In regard to Issue #1, at a meeting last week between the Virginia Commonwealth University administration and Monroe Park campus community and neighborhood leaders, VCU President Michael Rao dismissed calls for lasting compacts for the university’s physical expansion and instead suggested that input be given in the next VCU Master Plan process.
The problems with that are numerous:
Oregon Hill residents in particular have no reason to trust VCU’s Master Plan process, simply because VCU now has a history of abruptly changing it’s Master Plan at any point to serve its own purposes. Add VCU’s assumed powers and history of encroachment on top of that, and there is even more reason for nearby neighborhoods to feel threatened. There’s no “community partnership” in that!
Another reason to look askance at the VCU Master Plan process is that Richmond in general has always discounted any citizen input into planning, including it’s own Downtown Master Plan. This city has a bad history of patrician rule that is not above playing racial politics with whole neighborhoods. It’s again worth noting that the initial draft of the City’s Downtown Master Plan asks for more protection of Richmond’s historic neighborhoods.
One thing that I conveyed to President Rao was how the administration’s willingness to disregard community concerns about VCU encroachment in turn fosters a disrespectful attitude from some VCU students and boosters. And it’s not just Oregon Hill that bears the brunt of this arrogance, especially in discussions over possible football stadium locations.
In the end, the VCU Public Relations Department can keep acquiring awards, but until the VCU administration takes the positive step of making a lasting, reliable border agreement with its neighbors who have been asking for one for years, then there can be no true “community partnership”. The thirty+ year siege of Oregon Hill continues.