NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The City of Norfolk completed an online survey to get input on what to do with the Waterside venue. The results were presented at a meeting Wednesday night.
Ironically, The Waterside helped revitalize downtown Norfolk in 1983. Then, it turned on tough times with the construction of MacArthur Center Mall and the revitalization of Granby Street. Today, there are signs of failure everywhere at Waterside - an empty marina, empty tables, escalators taking no one upstairs, and cavernous open space. Even Mayor Paul Fraim hasn't been able to figure out the problem of what to do with The Waterside.
"Very often the paper paints it as a white elephant questioning judgments made about Waterside, and that continues today," said Fraim.
Fraim called it a 'listening tour.' The meeting gave results from an online survey to The Waterside Focus Group. "We're letting boaters go elsewhere. If we can get that nautical theme going, and then get some boating and seafood restaurants and seafood markets then we can bring back the water aspect of Waterside," Focus Group member Jinny Alberts.
The Survey revealed that The Waterside has significant value. The words 'family' and 'wholesome' were used a lot. The survey also said Waterside needs to be tied in with Granby Street, but Waterside Drive is a barrier preventing that.
"There's no reason for them to walk two blocks because there isn't lunch here. The one thing people have always asked, 'where can I sit on the waterfront and eat dinner'? Well, we've got Hooters and Joe's Crab Shack. They're great places but we only have two restaurants," said Waterside merchant Sharon Hogan.
In addition, the survey revealed that most people want mixed use of office, retail, restaurants, and residences. If Waterside remains intact people want to see more windows, more restrooms, and more open air spaces around the building. "You have to have family here, and until we start involving our family with our kids [it won't thrive] because that's where most of your money is," said Gloria Tukes from the St. Andrews Homeowners Association.
The survey also showed The Waterside has unrealized potential and opportunity. Assistant City Manager Stanley Stein said based on the survey he envisions "a family friendly venue with programming in it, better linkages, and ties with downtown transportation." Stein said, "We will have more restaurants and some retail."
Stein will finalize the survey by adding comments from the focus group. Then, he will present it to City Council in two weeks at the Council's retreat. The Council will then get a consultant to guide them, and the final proposal will be ready by next year's budget discussions.
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