Message to Norfolk City Council: Restore the funding to Wards Corner

April 19, 2013
WVEC Funding to help revitalize Wards Corner neighborhood slashed

WVEC Funding to help revitalize Wards Corner neighborhood slashed

WVEC is reporting on the reduced funding planned for the Wards Corner Neighborhood plan.  Their article and video can be viewed on their website.

I encourage you to contact City Council either by email or by attending the public budget hearing scheduled for Wednesday, April 24 at 6pm at Granby High School.  Their contact info is located on the City Council website: http://www.norfolk.gov/index.aspx?NID=533

The WVEC article:

NORFOLK — For years the City of Norfolk would allocate millions of dollars to revitalizing the Wards Corner area, but this year the funds are getting slashed.

City spokeswoman Lori Crouch says the City Manager was able to scrape and provide $750,000 for the proposed FY 2014 budget.

“The city is fiscally stressed,” said Crouch.

Here’s how the numbers break down:

Year                   Allocation for Implementation of the Wards Corner Plan
2014                  $750,000 (proposed)
2013                  $2,000,000
2012                  $1,000,000
2011                  $1,767,500

Less money being allocated to the neighborhood isn’t sitting well with residents, businesses owners or patrons of Wards Corner.

Martin Thomas Jr. says less money coming in now could jeopardize overall progress.

Previous funds were used to purchase and demolish blighted and crime-inducing properties in sections of Denby Park.  The City purchased 68 units in 2011 and demolished them in 2012. In addition, 37 apartment units were bought in 2013.  Once the tenants are relocated the units will be demolished.

Next year, a new shopping plaza featuring Harris Teeter is scheduled to open in Wards Corner.

Thomas is concerned if there is no effort in ridding blighted properties around the shopping center, it will have a negative impression on investors.

“If we can show those businesses that this is a nice place to open and you are going to get a good clientele, that effect will cause more and more redevelopment in the Wards Corner area,” Thomas said.


Joint Planning Commission and City Council meeting scheduled for Harris Teeter project

March 30, 2012

A special joint meeting of the Planning Commission and City Council has been scheduled for April 24, 2012 at 7pm in City Council chambers.  The meeting was scheduled at the request of City Council in an effort to speed up the approval process for Chris Perry’s project at the southeast corner of Wards Corner which is slated to be a Harris Teeter anchored shopping center.  The public is encouraged to attend and express their concerns / opinions.

As previously reported here on Wards Corner Now, Chris Perry is asking for:

1.  Conditional Change of Zoning.  The applicant is asking to rezone the entire block to Conditional C-3 with conditions that the property shall be developed generally in accordance with the layout attached as Exhibit A, that the outparcel will be single user, and that the buildings constructed will be consistent with the appearance in the rendering attached as Exhibit B.

2.  Adult Use Special Exception for the sale of Alcoholic Beverages for off-premises Consumption.  The applicant is requesting to be able to sell Beer and Wine from 6:00AM to 12:00AM daily at Harris Teeter.

3.  Special Exception to Operate a Retail Establishment After Midnight.  The applicant is requesting to operate a full service Harris Teeter from 12:00AM to 12:00AM daily.

4.  Special Exception to operate a Commercial Drive-Through Facility.  The applicant is requesting to operate a branch banking facility with drive-through lanes to serve customers, including automatic teller machines.

5.  Special Exception to operate a Commerical Drive-Through Facility.  The applicant is requesting to operate a drive through out of the end unit of the shopping center serving food and beverages.  The hours of operation indicated are from 6:00AM to 11:00PM.  The exhibit to this request indicates a “COFFEE HOUSE” in that location.

The complete application can be viewed here (PDF).


Andy Protogyrou wins Ward 1 seat on City Council

May 5, 2010
Councilman Andy Protogyrou

Councilman Andy Protogyrou

Congratulations to Andy Protogyrou on being elected to serve as the Ward 1 representative on City Council.  We look forward to working with Andy on making Wards Corner a better place.


