Elizabeth Cogar strolls along Libbie Avenue's shopping district. (Photo by Jay Paul)
From my 1920s bungalow near the intersection of Libbie and Grove avenues in Richmond’s Near West End, I can reach most anything I might need within a block or two: food, drink, clothing and accessories, fitness, a tank of gas, home goods and gifts, banks, and chocolate. The convenience is ... convenient, and the charm of the old storefronts, wide sidewalks and patio dining is a happy perk of living nearby.
Libbie Avenue, stretching south to north from Cary Street to Bethlehem Road, was named for Libbie Thompson by her husband, Mark, who bought Westview Farm in 1890. The farm’s acreage included what is now the intersection of Libbie and Grove avenues; it began to transition from rural to suburban shortly after the Westhampton streetcar line arrived in 1901. Older residents of the area recall that the houses and shops that sprouted seemed like a little town, with a beloved ten-cent store, dressmaker, gas stations (with mechanics!) and a grocer. Time has changed the mix of businesses, but the personality remains for now, while developers are slowly pushing for growth.
There’s a variety of residential options near Libbie and Grove — expansive historic homes, bungalows, rentals, condos and apartments. This is a neighborhood whose mostly traditional homes’ values are known to climb in leaps if the market is strong. Proximity to The Country Club of Virginia and to Mary Munford, St. Christopher’s, St. Catherine’s and St. Bridget schools is desirable for some, and the University of Richmond is only a mile away.
Three new residential projects are underway in the area, including The Tiber, which has been under construction for the past few years. (Photo by Maggie Pope)
Three new residential projects are underway. Two are maxing out square footage with height expansions — condos above the old Westhampton Theater block and also above Frâiche boutique. The third is the multi-story Tiber on Libbie, north of Grove, which has been under construction for the last few years.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s plenty of choice. Cafe Caturra, Palani Drive, The Continental Westhampton, Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint, Sweet Frog, and the new Beijing on Grove all welcome families and feature al fresco options. Gearhart’s Fine Chocolates and Pearl’s Cupcakes are most welcome recent additions. The food retailer Taste Unlimited is slated to open on Grove in summer 2018. On Saturdays, the Farmers Market at St. Stephen’s Church features fresh ingredients to take home, and Libbie Market, open daily, offers prepared foods, groceries and seating for guests inside and out. And what would any neighborhood be without the requisite Starbucks?
While we don’t have any parks in this little ’hood, we do have a playground, accessible from both Libbie and Granite avenues. There’s a yoga studio, and if you’ve ever driven out Grove, you may have noticed the informal “track” that is the sidewalk. Walkers know that it’s a mile on Grove from Libbie to Westmoreland, and cyclists now have a lane of their own.
A favorite destination for upscale goods, the retail mix includes vintage storefronts with shops for clothing, jewelry, wine, rugs, antiques, stationery, fabric, home goods, gifts, paint, chocolates and pet accessories. All are an easy walk within a two- or three-block distance from the intersection of Grove and Libbie.