City Opens 23rd Street and Marks Completion of Cobblestone Restoration Project

Mayor Dwight Jones and Thomas Wilds, President of the Church Hill Association joined in opening 23rd Street between Grace and Franklin streets and marking the completion of the 23rd Street cobblestone restoration project today. The following are Mayor Jones prepared remarks.

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us here today.

I would like to acknowledge Cynthia Newbille, the Richmond City Councilperson for the East End 7th District.

Unfortunately, she is not able to join us today, but I want to point out that she has been a strong advocate for this restoration project. (Her liaison Sam Patterson will be at the event)

Knowing her excitement for this area I am certain she would say - This is a great day in the City of Richmond and especially the East End as we mark the completion of the 23rd Street cobble restoration and officially re-open this street!
I would like to thank our Department of Public Works, our contractors and sub-contractors for a job well done. And I would like to note that this project had a 90% minority business participation rate which is outstanding!

Part of my goal in “Building the Best Richmond” and my responsibility as your Mayor is to create secure neighborhoods where streets are safe and communities are inviting.

Richmond is a city of great neighborhoods and this newly restored cobblestone street continues our efforts to improve upon them, both aesthetically and from a safety perspective.

I am also pleased that with this project completion, we have been able to help restore some of the historic character to Church Hill, and that we have completed this project with funds made available for the preparation of the big bike race coming in September.

One of the most outstanding benefits of our hosting the UCI World Championships is that infrastructure improvements such as this will be here long after September meaning residents and visitors will enjoy these improvements for years to come.

So as we welcome the world to Richmond, cyclist will take on this cobblestone hill behind me as they race to a championship.

Now these cyclists will not be the first on bicycle to take on this hill, as Craig Dodson and Richmond Cycling Corps youth will do so in just in a few moments to help mark this project completion.

In acknowledging Richmond Cycling Corps, I want to take a few moments to make a very special announcement.

There are so many people in our city that give of their time and talents to a cause much greater than themselves. That is vitally important as Richmond is a tale of two cities.

We are a city full of vibrant businesses, remarkable entrepreneurs, enthusiastic students, and engaged residents. And, there are areas of our City’s East End that has been ignored, over-looked, and shunned.

Decades of educational inequality, of allowing violence and alienation to subvert once thriving neighborhoods, of the deliberate choices made in segregating our housing, have created a generation that doesn’t believe that they have a chance to succeed.

There is a generation that doesn’t believe that they can be better off than the circumstances they have been born into. It is generation without hope.

Talent is universal, but opportunity is not. We can work to provide opportunities to all of our young people, but we must also give them the hope and confidence that they have what it takes to seize those chances.

Craig Dodson embodies this to his core. This past year, I have had the great fortune to join in various events and work with his Richmond Cycling Corps program.

Craig and his team use the lure of the bicycle as a tool to engage youth from public housing into a highly-detailed case management system that at the same time develops their character. Craig not only puts our young people through a rigorous regiment on a bicycle, but he does some of his best work off it.

He helps the program’s youth with needs chronic to those in public housing: providing legal aid, assisting with dental and medical needs, academic support, financial literacy, and sometimes, most importantly, emotional support.

In 2014, Craig launched the nation’s first and only inner-city high school cycling team at Armstrong High School. He then expanded the program again earlier this year and brought a cycling team to MLK Middle School.

He also organized and worked with community partners to transform a once vacant 15-acre parcel of land in Fairfield Court into a one-mile mountain bike course, featuring: 27 obstacles, a community garden, a 600 sq-ft barn, 41 newly planted trees, and metal sculptures.

By the way, the Armstrong Cycling garnered a third place finish in the 2015 Virginia High School Mountain Bike Series championship race in just its first year.

However, we know real results aren’t measured by trophies or in what place you finish the race. They’re measured in the pride and confidence these kids have when they tell me about how much they are growing because of Craig’s program.

I am so proud of people in our community like Craig, who work on the hope, and that is why I am submitting Craig Dodson, Director of the Richmond Cycling Corps, for Richmond Times Dispatch’s Person of the Year.

It is Richmonders such as Craig; impactful projects such as this; and cycling on a world stage – that are helping to excel our City’s resurgence and making Richmond that tier-one, first class city that we all know it can be.

As we strive daily to continue our resurgence, I am extremely proud of our efforts to restore these cobbles and I look forward to seeing bikes travel this street today and in the days to come.

Now, I would be remised if I did not also mention the residents of this immediate area, through the Church Hill Association, who have also been requesting this enhancement for quite some time.

I look forward to hearing what this means for this neighborhood from the Church Hill Association President Thomas Wilds.

Please join me in welcoming him to the podium.

Thank you.