Wards Corner Task Force Meeting Minutes

Many thanks to Karen Mayne of the Suburban Acres Civic League for providing minutes from the Greater Wards Corner Task Force Meeting held on June 14, 2012.  The task force will be taking a summer break until September – the next meeting is September 13, 2012

The meeting was led by City Council representatives Terry Whibley and Barclay Winn.  Councilwoman Angelia Williams also attended.

Department of Development Updates – Charles Rigney

International Council of Shopping Centers Meeting – The meeting in Las Vegas on May 20 – 23rd was  productive. Mr. Rigney said it is clear that shopping center developers and businesses are seeing an upturn in the economy. He said several businesses expressed interest in coming to Norfolk.

Suburban Park Shopping Center – The project is on schedule for a 2014 opening. Demolition will take place June through August, with the AJ Gators building going first. Abandoned fuel tanks under that area will be removed. Concern was expressed as to whether there will be any off-site construction staging. The City reps will check into that, but said it is doubtful that any additional land is needed for staging. The City has some concerns about the site plan and traffic layout at Louisiana and Granby – the City will continue discussions with Suburban Asset Management about these issues. The City has not yet approved the site plan for the project.

Other Projects – Mid-Town Shopping Center (Dallis property) is negotiating leases for vacant storefronts. Farm Fresh has started its renovations, which should be completed by October. The old “cold storage” building will be used for storage of construction materials, after which it is hoped the building will be torn down for redevelopment of the section of the properties along Tausig Boulevard. The future of the Kroger/Work Force Center property is still up in the air. The site of the former Wards Corner Pub is proposed to become another restaurant/bar to be called “Guads” since the owner of the building is the co-owner of the other restaurants in the region called Guadalajara’s. Bon Secours is considering the vacant building on the southwest side of Granby as a potential urgent care facility. There was no update on the DePaul Hospital project – apparently, the new hospital has undergone some additional design changes.

Department of Public Works Updates – John Keifer

Underground Utilities at Wards Corner – Mr. Keifer pointed out that placing the utilities underground in the Wards Corner area would be complicated and expensive due to the number of other utilities that already run underground in the area: water, sewer, natural gas. Dominion Virginia Power has given the City a price of $37,000 to do a detailed cost estimate for placing the power lines underground in the section of Wards Corner comprising the Suburban Park Shopping Center. The City is in the process of determining which funding account can be tapped for this study, which they hope to know in the next week or so. The study is estimated to take about two months. Dr. Whibley said that she has spoken with City Manager Marcus Jones about funding for the utilities project. She pointed out that the City has allocated about $2 million dollars for the Wards Corner area redevelopment. Several other apartment buildings in the Texas streets area may be coming up for sale, and Dr. Whibley said that the Task Force and City will need to decide what is a higher priority for funding – the utilities project or acquisition and demolition of the problem area apartments. (It was also mentioned that the Ashlawn Drivearea in Monticello Village on the north side of East Little Creek Road is a problem area.) Thegroup agreed that the City will provide a detailed breakout of the costs and sources of funding for the utilities project at the next meeting in September, or at an earlier date if  warranted, and the group will discuss redevelopment priorities.

Sewer Line Replacement – Mr. Keifer said that the sewer line project on Newport Avenue in the vicinity of the Fitness and Wellness Center is on track and that temporary paving of the section will be done by September. The City will be working on a new sewage pumping station in the area, which will require the installation of a new temporary entrance into the center. Work will be ongoing over the next year.

Police Report – Lt. Jonhathan Coghlan

There has been an increase in residential burglaries and auto thefts throughout the City. There have also been thefts of copper piping from commercial air conditioning systems and plumbing pipes in vacant residences. For the month of May, 8 crimes were reported in the Denby Park area and 12 crimes were reported from the Wards Corner area. Officer Davis made an arrest in the burglaries in the Wards Corner area, so there may be a decrease in future burglaries. It was mentioned that solicitors have been going door to door in the Talbot Park and Wards Corner areas, causing concern among residents. One company, Vivint Security, has the necessary City business license, but its employees are very aggressive about selling their product. Lt. Coghlan suggests that residents consider answering their doors when someone rings the doorbell to show that someone is home in case it is someone who is casing the street looking for houses to rob when the residents are not home. Always ask to see solicitors’ business license and do not let them in your house if you are not comfortable with them.

Community Reports

Councilwoman Whibley asked about the issue of grounds maintenance at Suburban Park Elementary School. Karen Mayne explained the problems of flower bed maintenance and ground erosion at the front of the school. Ray Ransom will contact staff in the Parks and Recreation and Streets and Sidewalks departments to schedule an on-site meeting at the school to determine what might be done. Ms. Mayne said that the Suburban Acres Civic League is willing to help with labor once solutions are identified.

Meeting Frequency

It had been agreed at the May meeting that monthly task force meetings will continue, with a break during July and September. However, with the important issue of the underground utilities at Wards Corner during the redevelopment of the Suburban Park Shopping Center, some level of communication may be necessary over the summer, whether by e-mail or a meeting.

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