Being Sociology major at the University of Mary Washington, I have been particularly interested in the developments occurring on Fall Hill Avenue. Being a resident of Fredericksburg I have noticed that over the past two years lots of construction has been occurring in an area where predominantly low-income families reside. 476 apartments, 453 townhomes, and 59 single-family detached homes are located in what has now become a construction zone (Adopted by Fredericksburg’s City Council, p. 181). An eight-month project has recently ended on Fall Hill Avenue that rebuilt the Rappahannock Canal Bridge. It was not until the construction for the widening of Fall Hill took place that I began to notice a problem. The soon to be four-lane road is located in front of at least 5 residential developments that has made me realize gentrification is occurring right here in Fredericksburg.
The construction that is occurring is right smack in the middle of an area where thousands of low-income Fredericksburg inhabitants reside. These families are losing their recreation for at least another year until the widening project is finished. Scott Shenk wrote an article in 2014 about the Fall Hill widening project and he states that, “ A new court, playground, and baseball field will be built nearby after the road project is completed” (Shenk, 2014). Nearby? Where is nearby? That statement automatically makes me question whether or not there is really going to be recreational facilities in a near walking distance for the residents like there once was in the past. The loss of recreation in this community is cruel, these families are low-income and having recreation, in my opinion is vital for the everyday struggles and pressures that people in poverty have to endure.
The developments that are being planned for Fall Hill are going to create a newly gentrified community and allow for economic evictions. Building investors and real estate agents are going to capitalize on the property that is currently occupied. The construction is being “privately funded by those who will develop the intervening land” (Adopted by Fredericksburg’s City Council, p. 184). These developers are free to do what they want with the land. Investors will see that the residents who are living in the current properties are renters and locate the landlords and buy them out. Landlords will find ways to get their tenants out whether through forms of intimidation or rent increases if investors offer the right price.
The forms of economic eviction that I just mentioned will create a space where social backgrounds will begin to mix and potentially conflict. When different social backgrounds begin to mix tensions are going to arise causing the native inhabitants to be pushed out of their neighborhoods. Bragg Hill, a former name for the now Central Park Townhomes community, is proof that a new culture is trying to be created. Once people who are not used to the community move in they will begin to complain and bring about issues that have never been presented before. Laws can be enforced and created to satisfy the more desirable residents that the developers and investors want to attract.
The developments that are taking place on Fall Avenue can potentially lead to a disruption in the community that already exists. The families have already lost their recreation and wait for new recreation to be built. They are at risk for economic eviction due to the capital investments that are possible from the new restorations that are currently occurring. Lastly, the mixing of social backgrounds can bring about negative results because of the unfamiliarity and conflicting cultural differences. In order to reduce the threat of families being pushed out of their neighborhoods, I recommend civic engagement to spread the word and gain support for the tenants in the Fall Hill area. The development that is currently going on may not seem like a threat now, but in the future I see negative results occurring and it is up to the people to volunteer and organized to protect their communities.
Adopted by Fredericksburg’s City Council. City of Fredericksburg Comprehensive Plan.
Shenk, S. (2014, December 4). Plans Laid out for Fall Hill Avenue Project. The Free Lance-Star .