Evening at Mortons: Exploring Richmond’s Neighborhoods

The second Evening at Morton’s discussion was held in April with a stellar panel representing a variety of Richmond neighborhoods and professions – and all focused on the changing character of the places many in Richmond call home.

An Evening at Morton's

The Evening at Morton’s discussions usually bring 5-6 people together over dinner to discuss topics of interest or importance to the broader community. I facilitate the discussion, which is “live blogged” and “live tweeted” for people to follow in-the-moment or after-the-fact; there’s also an audio recording, which is usually made available within a few days. The media sponsor for the series is Richmond.com, and they have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of advance reporting and live coverage of the discussions.

In fact, Richmond.com’s Karri Peifer did such a great job of capturing the neighborhood discussion, that I’ll just let her take it from here. You can read her whole summary at Richmond.com or go read through the live blog transcript. Here’s a taste of the conversation:

The fantastic panel, comprised of realtors, a school board member, a historian and the city's Director of Community Development, brought in voices from all over the city's distinct neighborhoods and by the end of the two hour dinner conversation, which was broadcasted online, one thing was certain: two hours isn't nearly enough time to cover Richmond's neighborhoods.

From moderator, Floricane founder and Northside resident John Sarvay's opening question, asking the panelists to name their favorite neighborhood, it was clear that there's plenty to love about the neighborhoods of Richmond.

Whether it's the spirit of community in the East End, as Don Coleman, Richmond School Board member and life-long East End resident noted; access to a yard, parks, and the river that Jeffrey Ruggles, Curator of Prints and Photographs of the Virginia Historical Society cherishes about his Woodland Heights neighborhood; the diversity in Battery Park that Chris Hilbert, Ginter Park resident and 3rd District City Councilman, loves; or admiration for the civic and community activism that helped to revitalize Richmond's Neighborhoods in Bloom, that Rachel Flynn, Director of Community Development for the City of Richmond and Manchester resident, mentioned, this panel was clearly passionate about their city.

"We are running out of neighborhoods to discover," said Chris Small, owner and principal broker for Small & Associates Real Estate. "All of our neighborhoods have so much potential and so much going for them now."

For Rick Jarvis, owner of One South Realty Group, Virginia Commonwealth University deserves much of the credit for the recent progress and success of the city, though he thinks "without the economic downturn, we might be farther along."

Jarvis also noted that though the areas east of Belvidere have historically struggled, people who have lived in that area for a long time call the improvements "amazing."

The panel cited both First Fridays and Lift Coffeeshop as examples of things headed in the right direction in that area.

Overall, though, for the panel, the key to any current or future success for Richmond is entirely connected to community – to Richmonders themselves being involved and committed to their city.

As usual, the conversation went where it needed to go – my primary job was to make sure the participants all had an opportunity to engage, and that the conversation maintained momentum. And – as usual – the conversation consistently turned back to the idea of community, and its importance.

The next Evening at Morton’s discussion will be held in June.