In my opinion, VCU's expansion along West Grace Street has been an improvment to the area overall. It was apparent that businesses were only lasting a few years at a time before closing and selling. It was clear that there was a certain type of counterculture that was growing and deterring people from frequenting the area.
VCU building the residence centers on West Grace Street to me was a sign by the university to say in a way, "We've Won" the battle and have successfully changed the perception and culture on West Grace Street. I don't believe VCU would have built these dorimtories here if they weren't certain that the students would be safe and that they could create a successful retail space in the area.
I do believe that VCU shouldn't push away all of the locally owned businesses that were typical along West Grace Street and I hope that they will devise a way to incorporate the local businesses into their continued expansion along Grace Street. As it stands now, all of the retail space along West Grace Street that has been in conjunction with the new residence centers has been for national retail chains.