Thursday, May 19, 2016

City of Richmond Recognized as 2016 Playful City USA

The City of Richmond received KaBOOM’s designation as a 2016 Playful City USA.  This designation, the first of its kind for the city, is the result of a partnership between the City’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities (PCRF), the Capital Region Collaborative, and Active RVA - a program of Sports Backers. KaBOOM’s national recognition program honors cities and towns across the country for making their cities more playful.

“This recognition is a great accomplishment as we continue to grow and highlight the abundant recreational opportunities available in Richmond.  Playability adds to the quality of life for all members of our community, and especially families,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Playful City USA is a national recognition program that honors cities and towns across the country for taking bold steps to ensure that children in their communities, particularly kids from low income families, obtain the balanced and active play they need to thrive. Cities and towns, along with leaders from every sector working together, have the power to turn play spaces, and all spaces, into transformative theaters of activity, inspiration, and discovery.

As one of KaBOOM’s corporate partners, this designation brings the award home for Richmond’s CarMax.  "We are proud to partner with KaBOOM! and are excited that our hometown is receiving this designation," said Craig Cronheim, president of The CarMax Foundation.  "We look forward to continuing to work with KaBOOM! to ensure that all kids have a childhood filled with balance and active play, here in Richmond, and across the country. "

The City of Richmond was chosen as a Playful City, USA because of its dedication to a healthier community through its natural resources, partnerships, and innovative programs.  With assets such as the James River Park System, PCRF’s CarMax Summer Basketball League, the ARCPark, the Children’s Museum, and this weekend’s Dominion Riverrock festival, Richmond’s opportunities for activity and play are better than ever.

“Play is far more than just entertainment and leisure. It’s a fundamental component of a thriving community,” said Ashley Hall, Manager of the Capital Region Collaborative. “In a playable environment, children’s creative adventures on the playground create a foundation for classroom learning. For adults and families, play creates connections, expands social networks, and helps to build stronger and safer neighborhoods. We’re proud to join the commitment to playability, which connects across our region’s eight priority areas – from education and quality place, to the James River and healthy communities.”

Active RVA’s Director, Jeff McIntyre, states “Active play is crucial to the well-being of kids, families, and their communities.  By integrating play into cities, play provides a competitive advantage for cities looking to attract and retain residents.  We are proud of Richmond’s designation as a Playful City USA and are committed to providing opportunities for all members of the Richmond community to play and be more active.”

As a Playful City USA, Richmond will receive gateway road signs, policy tools that leverage up-to-date city data and play space mapping data, and access to grants that support increasing opportunities for play.

To learn more and see the full list of communities named 2016 Playful City USA honorees, or to gather more information on the Playful City USA program, visit

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Reginald E. Gordon Named Director of the Office of Community Wealth Building

Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced today that Reginald E. Gordon will be the next Director of the Office of Community Wealth Building. Gordon follows the tenure of Dr. Thad Williamson, who was named the first director of the new office two years ago.

“We’ve been well-served by Thad Williamson in the post and appreciate the sabbatical he took to work with us during this time,” said Mayor Jones. “Given the great work and good stewardship that Thad has offered, our challenge had been in identifying a viable successor. I’m confident that we’ve identified the right fit for this next phase of our community wealth building efforts in the personality of Reggie Gordon.”

Beginning June 13, Gordon will serve as the central point of contact for the Office of Community Wealth Building (OCW). OCW initially grew out of the work of the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission, now known as the Maggie L. Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty. Jones successfully worked to make the office a permanent department within city government so that the work toward de-concentrating poverty and transforming Richmond’s public housing will continue, even with changing leadership.

“Reggie’s leadership with the American Red Cross, along with his previous posts with the William Byrd Community House, Homeward, and United Way, have all had him working in the same wheelhouse of focus on communities and transformation,” noted Mayor Jones. “He is bringing a wealth of experience and a heart for the issues that will help further anchor our efforts and advance our goals.”

Mr. Gordon has served as the Chief Executive Officer for the American Red Cross Virginia Region since July of 2007. He earned a Juris Doctor from Howard University School of Law (1986) and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University (1982). He is the recipient of numerous honors including the John Jasper Trailblazer Award, the Ukrop Community Vision Award, the Better Housing Coalition Creative Collaborator Leadership Award, and also previously served on the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Policy as well as the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission.

“I look forward to Reggie’s leadership in improving the lives of our residents through programs, projects, and initiatives aimed at reducing levels of poverty throughout the City of Richmond,” said the City’s Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Reinvestment Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation name City of Richmond one of 50 Invest Health Cities

~ City of Richmond to join innovative, national program to improve
health in low-income neighborhoods ~

The City of Richmond has been selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative, aimed at helping community leaders work together to help low-income communities thrive.

The City of Richmond was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 that applied to participate in the initiative.

 “We are excited about this opportunity to build new partnerships and forge alliances to help improve communities" said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. "This is a unique opportunity to initiate real change with a collaborative approach.”

Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health and a lack of investment, according to Invest Health. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies -- such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise and quality jobs -- that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies.

The initiative has the potential to fundamentally transform the way the City of Richmond improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health, including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.

As an Invest Health city, Richmond will receive about $60,000 in grant funding, primarily to support convening and learning opportunities for cross-sector groups. Richmond Memorial Health Foundation will serve as fiscal agent for the grant.

