Architects reveal their vision for where Tidewater Gardens now sits


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The vision for what downtown Norfolk’s St. Paul’s area could look like became clearer Wednesday as architects revealed their latest sketches.

Architects with Torti+Gallas have been meeting with Tidewater Gardens residents all week to draft the framework for what will replace the aging 618 unit 1950’s era public housing neighborhood.

The community that sits just opposite 264 from Harbor Park is the first phase of a nearly 200-acre redevelopment.

“Tidewater Gardens is the one that floods the most. It’s the one that has the most issues in terms of housing,” said Barbara Hamm Lee, Communications Director for the St. Paul’s Redevelopment project. 

In January, Norfolk City Council voted to have the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority move ahead with plans to eventually level the Tidewater Gardens, Young Terrace, and Calvert Square public housing complexes, and replace them with mixed-income communities. The goal is to increase the quality of life for residents and leave behind the neighborhoods poverty-stricken past. 

The move would drastically change the landscape of downtown and affect 1,700 units.

“People first is our guiding principle, Hamm Lee said. “We want the residents to be apart of this process every step of the way.”

Last month, architects met with residents to hear what they wanted to see in a new community. Overall the themes centered around better housing and less crime.

However, residents also expressed the need for better accessibility to the outside community. 

The colorful hand-drawn maps showed new streets connecting to major roadways that bring people in and out of the neighborhood. It also included the possibility for first-floor business along what is currently Fenchurch street.  

“Schools and education have also been very important to the residents,” Tom Gallas, CEO of Torti+Gallas said. “We continue to meet with representatives with Norfolk Public Schools today.” 

The newly revealed sketch includes the footprint of a possible new school along Tidewater Drive. 

Since 2012, a redevelopment of the St. Paul’s area has factored in the potential replacement for Tidewater Park Elementary School. The building that currently sits at the corner of Brambleton Ave and Tidewater Dr. was listed in “poor” condition in a recent report, however, at this time NPS hasn’t committed to a rebuild.

The sketch of the school sits just north of where a park and creek is pictured.

Tidewater Gardens flooding is a long documented problem that Gallas said is addressed by no longer putting housing units in the floodplain.

“We keep a community that is safe and out of that flood zone moving forward,” Gallas said. 

To make up for lost housing space, NRHA is looking at the possibility of constructing mixed-housing units on property currently outside current Tidewater Gardens boundaries. For instance, Gallas’s team prepared sketches of what a community would look like on the site of controversial Midtown Office Tower proposal at the corner of Virginia Beach Boulevard. and Tidewater Drive.

In August, architects will return to sketch what the future buildings could look like. 

The city is pursuing a Choice Neighborhood Initiative Implementation Grant worth $30 million to start with the redevelopment of Tidewater Gardens. Torti+Gallas has been hired on by the City of Norfolk to provide the site plans for the application. 

The city will move forward with the project even if the grant money isn’t awarded according to Hamm Lee.

NRHA is looking to file a demolition permit for Tidewater Gardens with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this Fall. 

The earliest Hamm Lee expects any residents to be moving out is Spring of 2019.

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