Feb 14, 2024 - News

VCU plans to make Grace its "campus main street"

A nice, clean looking street with cars

The 900 block of West Grace this week. Photo: Fadel Allassan/ Axios

VCU has big plans for the 600-900 blocks of West Grace Street.

What's happening: The school plans to reimagine those blocks as a "campus main street," complete with pocket parks, seating for "informal gathering," ground floor retail and restaurants, with even more student housing and academic space above, the Commonwealth Times, VCU's student paper, reports.

Why it matters: It's a sign of how much VCU has changed the city in just two decades.

Flashback: For much of the 20th century, West Grace by VCU was the stomping ground for the city's progressives, its beatniks, hippies, punks poets, artists and bands, per the Commonwealth Times.

a historic black and white pic from the 1970s showing a theater
The Biograph Theater in 1974. It was at 814 W. Grace St. Image: Courtesy of Valentine museum

Meanwhile: West Grace was also home to Richmond's seedy underbelly, where strip joints, "prostitutes … winos and panhandlers" lined the blocks, the student paper reported a decade ago. VCU students were encouraged to avoid the area.

  • In 1959, 85% of all felony arrests in Richmond happened on West Grace; 30 years later, in 1991, the city launched a task force to address street fights on the blocks.

The latest: Today, VCU envisions those four legendary Richmond blocks as a quaint streetscape, a promenade for students (home for roughly 700 additional ones) as part of its updated six-year master plan, approved last year.

  • For many longtime Richmonders, that kind of Grace Street is unimaginable.

The bottom line: Grace Street belongs to VCU now (even if the school doesn't yet own all the buildings where it plans to erect its main street).

  • But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the memories. And we want to hear yours. Hit reply to share your Grace stories.
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