Norfolk gets ideas from residents for redevelopment in Wards Corner

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Norfolk is looking to redevelop a historic business district in the city and is asking residents for their ideas.

Wednesday night, officials and planners met with residents and presented a study on the Wards Corner neighborhood.

Councilman Martin Thomas says this new development plan stems from a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood that was created in 2004.

Thomas says that plan included alleviating blight and crime in Wards Corner and led to the development of the Harris Teeter Shopping Center and the Norfolk Wellness and Fitness Center.

Now, Thomas says, the city is focusing their efforts of revitalizing the business area, which was once a popular destination.

“For a few decades in the past it’s faltered, but we’re going to continue to have redevelopment and revitalization and a plan will be able to guide that,” he said.

Planners with Michael Baker International and EPR,PC presented their study based on a 20-year plan for redevelopment.

The city says it was awarded grant money from the Virginia Department of Transportation for the study.

Positives included Norfolk’s population growth, income growth and Wards Corner’s location on higher ground away from flooding.

Issues that the city could run into when developing the area include the railroad tracks, train traffic and congestion, retail vacancy, and public safety such as pedestrians crossing streets and riding bikes.

Another roadblock for the city includes eminent domain.

“We don’t own the land. We’re at the whims of the property owners. We’re not going to go in and force them to redevelop,” Thomas said.

But Thomas says the owners are interested and attending meetings about the redevelopment.

Residents were also interested in seeing what’s in store for their neighborhood’s future.

Mary Lou Grissom, who says she’s lived in the community for 32 years, says the planners presented good information and would like to see some changes.

“I would like to see beautification and absolutely safety and some more restaurants, definitely restaurants,” she said.

Ryan Levis, who just moved to the neighborhood eight months ago, says he wants to make the area more pedestrian friendly and bike accessible.

But, he would like to see some changes in the near future.

“A lot of the options are nice but I want to see something happen. A lot of it just needs something to be done, something to be improved, something to be constructed soon,” he said.

It’s those ideas the city and Thomas are looking for.

“We can be in the 10th floor of City Hall and study it from far away but we’ll never truly get the feel of what people who live here every day want if we don’t talk to them,” Thomas said.

The City says a plan from this study should be completed by October.

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