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Mixed-Use Building in Church Hill North

A Hybrid Community Project

O’Neill McVoy Architects

Mixed-Use Building in Church Hill North
By Caterina Testa -

Church Hill North is one of the most underserved neighborhoods in the city of Richmond: gradual depopulation of the residential area hollowed out the main urban services and, along with them, the liveliness and sense of belonging that make a neighborhood a community.

Planning by local government to redevelop the Nine Mile Road – the main artery through the area – was backed by private initiatives, triggering synergies and extremely beneficial partnerships for this part of town. Conceived and designed by O’Neill McVoy Architects for an area sited at the intersection of the neighborhood’s main roads, the project adopted a developmental model that brought together a private philanthropic investor, government incentives and a local community that expressed a desire for affordable housing, schools and access to high-quality food.

The project is a hybrid both in terms of the development process that led to its creation and the program it offers. The building is home to a culinary school – The Kitchens at Reynolds – along with affordable housing, a co-working space, and room for a restaurant, all within a single volume that has successfully transformed this former food desert into a community with access to and awareness about quality nutrition.

Conveying a deep connection with the city and its community was one of the objectives that guided the project from its earliest explorative stages. The designers intended the shape of the building to mold the surrounding open space, creating small squares and green spaces, and relating to the urban context by framing views and differentiating space at its various levels without resorting to a hierarchy of fronts. Indeed, the volume was designed with neither main front nor back: its arrangement mirrors urban flows, with accesses laid out on all four sides of the building making it possible for all fronts to constantly be populated and characterized by the...

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