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Wilder Delays Gilpin Kickoff

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Mayor L. Douglas Wilder canceled an Oct. 10 town hall meeting in Gilpin Court, where he was expected to unveil plans for the revitalization of Gilpin, Fay Towers and North Jackson Ward, says Linwood Norman, Wilder's press secretary.

"There's behind-the-scenes planning going on, but the meeting was to kick that off," Norman says, pointing to the arrival of Sheila Hill-Christian as Richmond's chief administrative officer. Hill-Christian was head of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority when the plan was presented last year.

In March 2006, consultants from the Urban Land Institute presented an ambitious redevelopment plan for the swath of land north of downtown. The plan was funded in part by Philip Morris, which recently completed construction of its research center on Leigh Street. The proposal recommends a new science or arts magnet school in the neighborhood, zoning for area buildings that allows commercial use on the ground floor and apartments upstairs, and a new Second Street bridge.

The plan's central recommendation, however, has made some public housing advocates nervous.

"The project fulcrum will be new housing associated with the redevelopment portions of Gilpin Court and the nearby private land," the study says.

With more than 2,000 residents, Gilpin Court is the city's largest public housing project, and advocates want to be sure that if existing structures are demolished, the plan will include a new address for every tenant it displaces.

"I think we need to have a really good fix on displacement. We need to look at an alternative housing plan as to how we can address the needs of very, very low-income people," City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson says. S



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