Michelle Washington, of the Virginian-Pilot, wrote an article about the wait for improvements to Waterside and Wards Corner. You can read the entire article here.
Across town from Waterside, another neglected duckling also waits for its transformation.
A $1.2 million renovation of the Midtown Shopping Center in Wards Corner has been completed for months.
Gleaming white stucco hid drab brown corrugation; a bold new sign proudly announces WARDS CORNER to passersby. Fresh white paper went up in the windows, along with new signs that advertise retail space for lease. Across the street, at the former Suburban Park shopping center, walls have begun to rise for a new Harris Teeter grocery store. Its opening is months away, but all but one of the center’s retail spaces has been leased.
Yet the Midtown Plaza, owned by Joan Dalis, continues to harbor empty storefronts behind that fresh exterior. Negotiations with Dollar Tree – a national chain founded in Norfolk that opened its first store in Suburban Park shopping center – to occupy space in Midtown fell through. Dollar Tree plans to move into the former # 1 Chinese Buffet restaurant in the center on the northwest corner, which also contains AutoZone and Pancake House. AJ Gators, which enjoyed a prime Wards Corner location until it was razed for the Harris Teeter, has not been able to find a new site nearby.
Dalis put me off three times when I called to ask why those shops remain empty.
Folks in Wards Corner have begun to despair that, once again, they have been fooled into thinking their neighborhood stood on the verge of a rebound.
Acting Economic Development Director Chuck Rigney said Wards Corner remains the focus of considerable interest. Dalis “feels she can continue to entertain opportunities,” Rigney said. “She’s going to be the one who determines what’s in the best interests of her center.”
It’s hard to imagine that empty space fits that definition, for Dalis or for anyone.
Councilman Andy Protogyrou let his frustration with Dalis show. “She put lipstick on a pig, but if she would actually rent the property she would turn it into a peacock,” he said.
Norfolk waits, no longer patiently, for Wards Corner and Waterside to get the rest of that makeup on and come to the dance.