Better Block RVA picks up steam, benefits local businesses

4/8/2014, 11:32 a.m.
Not only will vacant storefronts along N. 25th St be occupied for the two day event by local “pop-up” shops, ...
A handful of great, historic structures have the potential to be quickly converted to cafes, markets, or art galleries.

Spurred by the support of Bon Secours Richmond Health System and recent commitments from Capital One and the Richmond Association of REALTORS®, Richmond’s first Better Block project is coming to Church Hill North on June 13-14, which will bring with it immediate economic and health benefits to the neighborhood.

“Bon Secours Virginia Health System is thrilled that Capital One and the Richmond Association of REALTORS® are joining in this important effort,” said David Belde, Ph.D., senior vice president of Mission Services. “The collective efforts of all the partners in this important initiative will help build a healthier community, which is the central purpose of the Better Block initiative.”

The Better Block project is designed to temporarily transform a city block into a walkable, bikeable, vibrant place for people to gather, shop, eat, and socialize. In this case, the project will focus on a two-block stretch of N. 25th St. between P Street and R Street.

Not only will vacant storefronts along N. 25th St be occupied for the two day event by local “pop-up” shops, but Capital One is furnishing $8,000 in mini-grants that existing businesses along the corridor can apply for to fund façade and landscaping improvements. Businesses that apply for the Capital One mini-grants are also offered a free consultation by Storefront for Community Design on how to best spend the money.

“At Capital One, we believe that strong communities and strong businesses go hand-in-hand. When small businesses do well, local and national economies do well—jobs are created and communities are strengthened,” said Steve Gannon, Central Virginia Market president and executive vice president & deputy general counsel for Capital One. “We’re committed to helping small businesses of every size grow and thrive – whether it’s through our products and services, or innovative partnerships and programs that provide tailored business training, mentoring, and other support and resources.

"We are proud to partner on efforts, like the Better Block initiative, that create excitement and energy around investing in Richmond communities. “

Parties interested in applying to be a “pop-up” shop for the June weekend are encouraged to attend a tour of the available vacant storefronts on Thursday, April 15, at 6 PM. The group will meet at the corner of N. 25th St and Venable St. The online application for “pop-up” shops is now available online. Applicants are asked to complete the online form by April 29 and will be notified in early May, leaving them with over a month to prepare for the Better Block event.

Initial partners for the Better Block project include the Sports Backers, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Capital One, the City of Richmond, Groundwork RVA, Storefront for Community Design, Partnership for Smarter Growth, and the Richmond Association of REALTORS®.

The Richmond Association of REALTORS® received a Smart Growth Action Grant from the National Association of REALTORS® for the Better Block project. “We were delighted to pursue funding from National Association of REALTORS® on behalf of Better Block,” said Laura Lafayette, CEO of the Richmond Association of REALTORS®. “Better Block will give us a vision not only for North Church Hill but also for other revitalization targets around the City. Creating great spaces—for residential living, retail, and socialization—is an essential element in our collective efforts to enhance our region’s quality of life.”