Oregon Hill residents are protesting plans to tear down four historic buildings on the 800 block of West Cary Street, where a four-story, 100-unit apartment complex is set to take their place.
The $18.5 million project, 805W, will encompass the four vacant buildings and area behind them, according to Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Richmond residents and members of the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association held a rally March 18 in opposition to the construction of 805W. More than 50 people stood outside the buildings set to be torn down, demanding the property be saved from demolition.
Todd Woodson, president of the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association, said the buildings are particularly pertinent to Richmond’s historic character.
“(These buildings) are the gateway to our neighborhood and to downtown,” Woodson said. “(They) should be conserved and used as a part of the development.”
All four properties are separately listed on both the State and National Register of Historic Places, Woodson said.
Two of the buildings date back to the 1830s, making them two of the oldest buildings in the Oregon Hill Historic District, according to a history report about the structures by Charles Pool of the Oregon Hill Home Improvement Council. The other buildings date back to the early 1900s.
The two oldest properties were built by Benjamin Green, an architect who played a pivotal role in the early stages of Oregon Hill’s development. In detailing the history of the block, Pool said the properties cannot be torn down.
“These structures connect with the… legacy of Benjamin Green in constructing modest working-class dwellings in the neighborhood,” Pool said. “The highest priority should be placed on preserving these important landmarks.”
A statement released by the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association expressed the organization’s belief that the structures hold enough historic significance to stay standing.
“The existing buildings on this block are profoundly important to the intrinsic fabric of our historic district,” the statement read. “These buildings stand as a testament to the craftsmanship and ingenuity of our forefathers. They deserve to be saved and preserved for the future.”
The 805W project isn’t the first time new building projects have resulted in the demolition of some of Richmond’s most historic structures. Woodson said construction around the Oregon Hill overlook had a similar result in 2002 when more than three full blocks of antebellum housing were torn down to make space for a student housing development.
In addition to public demonstrations, Richmond residents are protesting the 805W project through an online petition. The “No805W — Save Oregon Hill Historic Buildings” petition has garnered local support, with more than 900 signatures since its publication on March 18.
Woodson said the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association is fighting the project construction and plans to take the matter to the Board of Zoning Appeals, if necessary.
“Oregon Hill has a big heart and soul to its community,” Woodson said. “Part of that soul is in our love for the history and the architecture that has drawn us here and we are committed to preserving it.”
Saffeya Ahmed, Staff Writer