This is the first of what I hope will be many entries written and submitted by a student from VCU’s School of Mass Communications. – Scott Overlook Development Pleases Oregon Hill By Baylen Forcier Standing on the corner of Holly and Laurel streets looking toward Belvidere Street, you can see a distinct line dividing Oregon Hill. On the left […]
This is the first of what I hope will be many entries written and submitted by a student from VCU’s School of Mass Communications. – Scott
Overlook Development Pleases Oregon Hill
By Baylen Forcier
Standing on the corner of Holly and Laurel streets looking toward Belvidere Street, you can see a distinct line dividing Oregon Hill.
On the left is the historic working-class neighborhood located just south of VCU’s Monroe Park campus. Some of the homes have been kept nicely through the years, while others have seen better days. Most of the cars out front are more than 10 years old – Toyotas, Hondas, even an old RV.
The right holds the Overlook Townhouses, a new development that has popped up on the southern tip of the neighborhood within the last three years. All the homes are new and well maintained. Even cars are fairly new – Acuras, Audis and a Mustang, none of them more than five years old.
Overlook has won over many Oregon Hill residents who were worried of increased property taxes and changing demographics in the community. They now see the new life that the development has brought to their neighborhood.
The Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association has welcomed the townhouses.
“ONHA and the Overlook residents have made efforts to work together and recognize that it’s still one neighborhood – Oregon Hill,” said Scott Burger, president of the association. Though he feels Overlook is not the perfect solution, he realizes that it could be a lot worse. “Overall, it’s been a success story.”
Success was by no means certain. About five years ago, Oregon Hill faced Ethyl Corp., a chemical company based in Richmond.
According to Burger, Ethyl came in the middle of the night and tore down row houses that had been on the site since the turn of the century. Ethyl had plans to build a gated apartment complex or sell the land to VCU.
“Thankfully, the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association and city government worked together to dissuade that possibility,” Burger said.
Burger said that a developer named Steve Middleton had the idea to build 85 townhouses on the property. It was a good compromise, though some residents were not too happy at first.
“I used to be able to see the river from my bedroom,” said Mike Myers, who lives on Holly Street across from Overlook. He says that the area was rundown, but now it is nice with a park.
Myers said he understands how people can be worried about higher property values and taxes. His rent has not increased in the past few years, and he said he could tell that Overlook is changing the whole neighborhood around.
Debbie Welch is a real estate agent selling a four-bedroom house in the Overlook community, and she believes the rising property values will be good for Oregon Hill.
“I would be happy,” Welsh said, “if a development was going in that was increasing my property’s value.”
Welch’s client is a former VCU medical student who just graduated and is moving out of the state.
About 25 percent of the residents in Overlook are students, said Timothy Covington, an employee for the real estate firm Exit Elite. Exit Elite is in charge of the development and sells the new houses.
About 40 percent of the residents are young professionals while the remaining 35 percent are retirees, Covington estimates.
The demographics of Overlook worry some older residents in Oregon Hill.
“It’s hard for a lot of people to stomach watching parents from Northern Virginia buy quarter-million-dollar condos for their kids to squat in for four years while going to VCU,” Burger said. He feels that some townhouse residents do not want to become active in the community and help Oregon Hill.
“There is some sniping along class lines about ‘hillbillies vs. yuppies,’” said Burger.
But he added, “Compared to what Oregon Hill was facing, the Overlook condos are a blessing, and I wish Middleton success.”