RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond homeowner is fighting for his art after the City notified him that a mural on the side of his property isn’t allowed in his historic neighborhood.
Josh Shaheen told 8News that the idea to bring artwork to his home — located on Monroe Street near West Broad Street — came a year after unwelcome graffiti had spread throughout his neighborhood.
“You just take a 360 look around from this location specifically where I am standing and you’ll see graffiti everywhere,” Shaheen said.
After living in Jackson Ward for a year, Shaheen decided to work with Ian Hess, a local business owner, to put up a mural in place of the graffiti.
“It’s been up for three or four months now and there hasn’t been any graffiti on it since,” Shaheen said.
The mural received a positive response from the Jackson Ward community, according to Shaheen. However, it wasn’t long before the City of Richmond sent him a letter saying the mural goes against the neighborhood’s historic preservation efforts and would require removal.
Shaheen says he wasn’t aware that his property was part of a historic neighborhood. When he requested permission for the mural to stay, Shaheen says his request was deferred.
“It almost adds insult to injury that they want me to be the one to test it and like try to remove it all.”
Other homeowners in the area told 8News they found the City’s response hypocritical. Hess says he and Shaheen are not going to give up on the mural so easily.
“Don’t take down this mural,” Hess said. “You’re going to have to tear me away from it, I’ll tell you.”
Virginia is a “buyer beware state” meaning that the onus is on homeowners and home-buyers to be familiar with the City’s codes and ordinances.
A spokesperson for the City, Petula Burks, shared the following statement with 8News:
I think it is helpful for you to have some background information related to CAR or the Commission of Architectural Review. The CAR was established by City Council in 1957. The CAR is the city’s official historic preservation body and is charged with reviewing all exterior changes to structures within the city’s Old and Historic Districts and issuing Certificates of Appropriateness for those projects that it deems to be appropriate.
This particular home is located in the historic Jackson Ward Old and Historic District which was established in 1987. Jackson Ward is one of Richmond’s most valuable and historically relevant neighborhoods. Many homes have been restored and many more major revitalization efforts are underway. The neighbors in this community have worked tirelessly to establish a historic district and desire to keep the authenticity of design and structure.
Mr. Shaheen cannot paint a mural on his home based on the regulations established by CAR, which include prohibitions on painting previously unpainted brick. Mr. Shaheen installed a mural without a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) and thus was found to be in violation. CAR deferred the case at its meeting in January.
We are awaiting information from the property owner regarding the feasibility of removing the paint from the brick. Staff will base its recommendation on these findings. It is important for residents to familiarize themselves with city codes and ordinances when purchasing and/or making intended improvements to their property.
Shaheen has until Feb. 24, 2023, to find a removal solution or appeal the decision. If he doesn’t, the City will decide how to move forward.