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16 oak trees torn down to make way for Westwood Tract development

Posted at 9:41 PM, Aug 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-11 23:34:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Welcome to the corner of Brook Road in Westwood Avenue in the heart of Ginter Park, a carefully planned and designed residential suburb that was born around 1906, soon after the city launched the nation's first streetcar system.

Back then, there was almost nothing there, except Union Presbyterian Seminary, which for 100 years kept this vast corner like a public park.

Only about 20 or so modern, upscale apartments - with a pool - will be reserved for the seminary, which has an incoming class of 40. The rest will be leased to the public by the developer, who now own the land.

Earlier this week, 16 oak trees were torn down at Westwood Tract.

The trees made way for a 301-unit suburban style apartment project known as the Canopy at Ginter Park, on the Westwood Tract.

“The gorgeous trees that were 100 years in the making have been cut down in a half an hour,” said Wendy Kleinfield. “It’s an abomination, it absolutely is.”

Neighbors like Kleinfield fought against the development, but failed.

“The impact on the neighborhood will be unlimited,” she said.

Zoning board appeals and lawsuits based on previous zoning agreements that the land would only be used for Seminary developments have failed.

“To me it looks like what they threw up there on Monument Avenue, just outside of the city limits, only not as upscale, or some of the stuff in Short Pump, neither of which belongs here,” said another concerned resident.

“They made a very direct deal with the neighborhood 60 years ago now,” said Richmonder Ben Campbell.

Mike Frontiero, a spokesperson with the Union Presbyterian Seminary, defended the decision to allow the new development at Westwood Tract.

Canopy at Ginter Park

“We have found no evidence of any zoning mistake or any promise or contract made back in the 1950’s or any other time," he said. "The land has always been zone multi-purpose, multi-family, and it has been for the past 65 years."

The current civil lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court to stop the development is considered a Hail Mary, but who knows what the future will hold for the beloved land.