Wards Corner Now meeting minutes

Wards Corner Now – June 19, 2010

Wards Corner Now had a meeting on June 19, 2010, at the Norfolk Fitness and Wellness Center.  As is customary with WCN meetings, the facilitator of the meeting is rotated month-to-month and Louis Eisenberg chaired this meeting.  Topics covered were: the proposed Collins Enterprises revised plans for the site where the Riverside Terrace apartments are located; Talbot Hall, Southeast Virginia Episcopal Diocesan Center; and AJ Gators update.  Forty area residents attended the meeting, including City Council member-elect Andy Protogyrou.  Below is a short summary, nothing is verbatim.

Landmark at Talbot Park and Proposed Construction at Riverside Terrace – Rick Anderson, representing Collins Enterprises, reviewed what has occurred thus far on the property – 1 condo building and the reconstruction of one street.  The proposal involves developing apartment buildings housing 189 units along the front of the property facing Newport Avenue and reserving the rest of the property for condo units.  Rationale for this proposed change – from an all-condo site – is as follows:

  • It took 2 years to sell 9 units in the current building.
  • Riverside Terrace Apartments are 60 years old and require extensive maintenance.
  • Current income is at or below break even.

Mr. Anderson indicated that this is a HUD insured loan and a market rate project.  A one-bedroom apartment will rent for just under $1,000 and the renter would have to make $30,000 in order to qualify.  A three-bedroom apartment would rent for about $1,500 a month and minimum income would be $50,000.  There would be 189 apartments with people making more than double the current tenant income level.  Property amenities would include common area meeting rooms and exercise facilities.  It was suggested that to be Class A, a pool and tennis courts would need to be included also.  Demolition would beginning the 1st quarter of 2011 and the building would be finished the 3rd quarter of 2012.

The four-floor project would be similar in appearance to the one on Bolling Avenue.

Mr. Anderson indicated that Collins representatives had met with members of the Wards Corner Task Force regarding concerns and that the company was willing to implement part of it.

Past City Council member Conoly Phillips, as a resident of another Collins Enterprises apartment, Heritage at Freemason Harbor, spoke in favor of the proposed project.

Numerous concerns, suggestions and questions were raised by meeting attendees, including the following:

  • The proposed plan is a major change from the original plan.
  • The density will negatively impact the surrounding neighborhood.
  • This area is not downtown and projects that work there would not necessarily work in the Wards Corner area.
  • While there may be the best of intentions regarding income qualifications, the possibility of several unrelated folks renting together could bypass the requirement and would exacerbate density problems.  Mr. Anderson indicated that Collins has control over how many people live in apartments and that management and maintenance folks would check.
  • The area is inundated with low rent apartments – 17 within a .5 mile radius – and the neighborhood does not need more.  Instead, we need more established residences.
  • We have a vision for the area – and a comprehensive plan – and this project does not fit that vision.
  • Collins Enterprises needs to slow down and look at best choices for the long term; wait and do it right the first time.
  • One suggestion is to start with the waterfront and build single family homes first.  Then as financing is freed up, build condos along the front.
  • Another suggestion is to look at building luxury housing for seniors.
  • A concern was raised regarding assurances that the plan for the rest of the property would not change.  Mr. Anderson responded that folks could rely upon the word of Collins Enterprises that it would not.
  • Neighbors who own homes which back on to the proposed project have concerns regarding the impact the shift from condos to high density apartments would have on their quality of life.
  • Another factor in the difficulties surrounding the sale of the current condos – and those in building 2 – is their location with regard to the Riverside Terrace Apartments.  In addition, if the new apartments are built, the density would restrict the ability to sell upscale condos behind them on the property.
  • The problem is that Collins Enterprises focus on the bottom line is not balanced with community needs.
  • One member explained that it was not development in general – or Collins Enterprises in particular – that was being opposed but the current project proposal.

The Wards Corner Now attendees then discussed next steps:

  • Changes must go to Planning Commission and City Council for approval.
  • We as a community have to show a groundswell of opposition to support Commission and Council votes against the changes.

For the record a vote was taken.  Unanimously, the 40 meeting attendees were opposed to the new Collins Enterprises proposal and support retaining the original plan or something better – i.e., single family housing.

An additional next step would be to hold a charrette with all interested parties present so that representatives from Collins Enterprises would be fully informed about what the community wants and needs.

Adjacent homeowners need to contact the Planning Commission to ensure that the homeowners are informed when action is being taken to change site plans.

Talbot Hall – Jay Taylor, resident of Talbot Hall neighborhood, discussed concerns related to the possible sale of  Talbot Hall, which belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Virginia.  A diocesan Property Committee has been formed to decide what to do with the property.  With the sale and possible development is the threat of loss of the 1803 historically significant house which is on the property as well as 8 acres of land and of the impact on the wetlands.  The Property Committee has stated that they are interested in a solution that is good for both the diocese and the community.

A neighborhood ad hoc committee is taking the opportunity to put together recommendations and needs assistance.  A Facebook page, Save Talbot Hall, gives additional information.

The diocese is holding 2 town hall meetings at 6:30 pm in the Church of the Ascension on Talbot Hall Road:

  • Wednesday, June 30
  • Thursday, July 15

The ad hoc committee is requesting the attendance of  Wards Corner Now members at one or both of the meetings.

AJ Gators – Anticipated opening of the AJ Gators on the southeast corner of Wards Corner is anticipated to be in late July or early August.  The existing AJ Gators will be changed, renamed and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Look for the grand opening announcement.

Faith-based Partners – The pastor of the TAB Church was in attendance and Louis Eisenberg recognized him and asked him to assist us in eliciting the participation of other faith-based partners.

July Meeting Agenda Items: Talbot Hall, Collins Enterprises and Norfolk Collegiate Updates

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One Response to Wards Corner Now meeting minutes

  1. Tim Smith says:

    Yea, if Conoly Phillips said it was ok…Didn’t Wards Corner go down hill on Conoly Phillips’ watch? If Collins feels he is going to lose on the Riverside Terrace property, here is an idea: raze the aprtments, leave the Condos and sell the open land to someone who would share in the Wards Corner vision. The Condo project was to have been a sure bet (I think market concerns were brought up at one time).

    A lot of the homes in Talbot park are over 70 years old. It may be time to look at the “Historical District” thing again for the entire neighborhood, if that is what it would take to keep condos or apartments from ever being built within Talbot Park.

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