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Bill Jefferson & Co. Saved Fan From Decay

I want to thank Ken Martin for his letter showing the Fan and all of Richmond what an ignorant busybody he truly is ("Other Problems With Developer/Landlord," Letters, July 4).

In 1998, the Boulevard, between Monument Avenue and Broad Street, was an urban nightmare. Dilapidated crack houses, aggressive panhandlers, prostitutes flagging down johns and a general sense of danger were the norm.

Well, Bill Jefferson and his company River City decided to invest in this blighted area of the Fan. He bought a house and adjacent lot right in the middle of the madness. He even let the public use the lot for a dog park for over three years. Over the next few years, he turned a run-down neighborhood full of slums and Section 8 housing into the thriving residential apartments that they are today. There are now urban professionals living and working in this area.

Mr. Martin states that River City Renaissance has "failed to provide enough trash containers for their tenants" and wonders why they are not "required to get Dumpsters." At the River City properties located along the Grace Street and Boulevard intersections, River City has at least eight Dumpsters (six more than the city provides) for each property. River City also has a maintenance crew to pick up loose trash and overflow garbage daily.

The reason Dumpsters cannot be placed behind these properties is due to the low-lying power lines and the narrow alley between Grace and Broad streets. If somehow Dumpsters were placed behind these properties, Mr. Martin would be the first to complain about the "eyesore" in such a historic area.

As for other property complaints, River City deals with the day-to-day maintenance of buildings that -- in most cases — are almost 100 years old. When a service call comes in, they handle it. With over 50 properties and thousands of tenants, River City has an excellent record on maintenance and upkeep. As opposed to the hundreds of absentee landlords in the Fan, Bill Jefferson lives among his tenants and his offices are open daily to them.

As for the parking-lot controversy ("Paved Over," News & Features, June 27), it's more of the same whining from folks like Mr. Martin. In your article (and a subsequent television segment), people who don't own the property in question or live in the building express their dismay at not being able to sit out and enjoy this "urban park."

Why do people think that they can just trespass on someone's land for their own enjoyment? Guess what: It's not your property! It was a grass and gravel lot, on which people routinely parked their vehicles. Now it's a paved lot where people can park their vehicles. So what?

Finally, I love the way Mr. Martin criticizes Mr. Jefferson's personal residence as deserving of a "tacky medal." Mr. Jefferson deserves a medal, all right. But it's for transforming the 700 and 800 blocks of the Boulevard from urban waste to shining example.

Stephen K. Armstrong

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