As the East End gentrifies, learn how to support existing community at First Fridays event

by | Jun 3, 2015 | POLITICS

The Storefront for Community Design is hosting a conference in late June to connect architects, designers and city planners to the national community o

The Storefront for Community Design is hosting a conference in late June to connect architects, designers and city planners to the national community of urban developers – but to give folks a sneak peek of the event, a smaller gathering is planned for this Friday’s First Friday Arts walk.

The preview will exhibit work from the 54 conference speakers and offer a limited time local rate to register for the conference.

Additional speakers and artists include:

Plenary Speakers Include
+ The Honorable Cynthia I. Newbille, Councilwoman, Richmond City Council
+ Lisa Engstrom Nisenson, GreaterPlaces, Washington, DC
+ Katherine Darnstadt, LATENT DESIGN, Chicago
+ Allentza Michel, Association for Community Design Fellowship, Boston
+ Archie Lee Coates IV, The Office of PlayLab, Inc., New York

In addition to 13 local speakers, 41 national presenters represent:
+ 15 states
+ 21 cities
+ 8 universities
+ 8 community design centers

Storefront for Community Design started in Church Hill when Councilwomen Cynthia Newbille pushed for an organization to help her constituents navigate their changing neighborhoods.

lesson from tonight's @vacenterforarch beer + design event: food is a family member.

A photo posted by Storefront 4 Community Design (@storefrontrva) on

From Church Hill, Storefront has expanded across the city to manage projects in Highland Park.

Part of this project in the north side is working with current business owners to establish a merchants’ association for the neighborhood. This gives existing businesses the leverage they need when gentrification continues to change the neighborhood.

“As we imagine in five years, new businesses start to move in, this means that those new businesses won’t be the ones who start the merchants’ association,” Program Director Tyler King said. “There will already be a table to come to, and having this table opens up these business owners to the incentives that the city offers.”

Storefront is supported by a growing structure of volunteer consultants they match to the needs of any community member in Richmond.

One of the first design plans King worked with was with the James River Park System. Often organizations approach Storefront when they need direction to pursue a grant or funding. The park system wanted to increase access to the river for residents of Richmond’s South Side. “That was really kind of a big victory,” King said. “The grant was successful and the project is being implemented.”

“Community design is a really hyper-local practice,” he said. This was part of the push for organizing a conference in Richmond. “I think it’s really interesting to meet your regional and national neighbors and to understand that a lot of the challenges we face are very similar.”

The theme for the conference is “Neighbors.” King said one of the ways the theme is implemented is through the very organization of the conference being spread throughout RVA’s arts and culture district.

Come late-June, daily anchor-meetings will be in the Hippodrome and the VCU Depot Building. Breakout sessions will be held in art venues like Quirk and Candela, who donated their space for the conference.

inaugural storefront windsock raising! thanks mOb!

A photo posted by Storefront 4 Community Design (@storefrontrva) on

“We wanted to bring things back to the most basic unit of community,” King said. “We hope that those walks in between sessions are just as much a part of the conference as the sessions themselves.”

King wants the conference to be a space of open sources where the national community can establish what the best practices are in community design.

Some of what Storefront does in order to design successfully is participate in community organizing. King said community organizing is often underestimated in its usefulness.

“Community organizing is actually the underpinning for successful community design,” he said. He doesn’t believe that gentrification, the change many of these communities are facing, is inherently a bad thing.

“In some ways, I think that what Storefront does is try to take those tools that are often used for gentrification and say ‘wait a minute, we need to level the playing field here,’” he said. “These tools should be more readily available to everyone.”

The conference will be held June 25-27 in locations through out the Arts District. For more information, check out their website.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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