NuVision Consulting Group.”
  • The Calvary United Methodist Church, at 1637 Williamsburg Road, standing at the epicenter of several small businesses, including Carvers Tire and Auto, Fine Food Suprett, Ocean World Seafood and a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant’s hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Crystal Bennett, a task force member, said its owners are elderly and have operated the business for many years.
  • A  fourth religious institution, Anointed Worship Center, which appeared to be vacant. Bennett said that she has never seen anyone there, but Jemmott recognized the minister’s name as one of her former students.

Later that day, Dunlap and two other LISC officials — Joel Bookman, co-director for LISC’s Chicago office, and Candice Streett, executive director of Virginia LISC — met with Peter Chapman, Richmond’s deputy chief administrative officer for Economic & Community Development. Chapman’s office, in Main Street Station in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom area, is just a few-minutes drive from Fulton.

'Start an action-oriented agenda'

Dunlap wasted no time in conveying the Fulton project’s urgency.

“The goal is to take what’s there and start an action-oriented agenda,” she said. “The corridor is small. Community interests are enormous.  It’s not a corridor that’s waiting for Starbucks. We went into three ethnically owned restaurants.”

Dunlap noted that a car repair shop in the corridor is thriving, and mentioned the idea of gathering customer zip codes to gain a sense of the area’s overall business demographic.

Bookman, a 20-year community developer, said he sensed numerous possibilities in Fulton. For example, an upcoming meeting with Rockett’s Landing representatives had been  planned. Rockett’s Landing is a new community in Henrico County, less than a mile from Fulton.

Also, 30 new houses are being built in Fulton, with an additional 30 units planned.