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Project Blooms in Barton Heights

Revitalizing the area has taken much time and resources, says coordinator Matt Bolster with the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority. In 1999 the Neighborhoods in Bloom program began funding the rehab of old houses in the area. In 2002, City Council adopted a redevelopment plan for Southern Barton Heights, which went into effect the following year.

Since then the housing authority has been working to acquire properties from owners, relocate some residents and demolish some structures in the process. The neighborhood comprises about 60 parcels, Bolster says, half of which RRHA has acquired. It hopes to add the remaining half to its roster by the end of June 2005.

The new construction includes 30 single-family homes ranging in price from $165,000 to $215,000 and represents the first market-rate housing for the neighborhood. If successful, Bolster says, the project will "diversity income levels" of residents and change the way people perceive affordable housing.

After all, he notes, the community was conceived in the 1890s as the city's first streetcar suburb for the upper middleclass.

"You could do a project like this in any area of the city," says Graham Rashkind, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty International, which is selling the houses.

Rashkind says the model home drew inquiries from county and city residents alike during the first open house on a recent weekend. Raskind is optimistic, noting a similar project that largely transformed the troubled Carver neighborhood nearby. Like the one now under way in Southern Barton Heights, the Carver project was a joint effort by the City of Richmond, RRHA, Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond and T.K. Davis Construction. The 30 new homes signal rebirth, Rashkind says, and "are a shot in the arm for the neighborhood." — Brandon Walters

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