NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Owners of small businesses adjacent to Military Circle Mall want to make sure they are heard as the city evaluates three proposals for the redevelopment of that area.
The three plans are backed by musician Pharrell Williams, NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and local developer Bruce Thompson, and include varying amenities and features including retail, office space, residential units and entertainment venues.
Amir Driver is co-owner of Made in Norfolk, and grew up in the neighborhood. He wants the city to get the message that while the redevelopment of Military Circle is big business, small businesses needs to play a role.
“It’s kind of hard in a sense to not include us,” Driver said in a Tuesday morning interview, surrounded by hats, shirts and all kinds of gear emblazoned with the Made in Norfolk logo. One shirt for sale lists all the neighborhoods across the city. His pride in his hometown is clear, and evident as he remembers when Military Circle was a prominent address.
“I remember growing up walking across Military Highway remember crossing through [the parking lot near his current store], walking to the mall during the heydays of the mall being the mall,” Driver said.
Despite the nostalgia, Driver says he knows change must come.
“I’m completely in favor. My only thing is making sure that as a local business and somebody from the area, that we are included and have a seat at that table.”
A few doors away, thanks to the pandemic, Cathy Sykes has not had a banner year at her health food store.
She says a healthier dose of news from the city would keep her more in the loop when it comes to Military Circle.
“There’s room for more communication for all of us,” Sykes said. “I shouldn’t have to go to the city to find out what’s going on in my area.”
She’s had her store in this location for more than four years and believes Military Circle can make a comeback.
“It has a lot of potential and I will make my voice heard,” Sykes said.
The city is accepting public comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.