While taking a Mothers Day stroll for coffee, my wife passed along a rumor she heard about a restaurant going in at Parkwood and Addison. We pass this strange looking building whenever we walk to the Fan from Byrd Park. It’s one of those yesteryear businesses that makes your imagination run wild with possibilities. I always wonder what used to be there so many years ago (a gas station? an old fashioned drive-up diner? a dry cleaners with car-side service?). Why is the business no more? And then I remember the walk from my house. The footbridge is covered in trash and seemingly forgotten by all but littering Thunderbird drinkers, virtually untended by the city. It’s majorly sketchy at night and only slightly better during the day.
The intersection outside the one-day car-port restaurant looks like it sees little upkeep, but there’s more potential at that spot than just paninis and California-style coffee (some of the rumored restaurant details – can’t wait to find out what California style coffee is). The sprawling parks, picturesque lakes, and athletic courses should have Fan residents beating a path (on foot or bike, not cars) past the old gas-cleaners-diner (?), over 195 to Byrd Park. Unfortunately, Addison, the continuation of Strawberry Street south of Main, culminates at the mouth of the footbridge amidst overgrown weeds-turned-trees, piles of trash and a gigantic mud hole that never seems to dry up. It couldn’t be more foreboding. You don’t see people coming or going, ever. No little old ladies pulling groceries in a cart. No happy hour customers of Sticky Rice and deLux. The bridge is not EZ to LUV. It’s no man’s land, and that needs to change.
If the alleged new eatery at Addison and Parkwood is going to thrive, the City will need to change it’s pattern of negligence toward the footbridge and the several surrounding blocks (on both sides of the interstate). Richmond’s entrepreneurial spirit is already taking the first step with Acacia Midtown’s improbable installation at Robinson and Cary, the bus depot redevelopment slated for eventual retail conversion*, the old Jamaica Me Crazy on Cary at Addison now transforming into La Famelia’s Mediterranean and American Deli**, and now this park’n'panini place on Parkwood. If that sounds exciting to you, then it’s time to take responsibility and civic action.
Why aren’t there signs on Cary Street (at Robinson, Addison and Meadow) directing people to the three awesome Byrd Park Lakes and Maymont? Richmond does this for Belle Isle and Browns Island, etc. Just because Richmond saw fit to build an expressway through a historic black neighborhood (since 1950s white flight) and cut Byrd Park/Maymont/Randolph off from the heart of the city, doesn’t mean we can’t start mending those fences and creating more cohesion. Sure, it’s arguably too little too late, and many parts of those neighborhoods are gentrifying and shifting back toward majority white. But I’d just like to see the city step up and act responsibly toward it’s neighborhoods, its would-be thoroughfares, and its fledgling businesses, regardless of the demographics. Of course, input on this matter needs to come form the neighborhoods, and not just potential customers of the new businesses. This “foodie” lives at one end of that footbridge. I’d like to hear from folks on both sides as well as a the 5th District Councilperson.
*is this really going to be feasible with the toxicity of decades of diesel fuel absorbed into the ground? If so, I vote for a grocery store in the mix.
**their menu in the window includes a $5.99 falafel pita sandwich (it better come with some fries for that price)
UPDATE: Good news! One of the partners in the new Parkwood/Addison restaurant is Jen Rawlings from the old 17.5 Cafe. To me, this means the place will be a guaranteed destination. Major construction is taking place by day. Walk by, take a gander, and start making plans to divert your strolls toward this new place, due to be open this summer.