Proposed Navy Hill project will dilute black voting strength

Letter to the Editor

12/13/2019, 6 a.m.
The 2,500 residential units called for in the Navy Hill District Corp. Downtown re- development project will result in Jackson ...

The 2,500 residential units called for in the Navy Hill District Corp. Downtown re- development project will result in Jackson Ward as we know it disappearing. This is because Jackson Ward will no longer be a predominately black community as it has historically been.

The arithmetic is simple and straightforward: The residential units will be occupied by higher income white people.

This means there will be about 5,000 white voters moving into the project area.

When white residents who now live in newly constructed living units in repurposed factories in Downtown and near Downtown areas are factored in, this project will markedly dilute the number of black voters in the city’s 6th and 7th districts.

The Navy Hill project, without question, will repeat the dilution of black voters as did the 1969 annexation of 23.5 square miles of Chesterfield County 50 years ago.

Like his predecessor in 1969, Richmond’s mayor, who is the drum major for the Navy Hill project, should be held personally responsible for this dilution.

Given the historic failures of Richmond’s past capital projects, the expressions of concern by many Richmond residents about the Navy Hill proposal that it will be a financial albatross and boondoggle are reasonable and valid.

However, there is an absence of concern that this project will result in black voter dilution. It is important that both concerns be expressed and addressed.

Prior to the announcement of the Navy Hill project, the city’s North Side already was experiencing skyrocketing increases in the prices of existing housing. There was —and will continue to be — a buying frenzy of North Side houses fueled by well-heeled Caucasians paying upward of $500,000 for these properties after they have been renovated. This has caused — and will continue to cause — substantial increases in the taxes of those properties not renovated because real estate tax assessments are based upon the most recent sales in that neighborhood.

The Navy Hill project will exacerbate gentrification, especially in the residential areas contiguous to the project. Gilpin Court, the public housing community immediately north of Interstate 95, is clearly in the crosshairs of the Navy Hill developers who naturally want to protect the value and the safety of the Navy Hill project’s residential housing.

One way to accomplish this is to encourage and even finance the renovation and upgrading of existing affordable housing north of the project, including Gilpin Court and northward to Brookland Park Boulevard and beyond. This will displace existing residents, including the poor, the working poor and those on fixed incomes as they will be forced out of their homes.

This will be the fate and final nail in the coffin of what is left of affordable housing in Jackson Ward and Richmond’s North Side. Gentrification will be accelerated because of the Navy Hill project.

Unfortunately, these impacts are of no interest to developers, speculators and politicians because, for them, black lives do not matter.

The Navy Hill project, specifically, and gentrification, generally, will have an irreparable negative impact on people of African descent, including the vote, affordable housing and quality of life issues.



The writer is a former member of Richmond City Council and president of Strategic and Litigation Consultants.