Personality: Anthony Bryant
Spotlight on Downtown Neighborhood Association president
5/18/2023, 6 p.m.
As Richmond’s growth spurt continues to attract new businesses and residents, Anthony Bryant wants to guarantee that the community’s interests aren’t left behind.
The Church Hill resident is the newest president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, which enables residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations to advocate for the safety, improvement and preservation of the region, its history and identity.
“Richmond is growing and sometimes heads get turned when the ‘shiny new thing’comes to town,” Mr. Bryant says. “We believe it’s important to advocate for an area like ours that’s so rich in history.”
Advocacy has been the association’s main focus since its inception. Some of the organization’s popular events include Richmond First Fridays Art Walk, Broad Appetit food festival, and community enhancement projects surrounding what has become known as Richmond’s Arts District. Streets in the district include Belvidere, Broad, Bank, Canal, Cary and the intersections at 14th, Franklin and Main streets. Some of the DNA’ s business memberships include Little Nomad, Elegba Folklore Society, Ledbury, Gallery5 and Waller & Company Jewelers.
The DNA’ s mission prompted Mr. Bryant’s interest in the group, which he joined a year after opening his business, Little Nomad, in June 2017. Little Nomad, 104 W. Broad St., sells children’s clothes, books and toys.
“I felt it was important for young Black people to see someone like me in this role,” says Mr. Bryant when asked why he took on the job last year. “I also feel that I’m able to bring folks together, who normally may not be in the same room to encourage productive conversations. “This is what I felt was missing from our board. A connector.”
As the DNA’ s president, Mr. Bryant’s vision is that Downtown Richmond’s mix of retail establishments, restaurants and cultural outlets become more accessible to other parts of the city.
He also wants to see more buy-in from the City of Richmond byway of easier access to parking, and a stronger relationship with Virginia Commonwealth University, which prominently occupies several Downtown streets, to better determine its current and future objectives.
To achieve this goal, Mr. Bryant plans to fill the DNA’ s board vacancies and subcommittees with a diverse group of people who truly care about Downtown Richmond.
“My vision is that we continue to engage with the community to create a Downtown that meets the needs and desires of everyone who lives, works and visits there,” he says.
Mr. Bryant practices what he preaches, having spent a significant part of the board and committee selection process traveling throughout the Downtown area and introducing himself to potential new members.
Such efforts have paid dividends, he says, and will allow the association to better serve the needs, and ensure the future, of Downtown Richmond.
“We have an opportunity to tell our story to a larger group of folks who are thinking about spending time or opening up shop in the Arts District,” Mr. Bryant says. “Our board has never looked more like the community that it represents. It’s imperative that we communicate with succinct messaging that the Arts District is open, safe and welcome to all.”
Meet a passionate voice for Downtown Richmond and this week’s Personality, Anthony Bryant:
Volunteer position: President of the Downtown Neighborhood Association.
Place of birth: Richmond.
Where I live now: Church Hill.
Education: Studied mass com- munications at Virginia State University.
Family: Wife, Nora, and daugh- ters Devan,10, Myka, 8.
The Downtown Neighborhood Association: Engages key stakeholders in support of neighborhood safety enhancements, supports beautification and cleanliness efforts, and works with businesses and residents to support and/or host events that highlight the community.
When and why founded: The Downtown Neighborhood Association founded in 1996 began as a way for the businesses, nonprofits, and residents of the Richmond Arts District to come together and advocate for the region.
How I became involved with Downtown Neighborhood Association: I have a long-standing affinity for the Downtown Richmond corridor. When searching for places to open my business, this area was at the top of my list. With that, I knew I wanted to assist in lifting the area up from a civic point of view.
When elected board president: March 2022.
Why I accepted position: I believe that I’m able to bring folks together who normally may not be in the same room to encourage productive conversations.
Length of term: Two years.
No. 1 goal or project as board president: To really move the needle on future projects that we have planned, we need to first focus on bringing on individuals that care and are committed to highlighting the downtown corridor. My main goal is to ensure that all of our board seats and subcommittee vacancies are filled in a timely manner.
Strategy for achieving goals: We are focused on having an active, well-rounded board. This takes folks with diverse backgrounds and a skill set that can assist with moving the association forward. I find these individuals really by hitting the pavement. Introducing myself to stakeholders and gauging their interest. We also communicate our openings to a larger group of stakeholders through our direct email blasts.
My vision for a vibrant Downtown: A vibrant downtown is a place that is welcoming, inclusive, and full of life. I’d love to see more well-designed public spaces that have art at the forefront. A robust mix of retail, restaurants and cultural attractions. My vision is that we continue to engage with the community to create a downtown that meets the needs and desires of everyone who lives, works and visits there.
What Downtown Richmond needs: To be a thriving area, Downtown Richmond needs consistent and tangible support from entities such as the City of Richmond Department of Economic Development and elected officials.
The Downtown Neighborhood Association is important because: We believe it’s important to advocate for an area like ours that’s so rich in history. We’re here to be a forum for discus- sion so that our stakeholders can share their ideas and concerns so that we can come together to address them.
Number one challenge facing Downtown Neighborhood Association: We have an opportunity to tell our story to a larger group of folks who are thinking about spending time or opening up shop in the Richmond Arts District. It’s imperative that we communicate with succinct messaging that the Arts District is open, safe and welcome to all.
How the Downtown Neighborhood Association has made a difference:
• Advocating the needs and interests of the community to local government officials.
• Addressing neighborhood needs such as litter reduc- tion, parking issues and traffic calming.
• Building a sense of community — Our bi-monthly mixers help bring people together who share a common interest and want to feel more connected.
Downtown Neighborhood Association partners with: Local city officials, Historic Jackson Ward Association, Venture Richmond and Richmond Region Tourism.
Upcoming events: The First Friday Art Walk is back! This event occurs on every first Friday of each month. It starts at Belvidere and Broad streets. Walk east along Broad Street and the surrounding area to experience everything the Richmond Arts District has to offer.
How I start the day: Before the madness of getting my kids ready for school, I take a few moments to myself to do some breathing exercises and visualize what a positive day looks like for me.
The three words that best describe me: Passionate, humble and thoughtful.
Best late-night snack: POPCORN IS LIFE.
How I unwind: I have a hard time staying still, so I unwind by being active. Deejaying and playing soccer are calming and fulfilling for me.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love making my own pizza dough and cooking pizzas for family and friends.
A quote that inspires me: “Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by ego.”
At the top of my “to-do” list: Make sure I get home safe to my family.
The best thing my parents ever taught me: Stand up for yourself.
Next goal: We’re planning to bring festivals back to Broad Street. The goal is to have one each in the summer and fall.