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THE BLEAK FUTURE OF BROAD STREET: City plans for redevelopment, ignoring the needs of small businesses and the working class

As Richmond's African American population grew in the early 20th century, their numbers replaced those of whites as African Americans became the majority by the middle of the century. The city experienced white flight when many white people moved to the city's surrounding suburbs. The downtown Broad Street corridor, which was once occupied with department stores like Thalheimer's and Miller & Rhoads, became hubs for small businesses and a thriving center for African American life.

The importance of downtown Broad Street to African Africans today is clear as hundreds of people line the streets daily, awaiting buses to take to work. Dozens of small businesses have survived providing services to people without cars throughout the years even as the city government turned its back on the area.

Now the future of Broad Street is at a crossroads. With development of a convention center and plans for new hotels and parking decks, the city has signaled that it has no intention of revitalizing the area for the people who have used Broad Street for many years. Instead, the city wants to use the area as a backdrop for high-dollar business gatherings and conventions.

In order to get the job done, the city has given over the land and responsibility of government to developers and private investors. Scant public debate has occured over the future of downtown and few are questioning the motives of these plans. Richmond Indymedia is publishing a series of articles focusing on the development of Broad Street and what it means to the people who are affected by this process.

Community researcher Greg Will has contributed three articles to be published from months of information gathering. The first article concentrates on the creation of the private government that city council has bestowed the responsibility of redeveloping downtown. Will's second article highlights the social history of Broad Street as a vital public space and the third article focuses on the growth of private governments on a local and national level. The final article of the series describes the people affected by this "revitalization," many of them bus riders and small business owners who are being forced to shut down. Read on for the first article, the second article will be published later this week.


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