The following is an article written by Jim English, president of the Wards Corner Civic League.
Is the tide changing for Wards Corner? Are we finally starting to get the needed attention from City Hall and City Council? Well to begin let me share with you the below quote taken from Mayor Paul Fraim’s State of the City Address given in early February of this year.
“More than $13 million has been invested in the Greater Wards Corner area since approval of the Comprehensive Plan. Last year, police presence and code enforcement activities were stepped up, surveillance cameras installed in Denby Park, and a neighborhood watch begun with 60 residents participating. As a result, violent crime in Wards Corner dropped 35% and property crime 6%.
Three residential rehabilitation programs were begun for Denby Park, Oakdale Farms and Monticello Village to assist residents in upgrading their homes. The programs were so successful that within six months, the first $1 million was committed to 21 homeowners. Another $1 million was committed this fiscal year to assist 40 homeowners, and there’s already a waiting list for next year.
On the commercial side, the department of development is in active discussions with major property owners in the heart of the Wards Corner business district, and we expect new development opportunities to be identified later this year.”
While we could argue that the points mentioned above were a part of the overall funding to neighborhoods city wide, nonetheless this year’s address marked the first time that Wards Corner was mentioned in several paragraphs and not just in a fleeting sentence in the Mayor speech. That’s progress. While I know we have always been on the radar screen (although even though it may only have been a small blip) maybe this is indicative of a turning point for Wards Corner.
Mayor Fraim has now opened his campaign headquarters in our Civic League area at the corner of Maycox Ave. and Granby Street (in the old Cleaners store). I may be wrong but I don’t ever remember a time when any person running for elected office located their headquarters in the Wards Corner area, at least not those running for city council. Is this a sign of a changing attitude toward Wards Corner? Or is this only a political move to get our vote? I want to believe it represents a changing view of the importance of Wards Corner as a gateway to Downtown. Our area represents a strong, solid and important voting block in city elections. In addition to this, Mayor Fraim will hold his kickoff campaign reelection party at the Hellenic Center in Wards Corner. Is this yet another indication of our importance!?
We have four candidates running for election to fill the council seat in Ward 1. Three of those candidates have mentioned that Wards Corner is a priority for them and one even lives in our Greater Wards Corner area. Are they running on the Wards Corner issue to get our vote or are they sincere? I don’t know about two of them but I know and believe one of them. Andy Protogyrou has mentioned that he wants to be an advocate and champion for Wards Corner. I believe him and I have endorsed him as the best candidate for Ward 1 and Wards Corner. I usually don’t endorse candidates but I am doing so this year for this election because it is so important for our area.
There is talk and speculation that the Southeast corner of the Business District, collectively known as the Perry Property, is gearing up for a major makeover soon. I believe this is more than speculation since AJ Gators is in the processing of getting approval to move into the site formerly housed by Where House Music. This represents a major investment to them. Why would they spend an enormous amount of money on the property renovating the premises if more redevelopment was not on the way? Also, Langley Federal Credit Union plans to open its new Wards Corner branch at the corner of Granby Street and Louisiana Drive by the end of March.
A new Assistant City Manager, Stanley Stein, has been assigned to the Wards Corner Task Force. Stein is the senior assistant city manager and has been with the City of Norfolk for over 35 years. He knows the in and outs of all aspects of city government and should and could be a real asset to the Wards Corner Task Force as we reconsider our priorities for short and long term action consistent with the 2004 Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan. Our primary focus is on the Business District, Denby Park and Titustown areas. We do hope that the Task Force can establish our priorities, communicate them effectively to the city council and staff and then move forward with a renewed plan.
I look forward to seeing you at the Wards Corner Now meeting on March 20th, 2010 at 8:30am at the Fitness and Wellness Center.