A residential development proposed for a main thoroughfare in the incorporated area of North Richmond, is receiving praise from area residents who hope the project will be a catalyst for future growth.
Filbert Townhomes, as the project is called, will include a series of 43 affordable one-bedroom flats and two and three-bedroom townhomes in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Fred Jackson Way. The development will be built on 11 parcels between Willard and Dubose avenues.
North Richmond based Community Housing Development Corporation is behind the $22 million development that will cater to low-income families. The project is being funded through a mix of private, state and local government monies. The Richmond Planning Commission recently approved a rezoning request, which needs final approval from the council, but is not on the upcoming agenda.
“The residents of Richmond can benefit from having affordable housing opportunities,” said Joanna Griffith, assistant director of real estate development for the Community Housing Development Corporation.
“For those families that are not quite at the point for being ready for home ownership, affordable rental housing is a necessity,” Griffith added.
The development will include open space seating areas, bicycle racks, laundry facilities and a community space.
Families that make 60 percent the area’s median income of $64,400, will qualify for the rental units. For example the maximum that a family of three can earn is $58,000 to qualify for a rent between $500 and $800 a month.
The organization is looking to apply for state tax credit funding next year and the project will take about 13 months to complete. The units are expected to be complete by July 2015.
The flats and townhomes will fill empty lots once home to a corner store, two gas stations and a liquor store. The site of the development has sat vacant for at least five years leaving some worried the lots would become a magnet for criminal activity.
Though construction is still at least a year away on the Filbert Street Townhomes, the project is a step in the in the right direction for a community whose perception is worse than its crime problem, said Marena Brown, president of the Shields-Reid Residents Neighborhood Council.
“We celebrated when the dilapidated buildings were torn down because we were in hopes that something else would come in and redevelop the community,” Brown said. “After all these years, we are elated about new development coming to this main strip.”
Brown hopes the new rooftops will spur commercial development in the area, preferably a supermarket. North Richmond is considered a food desert because it lacks a full-sized grocery store and many residents don’t have their own transportation. Community activists are continually advocating for a grocery store to open in the area.
“We have some corner stores but they don’t offer you what a chain store could offer,” Brown said.
North Richmond has seen a mix of new housing in recent years. Griffith said the Community Housing Development Corporation has been successful in reducing blight and developing several areas in North Richmond and she points to the Parkway Estates, Filbert Homes and Chesley rental housing as thriving examples.
Lucky Braimah, owner of Rancho Market at Fifth Street and Market Avenue, welcomes new development and but also hopes potential buyers will purchase some of the many vacant homes scattered through North Richmond.
“There are so many empty houses that are being occupied by drug dealers and the homeless that need to be fixed up,” Braimah said. “There is nothing wrong with North Richmond, but it’s what the people do to the community that makes it look the way it does.”
Griffith said the Filbert Townhomes would have good property management to ensure the affordable housing units remain a viable part of the community.
“Our ongoing mission has been to revitalize underserved communities and neighborhoods,” she said.