Style Weekly has an interesting article this week about a part of Richmond that has been largely ignored, Northside’s Brookland Park Boulevard. There is a lot of great information in the article, so be sure to go here and read the whole thing, but I felt like this part in particular was a great summary of the past and present of this area:
Brookland Park Boulevard was a bustling commercial corridor in the 1950s and ’60s, with popular bakeries, restaurants, a theater and a nightclub. And today, despite the many vacant buildings, several businesses still do a thriving trade.
On Saturdays, the area’s many beauty and barber shops are packed. Soul food restaurant Sam’s Kitchen is doing well, Epps says, as is his brother’s newly opened restaurant, River City Seafood. The cheerful yellow Michaela’s Bakery, which opened in 2005, sells six-layer cakes and strawberry shortcakes wholesale. Owner Michael Hatcher wishes the city would think of some way to bring more customers in — something historic, he says, or a tourist attraction. Another longtime business owner, florist Sylvia Richardson, says loiterers are the biggest deterrent to business. She says she doesn’t feel comfortable even walking to the convenience store across the street.
The one thing on which the merchants agree is that Brookland Park Boulevard has potential. Car traffic is plentiful, because the boulevard connects the city’s North Side and East End, and the area is served by two bus lines. The street has some architectural gems, such as an old theater and an ornate bank building. Richmond Community High School, a school for the gifted, moved onto the boulevard in 2009. Young people are buying up houses in nearby neighborhoods.
Brookland Park Boulevard reminds me a lot of other Richmond gems like East Grace Street near the Carpenter Center and Manchester’s Hull Street. A rich history, a questionable present, and a lot of enthusiasm and support to make the area a thriving community.
What’s next for Brookland Park, I wonder?