Councilwoman Whibley suggests skateboard park for Wards Corner area

Yesterday, as Norfolk City Council rejected the idea for a skateboard park in downtown near Harbor Park, Councilwoman Whibley recommended the park for a troubled area of Wards Corner. The Pilot Online quotes Theresa Whibley as saying,

“Why not build one at Wards Corner?

“We’re looking for a way to clear some of that area out. It’s a great central location,” she said. “They’re looking for a rec center out there, and we don’t have the money for one. So we could start with this.”

I don’t ever remember the Wards Corner Partnership asking for a rec center in Denby Park, but a skate park could be a wonderful addition to the Comprehensive plan that is already on the table. The Wards Corner Partnership still demands that the Texas Streets be redeveloped as planned for in the Comprehensive Plan. A reminder of what the Plan calls for:

[The housing units in the Texas Streets] have been built too close together, without appropriate provision of open space, and without amenities. The maze-like character of the resulting development, its proximity to highly-traveled Little Creek Road and to Interstate – 64 make it unfortunately suitable for drug dealing and for serving as a base for other criminal activity. The Norfolk police report that the situation in these buildings is getting worse. They recommend major change: the acquisition and demolition of these buildings, before the situation has even more adverse impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods.

… we suggest a mixed use development, making use of the Uptown Norfolk concept, as described in the retail market analysis.This development would consist of a 200 room hotel and associated function rooms, restaurant and parking deck, at the most prominent location: the corner of Little Creek Road and Fort Worth Avenue. The room tower of the hotel would be visible from the Interstate, and would serve both the Uptown District and the Naval Base, which is only a short distance to the west on Little Creek Road. Norfolk’s Economic Development Department reports substantial developer interest in identifying a hotel site in the general Uptown area.

We show Fort Worth Avenue being widened to 100 feet, so that it can serve as the main street for local traffic within the new development. Little Creek Road provides access, but cars make turns into individual businesses from Fort Worth.

… we show 125,000 square feet of medium-box retail, as recommended by the economic analysis, plus 25,000 square feet of other stores, including a destination restaurant at the most prominent entrance location. Our finding is that this amount of potential retail development is feasible for the Uptown District now, even before the construction of the Wal-Mart.

The combination of the hotel, which provides a focus of activity at night, and the active retail and restaurant uses, should prevent this area from ever again becoming a focus of unlawful activity, and its excellent retail location will be put to a better use than drug dealing.

If at all possible, we recommend that the City work with the current owners of these properties to create a development corporation that will represent these owners in proportion to their land holdings. This proposal offers these owners a way out of an increasingly untenable situation.

In a second phase of development, the at-grade parking lots are replaced by 200 market-rate apartments, additional retail and some 40 town houses, making it a true mixed-use, 24-hour community. The apartments are 5-story elevator buildings, organized around a private courtyard, with their own secured garage, swimming pool and other amenities. They have restaurants and other retail on the portion of their ground floor facing Fort Worth Avenue. Buildings like this have worked well in other uptown districts, including Uptown Dallas. The parking lot to the south is replaced with individual town houses, with alley access to their own
garages. Houses and apartments something like this can be found in Norfolk’s West Freemason Street district downtown. While there is no waterfront nearby, this location has excellent access to the entire region, and could be a desirable residential address if a new environment is created as shown.

The Plan calls for the total redevelopment of the Texas Streets to a desirable living location that would include a large hotel, restaurants, and apartments in a mixed use setting. If Councilwoman Whibley would like to add a skate park or park to the plan, that is welcomed. But there is no reason not to move forward with purchasing land and redeveloping the Texas Streets.


6 Responses to Councilwoman Whibley suggests skateboard park for Wards Corner area

  1. Elyse Kalfus says:

    I think this plan will be great for the Texas Street area and the time to start this is NOW! With this development of a multi level shopping center in the heart of Wards Corner with movie theaters, upscale and mid range stores, and an expanded Book Exchange, some nice international flavor, etc. A secured parking deck across the street with crossing bridges over the street for saftey and weather protection. We are the Gateway to the city and “Our time is NOW, I say it’s Wards Corner First, Wards Corner NOW”!

  2. John Knight says:

    I agree that a skateboard park would be a welcome addition to the area. One of the main problems we have in the area is a large population of young people who need activities to keep them off the streets. A skateboard park could be a positive outlet for them.

    ~John Knight
    Owner- Book Echange


  4. Tim Smith says:

    I am not sure a skateboard park is what we were looking for when we started this whole Wards Corner revitalization thing. This would not be the best use for the land and it sure would not draw the revenue into Wards Corner that we were seeking whith the Comprehensive Plan. The only area that would be suited for a skateboard park, in my opinion, because of the railroad tracks, is the lot behind Farm Fresh were the roller rink used to stand. Some one also needs to talk with Virginia Beach. I was living there when they put the skateboarding park at Mount Trashmore and I seem to remember it was kind of a flop. We should not jump at anything downtown might thow our way but we need to keep our plan on track and stay focused.

  5. Susan Ross says:

    I like the creative thinking about putting a skateboarding park into the Texas Streets, But I worry about the safety of the children who go to use this park. Do adults stay in attendance to watch that gangs, drug dealers and bullys don’t gain control of the park?
    If I had my way, the city would build a library there, this would also be a way to acquire some apartments legally. Then next door a private investor would build a inexpensive cafe, maybe with outdoor seating. This way families can have a couple of hours of quality time with their children for a small amount of money.
    There would still be building areas for small buisnesses on Little Creek road to attract shoppers.

  6. William Speidel says:

    When we were preparing the survey for activities we’d like to see at the Norfolk Fitness and Wellness Center that were distributed to the surrounding civic leagues and residents, I was adament that we include a Skate Park as one of the options we could choose. I don’t recall the numbers, but I remember that it scored quite high on the list of desired activities in our area, so I’m very pleased that Councilwoman Whibley has championed our cause.

    Thankfully, because this is open space, the city could seize blighted property for the space.

    However, it is important that we pursue ‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’ (CPTED) and provide adequate police presence to ensure it remains a safe asset to our community.

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