Historic Resources reaches out to Blackwell residents

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/23/2018, 11:35 a.m.
Julie Langan and her staff are doing more to notify residents of Blackwell about a proposal to include the neighborhood ...

Julie Langan and her staff are doing more to notify residents of Blackwell about a proposal to include the neighborhood on the state and federal registers of historic places.

But Ms. Langan, director of the state Department of Historic Resources, said that the stepped up effort to reach renters and other residents would not stop the plan.

So far, the application to get historic designation for the South Side neighborhood has met with virtually no opposition from property owners in Blackwell, she said.

Unless “a majority of owners submit notarized letters of objection,” Ms. Langan said, “staff would likely recommend approval to the two boards that review the nominations. And I expect that the boards would likely approve the district listing.”

DHR’s boards are scheduled to vote on the proposal to expand the existing Manchester Historic District to encompass Blackwell and part of Swansboro at a Sept. 20 meeting in Petersburg.

The vote was expected in June, but Ms. Langan postponed it after several members of Richmond City Council and some residents raised concern that the agency had not given residents enough time to assess the proposal.

The expansion proposal is the brainchild of Laura and Michael Hild, a husband-and-wife team who are developing new businesses on Hull Street.

They just opened Hot Diggity Donuts at 1213 Hull St. and are working on opening the Butterbean Market and Café at 1204 Hull St., the Dogtown Brewing Co. at 1209 Hull St. and Manastoh Brewing at 1128 Hull St.

They also are in the midst of redeveloping a former grocery store at 20th and Hull streets and have purchased residential properties that they plan to improve for rentals.

The main reasons for seeking historic designation is to bring recognition and trigger opportunities for investors to use federal and state tax credits to support redevelopment of buildings that are at least 50 years old.

The Hilds initially elicited concern among community advocates when they filed the request to expand the Manchester district without mentioning Blackwell. The community took its name from a respected African-American educator for which the area’s elementary school also is named.

The Hilds later agreed to reinstate the Blackwell name after hearing the objection.

Mr. Hild issued an angry message to Ms. Langan, claiming that postponing the vote would disrupt the couple’s plans for big investments in the expansion area. However, the Hilds have not requested that the application be pulled, Ms. Langan said, so it remains on track for approval.

The Hilds have not responded to Free Press requests for comment.

The DHR map of the area indicates the Hilds’ application calls for taking the existing 75-acre Manchester district, largely located west of Hull Street, and adding 155 acres and 60 city blocks east of Hull and north of U.S. 1, known as Cowardin Avenue and Jefferson Davis Highway in this South Side area.

In a recent meeting with the three council representatives for the area, Parker C. Agelasto, 5th District, Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District and Reva M. Trammell, 8th District, Ms. Langan promised to do more to inform the community.