Review board members say initial building plans for new public housing look more ‘Virginia Beach’ than ‘Norfolk’

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Several members of Norfolk’s Architectural Review Board want to see more unique urban architecture in buildings designed to replace public housing.

“I would love to see people come bring us designs that doesn’t look like it’s coming from Virginia Beach or coming from an apartment complex in Virginia Beach and plopping it down in downtown Norfolk,” said Greg Rutledge, Chair of the Architectural Review Board, following the group’s meeting Monday night. “I’m looking for more.”

This comes as Illinois-based Brinshore Development begins the long process of starting to redevelop the area. The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority selected the firm as their “housing lead” last year after Norfolk City Council voted to move ahead with plans to level the Tidewater Gardens, Young Terrace and Calvert Square public housing complexes, and replace them with mixed-income communities

In May, HUD awarded NRHA $30 million as part of its Choice Neighborhood Initiative grants.

The overall goal is to increase the quality of life for residents and leave behind the neighborhoods’ poverty-stricken past. 

Herb Shartle, with the Cox Kliewer Company, gave board members an overview of one of the two properties that could be the first to be redeveloped as part of the grant.

Known as Blocks 19 and 20, the buildings planned to be built along Wood Street and Fenchurch Street, next to Fire Station #1 and the HRT transit center, will offer mixed income senior and family housing. Ground could be broken on the current parking lot land in 2021, according to the City Manager’s office.

The land in the center of the photo is “Block 20” with “Block 19” making up the parking lot to the left across Posey Lane. (Brinshore Development)

On block 20, a mixed-use, mixed-income 4-story building is planned. Plans call for 120 apartments and street level retail. A 58-spot parking lot would be gated.

A smaller senior housing building is planned for across the street. The wood-framed glass structures are designed to bring in a lot of light.

The project will be funded with low income housing tax credits, private debt and a CNI grant lone money.

An elevation view of a proposed mixed-use apartment building proposed for what is now the corner of Fenchurch Street and Wood Street (Brinshore Development.)

“There is a cohesiveness is just not quite there, there is like there is almost too much going on,” Rutledge told Shartle.

Rutledge, whose experience includes being the lead architect behind the revival of Virginia Beach’s historic Cavalier Hotel, said he doesn’t feel a suburban look will produce the desired change the city is looking for.

“It should be also a design opportunity to create some urban context and urban architecture that really speaks to the city of Norfolk, or really the whole context of that neighborhood,” Rutledge said

Kayla Halberg, a preservationist with the Commonwealth Preservation group, also agreed with Rutledge.

“A lot of segregation in our neighborhoods, and we an opportunity to take that concept and take it out of the picture right off the bat. Right at the start. And create a neighborhood for everyone,” Rutledge said.

The review board didn’t vote and will still have to hear the project again.

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