Greater Fulton: Drawing A Better Future

Putting a gigantic map on a wall – and giving people permission to study it, draw on it, talk about it – is a great way to create community visioning.

That’swhy designer Peter Fraser and the Floricane team hung a huge map of the East End’s Greater Fulton community on the wall of Fulton’s Neigborhood Resource Center (NRC) early in November.

We had already talked the community to tears – two community-wide visioning sessions, close to 100 door-to-door interviews, and visioning activities with area teens and elementary school kids. They told us in clear terms what they wanted in their neighborhood.

In November, we spent time sketching their hopes and aspirations onto onion skin overlays, and directly onto a four-foot-by-six-foot neighborhood map.

We envisioned the stretch of Williamsburg Road between the NRC and the Powhatan Community Center as a real Main Street. We redrew the traffic and pedestrian flow at the commercial intersection of Government and Williamsburg roads. We explored the hidden pathways and connections between Fulton, Fulton Hill and Montrose Heights.

Throughout our two full days – almost 24 hours total – of mapping, we chatted with dozens of residents who wandered into the NRC to see what we were doing, or to provide us with very specific guidance.

You see, they’ve been down this road before, some of them. They’ve heard promises of street lights and ball fields, of elementary schools and bus service. They’ve heard it since the densely populated neighborhood grid often referred to as “Fulton Bottom” (to everyone except residents, who know it as Fulton) were hammered by the one-two punch of flooding and “urban renewal” in the 1970s.

They’re still waiting for the renewal. We’re hoping that this process – driven by the neighborhood, funded by Virginia LISC and supported by Floricane – might be the beginning of a promise kept.