Photo by Carson Lucarelli
Grab your hammer and duct tape; it’s time to clean up the neighborhood.
Richmond’s first Better Block project, hosted by Sports Backers, will transform North 25th Street in the Church Hill North and Union Hill neighborhoods. The Better Block movement, which began as a small community effort, is now an international program that works to create safer and more vibrant neighborhoods.
On Wednesday, June 11 and Thursday, June 12, the Better Block’s pre-build workshops will work near the intersection of North 25th and Venable streets to make improvements to the site before the event kicks off.
Each workshop teaches a unique specialty, from building furniture from wooden pallets to creating a “parklet” within a small space. About 75 people have volunteered to help with the pre-build, so far. All classes will be held at 1105/1107 N. 25th Street in Church Hill North. Sign-up for the classes on the Better Block website.
The work begins at 10 a.m. both days and Better Block is asking participants to bring tools so they can get everything assembled in time.
The event itself launches on Friday, June 13 from 5 to 9 p.m. and continues the next day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food trucks and live music will be on site to liven the mood and motivate the workers. Volunteers will be painting buildings, cleaning up the streets, installing crosswalks and bike lanes, building miniature parks and street furniture, and preparing vacant storefronts to house pop-up shops.
“Overall, the changes are temporary in nature, but the goal is to make these changes permanent,” says Max Hepp-Buchanan, director of Bike Walk RVA. “We’ll be duct-taping and spray painting bike ramps and crosswalks, but we will be making plenty of permanent improvements as well.”
The goalis to produce a cleaner, safer environment, with amenities for children, seniors, residents and visitors to the neighborhood. The North 25th street corridor will be able to support walking, biking, and more business through the pop-up shops. Though this is the first time Richmond has hosted this event, Hepp-Buchanan remains optimistic about its future.
“I can see it becoming an annual thing,” he says. “Other people will start adopting this model, and it doesn’t have to be the same people hosting this event each time.”
As part of the two-day event, as well as Sports Backers’ initiative to encourage citizens to become more active, a 5K walk/run will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 14 (walk-up registration begins at 7:30 a.m.). “It’s something that will be active and healthy for people to do; they also get the chance to see historic Church Hill,” Hepp-Buchanan says.