These candidate responses are being provided in three parts. All three questions can be found in the article, Brewer, Protogyrou, and Saunders Questionnaire. We thank the candidates for their willingness to run for office and for the time they took to answer our questions.
Question #2: Please explain in detail the solutions you intend to utilize to address the issues you identified in question #1, above.
Chuck Brewer’s Response: I called Mr. Brewer and he stated that he would not participate in this Candidate Questionnaire.
Andy Protogyrou’s Response: The solutions to the foregoing issue of marketing for redevelopment on the local, state, national and international level involves the use of the Norfolk Economic Development Authority Office. It is this office that would market the location and the benefits that Wards Corner brings through its position geographically and demographically in the city. This would involve traveling the United States and world to publish what Wards Corner is and what it can be once again. Second, the marketing of Wards corner locally would be more on the scale of what we often see at Merchant’s Square in Williamsburg. How often do any of us watch television or listen to the radio and hear an advertisement for the merchants in the Colonial Capital combined together to bring economic dollars throughout the region to them? Wards Corner can once again be in that position of marketing itself from Titustown to Southern Shopping Center and the Lafayette River to Johnson’s Corner.
Andy’s website is www.andy-norfolk.com
Barbara Saunders’ Response: Norfolk has become a city of plans without action. Whether it is the outdated Norfolk General Plan, the nine area plans listed on the city’s website or the dozens of neighborhood plans collecting dust at city hall, planning has gone from a best municipal practice to a political panacea.
Wards Corner has a Comprehensive Plan, filled with impressive maps and pretty pictures. But it is expensive, unrealistic and now, after almost six years, irrelevant. Even in 2004, when the plan was published, the authors’ wrote, “We don’t underestimate the difficulty and complexity of this plan….”
Even during prosperous times, when the plan was published, the Wards Corner Plan was based on the following model: Move (mostly poor) people out, tear down what is there, build something new, move new (higher income) people back into new buildings.
- Empty Retail Space:
The solutions can be found in the citizens who make the Wards Corner area their home. Almost 35% of the residents in the Ward Corner area are between the ages of 18 and 24, young adults that comprise the largest segment of the population. The second largest segment (25%) is children under the age of 18 and the third largest segment (24%) is between the ages of 35 and 54. The smallest segment of the Wards Corner population is adults 55+ so we’ve got to stop talking about what Wards Corner used to be or what Wards Corner ought to be and begin to take action on what Wards Corner is.
- With almost 60% of the residents of Wards Corner comprised of young and middle-aged adults, we need to encourage a creative class of merchants and service providers.
- Working with ODU, Norfolk State and TCC, the city should facilitate entrepreneurial incentives for graduates of their business programs.
- Rather than tear down and rebuild, we should recycle and reinvent the strip mall again encouraging new approaches that go beyond the big box and mid-box retailers. We could also renew the exterior appearance such as being done at the corner strip mall located at the intersection of E. Little Creek & Shore Drive.
Grime equals Crime and one of the most efficient means of addressing crime, particularly in blighted areas is to start with good housekeeping practices.
- Collaborative programs between police and citizens are essential. That means a return to community policing.
- Renewed codes enforcement programs and a zero-tolerance policy for nuance codes infractions, particularly in high-density communities.
Perception: Encouraging entrepreneurial investment in Wards Corner and developing programs with existing communities, not a ghost population, will bring about the changes Ward Corner needs and the new, revitalized perception of what is will prevail.
Barbara’s website is www.barbara4ward1.com
Barbara makes some very realistic points here. She is exactly right that the comprehensive plan is outdated, expensive and could not be implemented when many were flush with cash. The biggest eyesore of a shopping center happens to be the building where my business is located. However, a new coat of paint, minor repairs and possibly a modern facade could completely transform its appearance for a fraction of the cost of tearing it down and rebuilding. The building is sound and I have never had a problem in the interior in the six plus years I have occupied my space. Even with the way the building looks right now, quality tenants approach the leasing agent nearly weekly. However, for some unknown reason, the owner is unwilling to rent the spaces. The biggest obstacle in the simple and fairly easy transformation of the Martone (Dalis) property is helping the owner realize in her heart that is is time to make a change…
John, no matter how much paint, minor or major repairs are done to that shopping center, Midtown Shopping Center is an obsolete shopping center for today’s AAA tenants. These businesses want frontage, not retail spaces that are 160 feet in depth. This is a fact in today’s commercial retail real estate market. I know first hand what you are going through. You have a well run-thriving business. Your rent is low because of the condition of that center. If I were still doing business in that center, I too would want the owner to improve it, so I could continue to do business. Moving a business and re-establishing your market is an expensive proposition. I, totally, understand your comment.
I can understand your logic and am not in the real estate business but I do know that many high quality established locally based businesses have attempted to lease spaces in our building recently. They may not be national AAA chains but they are solid businesses that support the community and we all know that locally based companies keep more of our dollars in our area. They include a large locally based hardware store, established upscale restaurants with one or more long-standing locations and upscale locally based retail niche stores. Two months ago, we also lost a locally based chain that wanted to move into a larger space in our building. However, the landlord again said no so they moved across the street and built out one of the nicest looking stores in that shopping center.
You are right that the rent in our building is relatively inexpensive but that is not the main thing that is attracting business. Demographics and the best location in Norfolk is what drives people each week to try to lease spaces here. Before the recession hit, more expensive retail spaces were built all over the city and they are suffering the same fate as the glut of vacant new condos. This building could be completely filled with good tenants on the top and bottom floors in six months or less. Unfortunately, the owner obviously does not need the money or care about her past and continuous negative effect on Wards Corner. She is the bottleneck to progress. A teardown and rebuild would be a better situation than the present state of decay but a remodelling at this time is probably more realistic. However, all the plans, talk, hypotheses, etc. are just that until the queen is convinced to throw us a bone. She has the absolute power and we all know “…absolute power corrupts absolutely”.