“Silence means assent.”
-attributed to John M. Bennett, VCU’s senior vice president for finance and administration, and “a lead negotiator with [Oregon Hill] neighbors affected by the [proposed] recreation center.” Via the TD.

VCU wants to build a recreation center on Cary Street, between Linden and Cherry streets, and demolish two historic 19th Century stables. Apparently, the lack of vocal opposition over the past several months led VCU to believe Oregon Hill residents supported the proposal- hence the quote above. Several Oregon Hill residents and organizations, however, are ending their silence (if they every really were silent) and voicing their opposition. Among their complaints:

  • The stables are integral to the historic fabric of the neighborhood.
  • The proposed rec center would be out of scale with surrounding buildings. VCU’s planning to wrap the current Cary St. Gym (itself an historic building- it used to be the city auditorium) with a 100,000 sq. ft. addition.
  • The new development violates VCU’s promise not to encroach any further on the neighborhood.

I’m personally undecided on the issue. I haven’t seen the stables myself and haven’t heard compelling arguments about why they need to be saved. Not everything old needs preservation- perhaps these do, perhaps they don’t. And I can find no information on their current use- are they vacant or not?

Also, I haven’t seen a good rendering for the proposed building (there’s a low-resolution image reprinted in the TD, but not made available on-line). I’m curious to see how the building will fit with its neighbors. If anyone knows of a good rendering post a link in the comments section (architects are Moseley Architects).

I wish VCU would focus on buying and building up vacant lots and parking lots around downtown instead of tearing down buildings. I understand that in this case they want to cluster their recreation options for students, but still. With so much vacant & under-utilized land around, I’d like to see increased density in Richmond, not just recycling current building sites.

Whatever the merits of both sides in this argument, we can expect the fight to stay in the news a while. The TD reports, “Oregon Hill leaders have vowed to continue to fight plans for the recreation center every step of the approval process, from state agencies to City Hall.”

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