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Burt Pinnock of Storefront for Community Design Photos by Isaac Harrell
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A model of an outdoor theater proposed for the Shockoe District.
Blessed be the creative minds in RVA, but not everyone knows exactly how to approach a revitalization effort in their home or community. Enter Storefront for Community Design, a collaboration of 60 design-community pros. SCD is partnered with and shares space with MoB (or Middle of Broad), an interdisciplinary design lab that combines the talents of four VCU design departments across two schools, fashion design, graphic design, interior design, and urban and regional planning, says VCU interior design professor Camden Whitehead. Two years and two storefronts later, SCD has about 100 projects under its belt. Burt Pinnock, of BAM Architects and SCD board member, catches us up on their progress.
R•Home: Let's start at the beginning. What's the philosophy behind Storefront for Community Design?
Burt Pinnock: To be a design resource for the city at large. It's all about making Richmond a better place.
R•Home: Can't help but love that. Is it also about bringing things back to the way they were, given that Richmond is a city deeply rooted in history?
Pinnock: Not necessarily bringing things back to the way they were as much as it is to bring life back to the city — and that what we bring back is done in a holistic, responsible way.
R•Home: So anyone who wants to improve their home/building/neighborhood can call on you guys? How does it work?
Pinnock: Yep. There's a one-page application, which is not for acceptance or rejection, but a way for us to be clear on what the goals of the applicants are. Tell us who you are, what you're doing, and we connect you with the appropriate volunteer for a one-hour consultation at no charge. Depending on your ability to pay, the work can go on a pro bono or on a sliding scale. We don't provide signed and sealed permitted professional drawings. That gets into an insurance and liability issue. But we can offer a planned approach that you can take to any design professional or contractor, and they can get you to the next step.
R•Home: What kind of projects have you worked on thus far?
Pinnock: Some are simple as a landscape concept for a yard. Some are more detailed, like, "I need to renovate my kitchen. How should I start? What are the resources out there to help me do this?" The approach with nonprofits and civic associations is helping them develop community plans and visions around neighborhoods. We've done this for a number of groups like Oregon Hill, the Fulton area and East View. We also helped work out the new sidewalk café guidelines for the city, which were adopted by the planning commission.
R•Home: And if there was one project you'd like to see come to fruition, what would it be?
Pinnock: In the East End area where we started out, we're still working on one of the larger neighborhood beautification projects called "The Fences on Church Hill."
This project is in tandem with VCU Design Studios [MoB] — the idea was to come up with a series of designs for front yard fences, flags and mailboxes and let homeowners choose from those elements appealing to them for a nominal fee.
R•Home: It sounds like there's a nice mix of projects. How are you keeping up?
Pinnock: One of our challenges is having the capacity to be able to do everything that needs to be done. It just takes time and man-hours. That's it. That's the only challenge. The need for our organization is there; we just have to figure out how to corral the tiger and go for it.
R•Home: It sounds like you could use more volunteers!
Pinnock: We want everyone to take advantage of the resource, and we also want anyone who is interested in volunteering to reach out to us. Even if you think you have nothing to offer, we might find that you do!
Would you like to apply for help on a project or find out more about volunteer opportunities? Visit storefrontrichmond.org for more details.