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Union Hill Offers Fund to Assist Poorer Residents

Organizers say fund will quell concerns after neighborhood gains historic designation.

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In the wake of the city's controversial decision to designate Union Hill as its newest old and historic district, the neighborhood's civic association has established a fund for low-income residents to help pay for home maintenance and renovations.

Organizers have set up the Union Hill Home Fund to quell concerns that the new historic designation will establish costly renovation guidelines that lower-income residents in Union Hill can't afford. 

The new fund was announced at 7th District Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille's meeting Dec. 12. The Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods has agreed to temporarily accept donations to the fund, says executive director David Herring. The fund's organizers are seeking nonprofit status.

Union Hill Civic Association President Matt Conrad says the fund was created “as a way to show concern and care for our neighbors” and “to allay any fears about the impact of the old and historic designation, whether or not those fears are grounded in fact.”

In the push for the new district, supporters have insisted that the Commission for Architectural Review's stricter renovation guidelines don't economically burden residents or lead to gentrification, as some opponents have argued. “I don't have any evidence that anybody has been displaced,” Newbille says.

The Rev. Melvin Williams Jr., pastor of the Temple of Judah on Venable Street, remains skeptical.

“If they said we wouldn't need it, [but] now they're trying to provide funds for it, it just doesn't make sense to me,” says Williams, who opposed the creation of the historic district. Williams, who didn't attend Newbille's meeting, says his church helped area residents with fuel costs and buying paint long before the alliance existed.

Buddy Corbett, a Union Hill resident who protested the new district, says the idea behind the fund “is patronizing to the people who live up here.”

Newbille says she also plans to visit other old and historic districts for ideas on how to make the renovation process easier for her district's residents.

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