Through engaging at the Goodwill I was able to interact with members of the community that lack resources and possess many barriers that prevent them from receiving opportunities that people more well of have access to. Engaging with disadvantage members of my community has made my interest in addressing the disproportionate distribution of resources that is prevalent in marginalized communities.
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 .
Across the nation, American cities are diverse and have comprehensive plans set in place to agree upon policies and make improvements that benefit the residents. Knowing that, my goal is to identify the strengths and weaknesses that the council members of Fredericksburg, Virginia have fostered in their comprehensive plan which intentions are to maintain the city’s physical, social, and economic features along with sustaining the qualities that make their town an “attractive place to live and do business (Adopted by Fredericksburg’s City Council, 2015).
While reviewing the plan I noticed that the population projections for the years 2020, 2030, and 2040 were included and broken down by age groups. Including these projections is beneficial because it aids in the developments of facilities and institutions that can better improve the city. These projections allow the city to understand which types of facilities are going to be needed in order to strategically plan for future developments. Population projections are very important to understand because the rest of the plan is going to focus on the people of Fredericksburg in a number of different aspects ranging from public services and facilities all the way to historic preservation and institutional partnerships.
One of my issues that concern the population is Chapter 10 of the comprehensive plan’s land use section. One of the objectives of the Land Use Plan is to address the conditions of certain areas and make recommendations as to what should be done. When reviewing Land Use Planning Area of 1 and 2, which is the Celebrate Virginia/Central Park and Fall Hill Avenue areas of Fredericksburg, I see that there are plans to expand recreational activities along the river for tourists to experience “scenic vistas, intact natural areas, and historic sites” and to develop a new interchange for the highway to relieve traffic congestion. Now, being a resident of Fredericksburg I know that where they are already in the process of expanding recreational activity and producing a new highway interchange, low-income families occupy neighborhoods not even one mile away.
Construction is going on everyday and has already taken away a basketball court and a park in the Heritage Park apartment complex to allow for the widening of what was once a two-lane highway into a four-lane highway with bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the Fall Hill area of Fredericksburg. The plan claims to want to “continue to improve Sunshine Ball Park and develop additional recreational amenities as feasible”. Feasible? To me, what I take from the word feasible in that statement is if after all of the already planned construction is through and if there is no space and funds available, then maybe some more recreational activities for the people in that community will be created. But by that time, the people in the community may have no choice but to move out.
The land usage portion of Fredericksburg’s comprehensive plan does not sit well with me in regards to the current and future population that has been so clearly determined for the next 25 years. Developing areas for visitors to appreciate while vacationing and expanding highways where families live on an already busy road is allowing for the neighborhoods on Fall Hill Avenue to be ruined and gentrified. The developments that are occurring could ultimately force these families to have to move out due to potential eminent domain requests, property’s being sold, and families having no choice but to move due to increased rental payments. With that being said, knowing that many of the families rent their homes that they live in, I fear their chances for experiencing negative effects from the plans that have been developed are terribly high. But hey, at least the city of Fredericksburg is sticking to their plan but keeping it “an attractive place to live and do business.”
Adopted by Fredericksburg’s City Council. (2015, September 8). Fredericksburg Virginia. Retrieved September 19, 2015, from Fredericksburg, VA-Official Website: www.Fredericksburgva.gov/DocumentCenter/View/5099
Gentrification has contributed to the displacement of people and the disinvestment of neighborhoods in at-risk cities. In the last 20 years minorities have contributed to the investment and renewal of urban neighborhoods. Through these contributions a sense of racial uplift has occurred and the fear of displacement subsides when minority investors pursue the renovations of impoverished neighborhoods. Through academic literature, I aim to identify the benefits that can occur when minorities that identify with impoverished neighborhoods invest and renew marginalized communities.