The initiative launches in June with a gathering of representatives of the 50 selected cities in Philadelphia.

Richmond's application was supported by a cross-sector team representing city government, philanthropy and major city institutions. Members were:

  • Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City Health District,
  • Dr. Risha Berry, with the City of Richmond's Office of Community Wealth Building,
  • Mark Constantine, president and CEO of Richmond Memorial Health Foundation,
  • Sheryl Garland, MHA,  vice president for health policy and community relations at VCU Health System,
  • TK Somanath, chief executive of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Specific goals of the project include:
  • BRING TOGETHER DISPARATE SECTORS to align around a vision for better health, create innovative ideas, and unlock new sources of investment.
  • HELP ATTRACT CAPITAL to improve health outcomes in low-income communities.  
  • BUILD LASTING RELATIONSHIPS that extend beyond the length of the program and help inform work in other communities.
  • TEST POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS to inform the national conversation about how to best invest to achieve health equity in more communities throughout the U.S.
  • ADVANCE SYSTEMS-FOCUSED STRATEGIES that reach across sectors to support health improvement in low-income communities.
  • USE DATA AS A DRIVER for change, beginning with an evidence-based understanding of the problem and continuing to a data framework for assessing impact.

“With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned and spur creative collaboration.”
“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA, RWJF Vice President, Program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

Richmond City Health District
The Richmond City Health District works to improve health and health equity for the residents of Richmond, VA through efforts to promote healthy living, protect the environment, prevent disease and prepare the community for disasters.

Richmond Memorial Health Foundation
The Richmond Memorial Health Foundation invests financial, intellectual and leadership resources through grantmaking, strategic initiatives and partnerships with nonprofit organizations, foundations, government, businesses and academic institutions to improve health and healthcare.
Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority
RRHA fulfills its mission of building vibrant communities by providing quality, affordable housing to families in need, transforming neighborhoods and revitalizing communities, building strategic partnerships to advance our work and supporting resident success through self-sufficiency programs.

Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU also encompasses VCU Health, which comprises five health sciences schools, VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, VCU Massey Cancer Center and Virginia Premier.
Reinvestment Fund

Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Zoning Application Made for New Grocery Store in East End Food Desert

Mayor Dwight Jones, Councilperson Cynthia Newbille, and the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority announced that a development team has made a rezoning application to develop a mixed-use residential and neighborhood retail development at the northern corners of the Nine Mile Road and North 25th Street intersection in Richmond’s North Church Hill neighborhood, anchored by new grocery operator Jim’s Local Market.

The partners said a grocery store at this location has been conceptually discussed for many years since the area became known as a food desert, and recent efforts began in earnest in 2011 during the East End Initiative planning process attended by the Mayor, Dr. Newbille, Bon Secours Heath System, RRHA, and members of the community.

“I am thrilled that this proposal is finally advancing,” said Mayor Jones. “The East End food desert has needed healthy groceries and good jobs for a long time, and I hope that success here can be replicated in other neighborhoods across the city.”

“I have heard members of the community asking for a full-service grocery store in this area,” said Councilperson Newbille.  “And that is what is being proposed for the East End community. Further, we will be going to the community together with the developer to talk about how this project will look, the services that will be provided, employment opportunities, and other ways that it can enhance the neighborhood.”

Jim Scanlon, president of Jim’s Local Market, believes that the time is right to build on the success of their recent grocery store opening in Newport News.  “We believe we have a business model that’s right for urban areas like the East End of Richmond – combining quality products, affordability for all customers, and a level of employee engagement that creates a culture of great customer service.” 

T.K. Somanath, president and CEO of RRHA, added “We are doing everything we can to ensure that this is a development we can all be proud of, and that it will be the cornerstone of a stable, healthy East End.”

Steve Markel, senior member of the private team implementing the development, said, “Seeing what Jim has done in Newport News, and seeing the commitment the City, Housing Authority, and so many community partners are willing to contribute to the East End, has convinced me that this is the right thing to do.”

Councilperson Newbille and the development team plan to meet with neighbors to answer questions about the development and potential neighborhood impacts as soon as possible.

The zoning application made yesterday is the beginning of a months-long approval process and is the first of several steps that must occur before construction could begin.  Design and layout of the grocery site and for accompanying mixed-use development is still in development.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Schools Funding Draft Report Issued to Multi-Year School Capital Investment Funding Plan Executive Committee

~ Team to narrow down viable revenue options for future needs ~

The Multi-Year School Capital Investment Funding Plan Executive Committee received a draft report today concerning potential revenue sources that could support new capital investment in the city of Richmond. The menu of options was developed by the Revenues & Financing Working Group of the Project Evaluation Team.

The report outlines revenue options and includes an analysis of the viability of those options. Seventeen potential revenue sources were represented in the draft report. The report also offers a history of annual funding for Richmond Public Schools and an outline of future Capital Improvement Project (CIP) needs for the city.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones indicated that the menu of options and the report analysis will be presented and discussed with Richmond City Council as well as Richmond Public Schools, community stakeholders and the public over the next several weeks. The Project Evaluation Team will be working to obtain feedback and to narrow down the list of revenue options to those choices that will be agreeable for the parties to pursue.

The next scheduled meeting of the Executive Team is June 20, 2016, at which time the group is expected to bring forth final recommendations for the development of a long-term sustainable funding program for the city’s needs.

To view a copy of the draft report click here.