Illustration by Kristy Heilenday
You've been my hometown for more than 25 years, and we've made lots of great memories together. I know I can be hard on you, but I promise that every expletive-laden diatribe comes from a place of love. That is why I simply cannot stand around and do nothing as you retail yourself to death.
You have a shopping center problem. You say that you have it under control. You say that you only do it "to be social" and "help the local economy." People need stuff, you say. What's the big deal about making it easy for them to buy all the electronics and lawn furniture they so desperately need?
You're quick to remind me that you never go as overboard as Hampton Roads or Northern Virginia. But you know what? They're much bigger than you; they can handle it. Besides, I'm more worried about the city that went on a bender, built White Oak Village off Laburnum and then woke up not remembering a thing. Did you even realize that they put a Pizza Hut Express inside the Target? You helped do that. Now we all have to live with the consequences.
Retail development addiction is a disease. And Richmond, this disease has changed you. We both know that you've never been perfect, but I'm not here to rub salt in your 6th Street Marketplace wounds. Right now, I want to get you off the shopping centers, superstores and strip malls.
Remember last year, when I asked what happened to the trees near Reynolds Crossing at Forest and Glenside? You told me that you helped move them to the country where they could grow wild and be free. But did you really expect me to believe that the trees left without their stumps? Now there's a Walmart growing in the exact same spot. Coincidence? Not likely.
You also knew that I had high hopes for the vast green space off Staples Mill near Broad Street. It could have become a place where old people do slow-motion kung-fu and spandex moms push strollers around as if they're late for important baby appointments. But a few months ago, it became a giant pile of dirt surrounded by bulldozers and men in hard hats. I asked what happened to the grass, and you looked me in the eye and said, "What grass?" You probably didn't realize it, but your breath reeked of freshly poured cement.
If you stay down this road, we'll all go "full-blown Fairfax" in less than two years. Is that what you want? Because that's what your behavior shows me you want.
I hate to throw down ultimatums, but either you seek serious help to wean yourself from superstore dependence, or I'm taking all of my unpaid parking tickets and moving to Canada. Once I get there, I will immediately start speaking French and liking hockey and forget you existed. I will become "L'homme de Nulle Part," and you will mutate into a grotesque amalgamation of chain stores and empty parking lots. Unless you change.
Please, Richmond, will you take the treatment that is being offered to you today? Lay that backhoe down. Let's get better together.