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Hollybrook resident finally getting closure

As disabled residents of the Hollybrook Apartments on St. Joseph’s Villa property south of the main campus navigate to cross Brook Road, many face difficulties with traffic and are fearful for their safety. Resident Brian Montgomery has been fighting for enhancements for the Brook Road corridor along the Villa’s property since 2000, when he was struck by an SUV while on his way to get groceries. His chair wound up under the vehicle and he barely escaped breaking his neck. Twelve years later, he is finally seeing plans put in motion to make the corridor a safer area for residents and pedestrians.

The Hollybrook complex is a HUD Section 8 apartment community for people living with disabilities and was designed for people confined to wheelchairs. It now serves seniors and people with mental illnesses as well and consists of two developments, Hollybrook I and Hollybrook II; each has 30 units.

For the residents of Hollybrook, crossing the busy intersection is something they do daily because across Brook Road sits a Wal-mart and other stores that many of them frequently use. With a high number of handicapped people in close proximity to a major roadway, the chances of getting hit or dealing with careless drivers has escalated. It’s frustrating for tenants because despite safety concerns, there have been no major improvement to the road for more than 60 years – until now.

Things are finally moving forward, as VDOT and Henrico County are funding a $5.5 million project at the site. The construction budget originally was assessed at $2.4 million, but after a delay of five years to finalize plans, the cost more than doubled.

Project plans include sidewalk enhancements at the Villa entrance and Wal-mart entrance at the back of Hollybrook; sidewalks will be enlarged from four feet to seven feet. A sidewalk behind Brook Road that runs from the corner of Villa Park Drive to the entrance of Hollybrook will be enlarges as well, and an additional sidewalk will be built to run all to way to Parham Road in front of the Villa.

It has taken more than a decade of advocating through letters, e-mails, meeting and phone calls for Montgomery and residents of Hollybrook Apartments to see any signs of change. Montgomery wishes the issue had been handled sooner, so that several life-altering incidents could’ve been avoided.

“I got hit back in 2000 and I met some neighbors of mine and we started contacting Henrico County, trying to get sidewalks and improvements out here in Hollybrook," he said. "When it was built in 1984 they should’ve put the sidewalks in but they didn't. We’ve been going back and forth with Henrico County and VDOT for about 12 years trying to get it all nailed down."

A few sidewalk and crosswalk signals were added to the Brook and Wilkinson intersection more than five years ago, but the changes almost served as a temporary fix to the serious safety issue that residents encounter.

“When crossing Brook Road, you have to put your life in your own hands to get across there because the traffic just keeps on getting worse and worse. We do have countdown clocks and sensors at the stoplights now to help us but it’s not enough,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery has been lobbying for years to see changes made and has dealt with defeat before. His hopes were raised in 2005 when Henrico officials allocated $500,000 toward the project, but when funds from VDOT fell through, so did the transportation fix.

The corridor enhancements have an expected completion date of November 2012. Until then, Montgomery is going to be patient and hope that his continued efforts and optimism will lead to positive changes for himself and the residents of Hollybrook.

“It isn't going to hit me until i see the improvements and I see them putting in the changes,” he said.

Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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