Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation and the City of Richmond are conducting a feasibility study to assess infrastructure options to reconnect the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. This once-thriving community was severed by the construction of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike in the 1950s and now is bisected by Interstates 95 and 64.
“In the past, highway construction too often destroyed neighborhoods in the name of ‘progress,” said Governor Northam. “Now, some 70 years later, we now have the opportunity to explore ways to right these wrongs and re-connect historic neighborhoods.” The Governor noted that President Biden recently signed the new federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes new funds to reconnect communities that were divided by highway construction in the past.
The study will assess potential options to physically reconnect the north and south neighborhoods of this historic African American community. Once referred to as the “Harlem of the South,” Jackson Ward is split in half by the interstate, limiting access, growth, and connectivity to downtown Richmond.
The study will be a phased approach, beginning with a community visioning process to garner feedback and engagement from residents and business owners.
“State and federal housing and highway projects severed Jackson Ward, destroyed Black homes, and displaced thousands of Black residents,” said Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “This feasibility study, coupled with the recently announced HUD Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant for Jackson Ward/Gilpin, is an important next step toward healing these two communities and bridging the physical space between them.”
“Through this collaborative process, we plan to develop critical technical analysis and potential design options to support the city of Richmond’s goal of reconnecting Jackson Ward,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The study results and conceptual designs will also provide information needed for grant and funding options for this revitalization priority.”
“Having worked in the General Assembly for 15 years to redress racial injustice, I am pleased to see the Commonwealth take these steps to restore the Jackson Ward neighborhood to its historic footprint through community collaboration,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan.
“This feasibility study will help lay the groundwork to reconnect Jackson Ward, a predominantly Black community, that was once the heart of the City of Richmond,” said Delegate Jeff Bourne. “I look forward to working with the constituents of the 71st District, Mayor Stoney, and the Commonwealth as solutions are identified to right some of the past wrongs that have negatively impacted this once vibrant community.”
Further information on public outreach and study planning materials will be shared publicly upon finalization.
The City established a preliminary website for the project, which can be viewed here.