Over the past month, community activists claiming rights as homesteaders have been fixing up 2913 Montrose Avenue, a property that they describe as having been vacant for 3 years. Given 24 hours on Monday to stop work and leave by the property owner, the notorious Oliver Lawrence, the protest/confrontation should play out during the […]
Over the past month, community activists claiming rights as homesteaders have been fixing up 2913 Montrose Avenue, a property that they describe as having been vacant for 3 years. Given 24 hours on Monday to stop work and leave by the property owner, the notorious Oliver Lawrence, the protest/confrontation should play out during the day on Tuesday.
From a press release issued Monday evening:
COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS FACE ARREST TOMORROW FOR FIXING UP A BLIGHTED HOUSE
In the midst of record foreclosures and houses left empty all over the country, community activists in Richmond have been trying to clean up a blighted house and make it into a home. Now, they face threats of eviction and arrest from Oliver Lawrence, a notorious property speculator and slumlord.
The activists contest Lawrence’s right to the property, pointing to years of unpaid taxes and failure to do basic maintenance. “Mr. Lawrence would prefer this house to be an empty blight on the community rather than a home for someone who needs it. We feel that he has no legitimate claim to the property. At a time when people face eviction and foreclosure daily, we must take a stand against speculators and banks who want to keep perfectly good homes standing empty.”
Oliver Lawrence owns almost 200 properties in Richmond, most of them left empty. He has earned a reputation as a slumlord for his failure to perform even basic maintenance on the homes and buildings he owns.
Tired of speculators like Lawrence buying up pieces of the neighborhood and turning them into unoccupied blight, these activists in Battery Park are fighting back. Over the past month, they’ve worked as homesteaders on the property at 2913 Montrose, clearing out weeds, painting, cleaning up glass, and securing the building against possums and rats. The house was well on its way to becoming habitable when Oliver Lawrence ordered the activists to stop work and leave immediately.
Residents of the Battery Park neighborhood have complained about Lawrence’s properties before, citing “open vacant buildings” which can attract drug activity and other crime, as well as generally dilapidated appearance. In 2008 Lawrence received over 600 citations for upkeep-related code violations. He is also entangled in a controversy involving City Councilman Hilbert, in which Lawrence allegedly tried to cut a deal to avoid paying fines for his code violations.