The Better Housing Coalition (BHC) is pleased to announce our 2013 Groundbreaker Honoree, the Reverend Dr. Robert A. Diggs, Sr., Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Petersburg. BHC will present Dr. Diggs with an award in recognition of his leadership at our signature event, Groundbreakers, on October 17th at The Hotel John Marshall.
Dr. Diggs recognized the need to resuscitate the neighborhood surrounding his church, Tabernacle Baptist, nearly 20 years ago. The Halifax neighborhood in Petersburg, Virginia, has a rich African American heritage and was once home to a vibrant commercial district known for its jazz venues.
He provides an unwavering voice in advocating for the community, and is an inspiring leader who helps everyone believe in bright possibilities.
Under Dr. Diggs’ leadership, Tabernacle Baptist developed the Community Life Center, a community resource that houses a state-of-the-art childcare center, community classroom and meeting space, a banquet facility and administrative offices. They collaborate with the Petersburg Dept. of Parks and Leisure Services, which provides on-site daily programs for senior residents.
This center opened in 2006 and represents an investment of $5 million. Today, it is the hub of community life in the neighborhood on Halifax St. On any given day, local residents learn, create, sing and exercise in this facility.
Dr. Diggs is also the driving force behind the creation of the Restoration of Petersburg Community Development Corporation (ROPCDC), which helps carry out his vision of a vibrant, revitalized neighborhood.
Another community need that Dr. Diggs addresses is affordable housing for seniors. In Halifax, the median age is 10 years higher than in neighboring wards. Dr. Diggs and the ROPCDC partnered with the Better Housing Coalition, and together they created a 47-unit apartment community for lower-income seniors, Claiborne Square, which opened in 2011. (Read about the Claiborne Square dedication ceremony here.)
The Halifax neighborhood also has a large stock of homes that were built before 1939, and many have fallen into blight and disrepair. Dr. Diggs and ROPCDC are actively engaged in pre-development planning to remove blight and create a new stock of attractive, affordable homes.
All of us at the Better Housing Coalition are grateful to partner with such an inspiring visionary on a journey towards holistic neighborhood rejuvenation.