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Some Concerts Lead to Trouble

I worked at the Flood Zone as a bartender from 1989-1992 and remember well the time when Shockoe Bottom was just taking off ("Here Comes the Neighborhood," Cover Story, Aug. 11). It was a wonderful place that evokes many great memories of good music and good times with friends at places such as Castle Thunder, Moondance Saloon, Chetti's Cow and Clam, and the area's greatest icon — the Flood Zone. And it was safe to walk to my car at 3 a.m. Sadly, all of those places are gone.

I now live in Denver, where the area known as LoDo (for Lower Downtown) is experiencing the same issues as The Bottom. As in Richmond, much of the trouble seems to be tied to bar owners trying to increase their revenue by having hip-hop nights. This is not about race — it is a baldfaced fact that hip-hop nights bring with them violence and crime. Even when I worked at the Flood Zone, we had more trouble on nights when reggae was featured. In fact, my only physical confrontation in my years working there was during an Eek-A-Mouse concert. And the biggest problem with our reggae shows was not with our African-American audience, but with the suburban yuppie frat boys who frequented those events.

Bar owners must realize that if they think they need hip-hop and reggae nights to make it in The Bottom, then they are getting what they ask for in terms of trouble. If they instead provide a quality environment with a good vibe and fair pours, the crowd will improve across all demographic lines, and the money will follow.

I hope The Bottom gets through this period and lives up to its potential. I need somewhere to go when I am in Richmond visiting family!

Greg Turner

To Each His Own

I just finished reading Phyl Newbeck's article/excerpt ("Loving v. Virginia," Cover Story, Aug. 18), and I was both disheartened and saddened by the plight of the Lovings and also totally disgusted that our commonwealth could have allowed such an injustice against two simple, harmless people.

In the photo of Judge Leon Bazile I saw not only a man charged with interpreting state laws, but also a bigot who argued that his god separated the races and intended to keep them separate. Do people like Bazile believe their god holds a separate heaven for each race? If there really is a God I would imagine he/she would introduce others like Bazile to that melting pot called hell — I am pretty sure that place is not segregated.

What is really scary is Newbecks's statement that as recently as 1991, one in five white people believed there should be laws preventing interracial marriage. I suppose their god is a racist too.

Brown, red, white, yellow, gay, transgendered, who cares! Why must our lawmakers be so occupied with (over)controlling the lives of others? My little creed: "If someone, or their actions, is not harming you or anyone else, either physically or mentally, then leave them the hell alone!"

Michael Swain

Readers Disturbed by VCU Decision

Thank you for the coverage your magazine has given to the planned demolition of beautiful historic buildings on the VCU Health Systems campus (Architecture, Arts & Culture, Aug. 11; "Power Play," News & Features, Aug. 25).

I recently received my B.F.A. from the VCU Interior Design program as an older student. I am especially interested in these buildings because my senior project was an adaptive reuse using one of those buildings, the Nursing Education Building (Cabaniss Hall). My goal was to use it for a Research Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine. I chose the building because of its appropriate size and location for my intended program, and for its beauty.

When I started the project, I was not aware that Cabaniss Hall was to be demolished. I have heard rumors that what will replace the building is a neurosciences institute with a size in keeping with Cabaniss Hall. I was thrilled to find out that this gem would both work beautifully with my program and meet the needs of a research institute wanting to move full throttle into the 21st century.

I was mentored by a noted local architect who specializes in adaptive reuse and historic preservation, Joseph Dye Lahendro. Some of his projects include the Virginia Holocaust Museum, historic restoration of the Maymont House basement and adaptive reuse work at the Valentine Museum. We found the building to be solidly built, in good general condition and easily adaptable to other uses.

If you toured the inside of this building (or worked in it) you might scream, Tear it down! The building has endured numerous Band-Aids since its birth in 1928. However, the work I did redesigning the interior convinced me that it could be a fabulous space with appropriate adaptations and little change to its exterior. Surely this must be a more cost-effective process than tearing the whole building down! Not to mention that this kind of building will not be created again. It is a relic of 1928 design style, and it is these old, wonderful buildings that give VCU its unique character.

In its marketing, VCU often brags about how it has moved into the future while preserving many buildings from the past. I feel that this is the goal that my redesign has begun to achieve in this building. If we listen to the building, it will take us into the 21st century like any venerable mentor would. Let's slow down … and listen.

Julie Bittner Ericksen

Thank you for reporting on VCU's master plan, which calls for the erasure of three historic landmarks from our cityscape. I do, however, regret the depiction of the struggle to preserve the buildings as a "Power Play," that is, an indomitable Dr. Trani against citizens and organizations raising civic concerns. This is a serious community debate about notable emblems of civic pride, institutional identity and imperiled reminders of a shared history. It is not about personalities.

VCU presented its master plan as a fait accompli to A.C.O.R.N. and numerous other community organizations prior to the board vote Aug. 12th. This is not a substitute for the public discourse that should surround decisions to radically transform the built environment of any locale, especially a historic one threatened by the city sprawl of an ever-expanding state institution. Long after Dr. Trani and VCU's Board of Visitors are gone, Richmonders will have to live with their decisions about the buildings that sustain (or fail to sustain) the life and culture of our community.

Richmonders have an obligation to demand, for themselves and future generations, buildings that satisfy us not only functionally, but aesthetically. The buildings VCU plans to demolish were designed and constructed locally, not assembled from precast parts made elsewhere. Perhaps that is why they feel so uniquely our own. They were also designed, like good civic buildings, to inspire, which is why they are so well-loved and appreciated. Character like theirs is hard to build new.

Jennie Dotts

Executive Director, Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods

Just when one is beginning to think that the leadership of the city of Richmond has exhausted its treasure-trove of idiotic ideas, something new like this pops up.

If the destruction of these art deco buildings/treasures goes forward, walk up a block or so west on the Medical College campus and gaze at the modern Sanger Hall. Is this structure ever the paragon of insipid modern architecture! And is it fair to assume that buildings such as Sanger Hall will replace the art deco buildings that have been condemned by the VCU board of visitors and its so-called master plan?

Allender M. Griffin Jr.

If Dr. Trani is successful in this demolition what's next? I'm sure the turn-of-the-century collection of row houses along Franklin Street aren't the perfect venues for classrooms and offices. I'm sure there are the occasional leaks and the associated problems with older buildings. In Dr. Trani's world is there going to be another either/or outlook for these buildings?

Hopefully, the public will realize the importance of these buildings to the fabric of Richmond. Visitors constantly are amazed at the breadth and depth of our built environment. If Richmond is to more fully develop its own unique identity, its beautiful buildings and the associated rich history will be the critical cornerstones. Otherwise, we will see a Richmond without architecturally noteworthy structures that resembles Charlotte, a city that has little left of its built past.

Matt Cushman

Letters to the editor may be sent to: letters@styleweekly.com

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