When the City, The Community Builders, and Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority began work on Creighton Court Redevelopment, there was a big part of the pie that had yet to be baked.
Residents had given feedback that there hadn’t been enough communication involved, not to mention that the federal Choice planning grant that TCB had applied for required strong community engagement. “One of the things we figured,” says Albert Walker of VCU’s Center of Society and Health. “Is that we needed to have a core group of residents who live in the neighborhood who would get the latest and greatest information.”
His team worked with Richmond Promise Neighborhood with funding from The Community Builders to start the Informed Neighbors Corps to do two things: develop leadership around housing advocacy and increase communication in the neighborhood backed by quality information.
Informed Neighbors did a series of door-to-door campaigns, answering frequently asked questions as to what redevelopment entails. They also hosted community, resident-led “Neighbor to Neighbor” meetings. “Before all of this, the meetings had been dominated by a lot of ‘suits,’ ” says Walker.
The group works hard to reestablish trust between the community and the City, showing that after many other attempts, redevelopment in the East End is truly a priority. “Look around you!” Walker says. “It’s here. But we didn’t want people to wait until bulldozers were in the ground before they were prepared. The main message to get around to the community was that it’s happening, it’s time to get prepared, and it’s time to get involved.”
Walker and Chimere Miles, an Informed Neighbors co-founder and a resident, sent a “Final Report” to The Community Builders and the Armstrong developer, although the word “final” is something of a misnomer, since Informed Neighbors hopes that the inroads they’ve made for good communication will continue throughout.
“In the absence of good communication,” says Walker. “People believe what they believe. You have to have good information.”