The Old Manchester Neighborhood is a very desirable neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia as it has rich historic roots, is directly south of downtown, and has a large sense of community. With these things said, it is surprising that the area has been declining for decades. There are many vacant homes and lots, “husband-wife families” have been declining, 80% of residents are considered low-income, and 69% of residents are below the poverty line. The city decided something had to be done about this. The primary goal of the city is to encourage mixed-use development while preserving the historic character. There is a mixture of rehabilitation and redevelopment strategies. The goal is to create an urban environmental where people can live, work, shop, and recreate. Demographics from 1980-1990 were used to establish this plan. This analysis will mainly focus on housing using background from what we have learned about and discussed in class.
Strengths of the Plan
This plan seems to have many strengths. The city of Richmond plans on providing a range of housing types to provide opportunities for people of all incomes. This is very important because it makes it possible for people of all different backgrounds to live in the neighborhood. There will be places for lower-income and higher-income and this makes the neighborhood very inclusive. The plan also states that they will displace as few residents as possible and provide new homes for displaced residents within Old Manchester. Unlike other cities that we’ve learned about, Richmond has actually prepared and has a plan for the residents. The residents are more likely to go along with this plan knowing that they will have a place to return to. It was also stated that the city will develop infill housing where there are gaps in the neighborhood. When there are vacant lots or vacant homes, there is a higher chance of crime. Also, as we saw in Boston, the vacant lots can become sites for garbage dumping which is a health hazard. By making it a priority to infill these vacant lots and homes, it makes the community a much safer place. They also stated that they will balance economic development activity with the needs of the residential community. I think it is very important that they value both of these so highly. From the statistics stated before, the area needs economic development, but if that takes priority to the residents severe problems will arise.
Weaknesses of the Plan
There were not many weaknesses to this plan. One thing that did stand out to me, though, was that they plan on developing Old Manchester as a community conducive to single-family residential land uses. From the existing conditions provided in the plan, I feel like this would not be the best solution for the community. It was stated that most of the units were multi-family (36%), following that two-family units (33%), and then single-family units (31%). Also, the number of families has been declining. It does not make much sense for a single person or a couple to live in a single-family home, but more likely a multi-family unit.
Overall the Old Manchester Neighborhood Plan seems like a great plan that respects the community that lives there and wants to keep them happy while also improving the area. They plan on developing economically but not so much to impact the residents negatively. Their plan to create a majority of single-family residential land uses is questionable, but positively they focus on maintaining affordability, providing housing for all income levels, displacing as few residents as possible, and developing infill where there are gaps or vacancies. Although the plan sounds good on paper, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in real life.