I received an announcement about the restoration of Church Hill’s historic Robinson Theater via email and am sharing this good news here.

Too often my desire to see a renewed city comes into conflict with my desire for a more just social order in Richmond.  Too often historic preservationists, developers, and business entrepreneurs line up against those seeking affordable housing, alternatives to heavy prison sentences, and redistribution of wealth.

This project, however, marries all of these concerns in a way that, hopefully, will inspire similar actions in our community.  A significant piece of African-American history has been preserved, and remade from a blighted property into a community arts center.  Read on:

Richmond, Virginia (February 11, 2009) – After its 20-year desolation, the Robinson Theater located in North Church Hill has been revived once more. The first African American theater in the area now shows itself as the Robinson Theater Community Arts Center providing a vibrant and welcoming environment to all the neighbors.

With the construction in 1936, the Robinson Theater was named after Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a native Richmonder well-known for being the “World’s Best Tap Dancer”. Films, singers, dancers, comedians and other live performers lit up the stage on a regular basis.

“It’s time to bring back the ‘hub’ of the community as the Robinson Theater was referred to back in the 1930s,” expressed Betsy Hart, Executive Director of Robinson Theater Community Arts Center. As the neighborhood respects this historic name, the goal is to keep it alive by opening its doors for activity for a new generation to enjoy. Its effectiveness will be realized through partnerships with fellow community leaders and residents.

With the same building and new vision, the community arts center will provide after-school programs for the youth such as dance, drama and art classes along with community events for all ages to participate. Saturday matinees will be one of the ways to renew the fond memories of the elderly and enjoy an inexpensive movie in their own backyard again.

The Grand Opening and Illumination for the newly renovated Robinson Theater will be held on Saturday, February 21 from 3-5 p.m. The afternoon will consist of an open house with short tours of the facility, opportunities to know more about becoming a Friend of the Robinson, and register for upcoming classes. Light refreshments will be served and music from Making a Melody featuring David Bailey. The illumination of the 1936 Robinson Theater marquee replica will conclude the event along with remarks from Delegate Delores McQuinn. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Betsy Hart, Executive Director
Robinson Theater Community Arts Center
(804) 310-2887


A Chipotle spokesperson confirms that the company will build its 8th store on Grace St., on the site of the old Pizza Hut, in the heart of the VCU campus.

This rumor was confirmed by the Times Dispatch this morning.

Introducing Riverbank Terraces Riverbank rendering
Four floors, one roof-top deck and absolutly no one between you and the river.

Introducing Riverbank Terraces Riverbank rendering Four floors, one roof-top deck and absolutely no one between you and the river…. Plus, each home features an elevator to help you relish each of the four floors – from the terrace that opens directly on to the soon-to-be-built Virginia Capital Trail to the rooftop deck that offers uninterrupted views of the Richmond skyline.

I received this via email today.  Ironically, even though your terrace will open onto the “soon-to-be-built Virginia Capital Trail,” there will be “absolutely no one between you and the river.”

So I guess they figure no one will use the trail… or perhaps it just doesn’t sell townhouses if you promise a steady flow of traffic by your terrace.

The times dispatch displayed this picture and headline about Wilder on their website today:


Seriously?  Wilder riding a bus? As the picture for an article about how much money he’ll be making?  There’s no mention of buses, GRTC, public transit, or anything besides Wilder’s fat VCU salary in the article.  Not even in the photo caption.

There was, however, mention of VCU’s “buyer’s remorse,”

VCU Rector Thomas Rosenthal said yesterday that Wilder’s new salary was negotiated in May, after the mayor decided he would not seek re-election.

“I can honestly say we were not aware of the depth of the problem” the university would face in the state budget crisis, Rosenthal said.

The Hotel John Marshall, long-rumored to be slated for some kind of adaptive re-use (condos? apartments? hotel? a mixture?), now has its own website indicating that someone’s still planning for the place.

The website is long on design and short on details.  In fact, there are no details to be found.  But you can see cool old pictures, and learn that the name is “Residences at Hotel John Marshall.”

The Monroe Ward community news site reported on some rumors several days ago:

The John Marshall is expected to be under renovation in early summer. The rooftop sign will be airlifted to The Diamond, restored and re-mounted after construction is completed. First Market Bank will establish a branch there as well as a grocery store (Ukrops?) and other commercial space will be available. Across Franklin (where the barber shop is presently located), all buildings from mid-block to and including the ugly one on the corner of 6th and Franklin will be demolished and a garage for tenants will be erected on the lot. Dominion Partners is the developer.

The place, to be called The Residences at the John Marshall, is either a condo development or will be apartments.

Commenters indicated that Ukrop’s is a no, unsurprising in terms of their latest downtown failure, and that First Market is a maybe.  No sources were named, however, so take it all with a grain of salt.

At the very least, while we stare at the giant vacant high-rise building, we can go to the website, hear some nice old-timey jazz, and see what Richmond used to look like.  Here’s hoping the future looks better (and more racially integrated).

When I received Ukrop’s letter about the Grace St. store closing, I thought it was a perfect reason for me to come out of blogging hibernation with some breaking news.  Then River City Rapids beat me to the punch.  Well I have details he didn’t report:

Ukrop’s will close at 6 p.m. on May 10th.  (Jon forgot to mention the time, which gave me something else to report! Ha ha).

The letter also says they’ve been operating the store “at a significant deficit” for the 5 years it’s been open, and that they’ve been in conversation with “nationally recognized businesses attempting to find an alternative retailer to take over this location.”

Nationally recognized? Does that mean a chain?

In the good news category, they’ve offered positions at other Ukrop’s to all employees affected by this decision.

A reader sent me this email:

would you please ask your readers about this urgent urban issue?
where can you play air hockey in town?

Any help?

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