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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Urbane Urban Renewal - The Decatur *

I made a serious mistake today.I took a pea shooter** to a prize fight. I scammed up a free ride on the Venture Richmond Downtown Loft tour with hopes for some awesome pics, but my Kodak Easy Share was unable to truly snag the snazzy interiors and spectacular skyline views I saw today. I took about 70 photos of the 6 lofts on the tour A, only a few were passable. It's too bad because I saw some spectacular homes carved out of the industrial landscapes of Manchester, Shockoe Bottom and the downtown business district. It just shows what a lot of money, hope and guts can accomplish.

Stop two was The Decatur, a "small" four unit conversion in east Manchester. Unless someone gave you precise instructions and took you there personally(which happened in my case), you would not believe someone would sink a small fortune into a non descript industrial wasteland. For some though,that is precisely the attraction and the challenge. There is almost nothing about the exterior of the Decatur building that would give you a clue to the arty comfortable interiors within. The first home was a 4,000 sq ft, $800,000 loft owned by an urban architect/developer who wanted to live his dream. . The centerpiece was an open kitchen/dining room/ living room space filled with comfort and just inviting a dinner party. I spoke with the owner who said they usually went to bed at 7:30 and rarely threw parties. Ah, too bad wealth is wasted on the wealthy. The contrast between the interior is and exterior is stark, but the neighborhood is catching up with them. Across the street is the former Crawford Parachute factor with 75 apartments. Nearby are Artworks studio spaces and coffeehouse. There are several other condo and apartment conversions that a building a resident population of neighbors and like minded people.

What's not available are an abundance of shops and restaurants that would give Manchester a warm neighborhood feel. At some point businesses will follow the residents, but that will require greater population density. The area as a whole still requires a bit of a pioneer spirit. That spirit is currently rewarded with unique downtown views and hip creative neighbors.

Slideshow with a few more pics. Next: Shockoe Valley Lofts and Sterling Row.

*Misspellings and adhomonyms (my word for the unintentional substitution of a phonetically similar word that changes the meaning of the whole sentence.), i.e. the "hole" neighborhood vs. the whole neighborhood, have been removed. The English language combined with a dyslexic mind is a dangerous thing.

**Any mixed metaphors on the other hand are probably intentional.

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