Max Hepp-Buchanan on the Better Block Project coming to North Church Hill

The Director of Bike Walk RVA and the Project Coordinator for Better Block RVA spoke with us about what to expect this weekend.

The Better Block Project has been in the works for some time (you can check out our coverage here and here), and it’s shaping up to be a fantastic event. I spoke with Max Hepp-Buchanan of Sports Backers about the project, the response from citizens of the East End, and what’s gone into making Richmond’s first Better Block experience a rewarding one.

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Q: How did Richmond, specifically the East End, get on the Better Block Project’s radar?

It’s actually the other way around. Team Better Block got on our radar when we saw them present at the 2013 National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. From there, we worked to get sponsorships from Bon Secours, Capital One, Davita Dialysis, the Richmond Area Realtors, and other local organizations and hired Team Better Block for the N. 25th Street project.

Q: Better Block and Sports Backers have hosted tours, community discussions and training programs. How has the community responded to this lead up to the Better Block event?

Response to our community walk-throughs and meetings has been great so far! The Church Hill North community is very excited about the project and volunteers are coming out of the woodwork every day.

Q: What are some of the issues you want to see specifically addressed during this workshop?

The idea is for the community to tell us their concerns and what they feel needs to be fixed. It’s easy for a police department to tell a community what they see as the issues but if the community doesn’t feel the same way then the solutions are temporary. I can’t stress enough the importance of the partnership between the Richmond Police Department and the community which we serve.

Q: How has Richmond’s East End community made this international project its own? How has this tight-knit community adapted Better Block to fit its own unique personality?

The East End Community has come together to identify vacant storefronts that will host “pop-up” shops for the weekend, as well as identify opportunities for public art projects. We are in the process of fixing up several storefronts now and working with several East End entrepreneurs and start-up businesses to make sure their pop-up shops are a just success for the weekend.

Q: How do you think the Better Block project will benefit the East End community in the short term? In the long term?

In the short term, Better Block is a great opportunity to showcase vacant storefronts for rent or for sale and give local start-up businesses an opportunity to get their feet wet. This project will also demonstrate what the area could be like with bike lanes, enhanced pedestrian crosswalks, and even more greenspace like pocket parks and public plazas.

In the long-term, we hope this will spur renewed investment in the corridor and that the City of Richmond will work to make Church Hill North an even more pedestrian and bicycle friendly place for everyone.

Q: Finally, what can East End residents expect from the Better Block weekend?

On June 11 and 12, we’ll be doing on-site preparations and the entire community is encouraged to come out and help. There are classes available for free on how to build street furniture out of pallets, create temporary pocket parks, and other fun activities. 

The Better Block weekend itself will feature live music, food trucks, pop-up shops selling everything from crafts to jewelry to soap and cosmetics, and coffee and pastries. There will be some street closure to create new outdoor seating and plaza space, but N 25th Street will remain open to motorized traffic. There will even be a community Better Block 5k walk/run at 9 AM on Saturday the 14th. 

If you’re interested, you can sign up for classes here. You can register for the walk/run here. Better Block Richmond kicks off on Friday, June 13 and lasts through June 14 on 25th Street.


Photos courtesy of: Sports Backers

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Eric Steigleder

Eric Steigleder is a freelance writer, political junkie, coffee-addict and proud Globehopper regular.

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