Ward One Candidate Responses, Question #3

April 16, 2010

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 #3: Detail those items in the Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan that you believe are incorrect or need to be changed and explain why you believe so.

Chuck Brewer’s Response: I called Mr. Brewer and he stated that he would not participate in this Candidate Questionnaire.

Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Andy Protogyrou’s Response:  In examining the Wards Corner comprehensive plan, the greatest problem is its age. At this point the plan is six (6) years old and the actions that have resulted from it have been minimal.  I have been a proponent for bike paths from Ocean View down Granby Street. There is a consideration for a bike path along the railroad right-of-way as the railroad tracks go toward Diven Street along Terminal Boulevard and on to NIT. The issue of bike path and bike safety through the Wards Corner corridor must be addressed in a more comprehensive and safe manner.  This would include being able to bike from Hampton Boulevard to Wards Corner, and through the Titustown retail district.

The development of a hotel in the Texas streets area may prove difficult because of the interstate splitting that area of Wards Corner in two parts and keeping hotel guests away from the greater retail area. We may need to examine the additional use of hotel space with rooms on the west side of Interstate 64 to allow hotel guests to walk from their room into the retail sections of Wards Corner closer to the intersections of Granby and Little Creek Road.

The plan itself with the areas of Little Creek Road and Granby Street coming together should have more mid-box retail potential than what is being shown in the actual plan itself.

Lastly, a light rail station that links a “transportation hub” (the HRT transfer area) to downtown with light rail traveling along one of Granby Street’s lanes each way would link downtown’s commercial district with that of Wards Corner and then a true and unparalleled transportation link to most of the city’s population. It would allow for growth along the corridor which includes Ocean View, the new DePaul Hospital, Riverview, the Zoo, and 21st Street.

Andy’s website is www.andy-norfolk.com

Barbara Saunders, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Barbara Saunders, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Barbara Saunders’ Response:

  • The approach of tear down and rebuild rather than reinvent and repurpose what already exists.  Even in the best of times, there wasn’t enough money to successfully execute the plan.  That is why nothing has happened in the six years since the plan was published.
  • The presumption that Wards Corner can become a mid-box retail destination with merchants such as Best Buy or Old Navy, particularly in the emerging economy we now face.
  • The denial that much of Wards Corner is populated by young families and not meeting their market demands.  Almost 55% of Wards Corner’s residents are between the ages of 18 and 49 and 60% of the annual household income for the area is less than $35,000.
  • The national trend of an aging population is not a factor in Wards Corner.  Only 25% of the population is currently 45+, a demographic that includes the youngest baby boomer.  And given the competition for empty nesters in other redevelopment areas of the city, such as downtown and East Beach, it is unrealistic to think Wards Corner can be a destination for aging Yuppies.
  • The plan does not address, nor does it change the fact that Wards Corner is a place where young families begin.  We should embrace their energy and new ideas, not stifle their growth and development, and at the very least, we should stop wishing them away.

  • The importance of the stabilizing neighborhoods, many of which are in Ward 1. These communities are home to older, higher income residents who would contribute to the revitalization of Wards Corner as a shopping destination. Many of these residents may be transitioning to retirement and downsized residences.  Ensuring that Greater Wards Corner is a vibrant area that accommodates age diversity will allow the stable neighborhoods to enjoy a natural transition in ownership and the market will provide new housing opportunities for older residents who want to stay in the area.

Barbara’s website is www.barbara4ward1.com



Ward One Candidate Responses, Question #2

April 15, 2010

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, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

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.

On a short term, stepped up patrols and code enforcement by Norfolk Police is a solution.  A small police substation where officers use bikes and segways out of one of our current storefronts as a base of operation combined with one of the eleven city code enforcement officers allows greater access to the community and our citizens that are most at risk.
Also, linking of light rail to downtown from Wards Corner is imperative to our growth.

Andy’s website is www.andy-norfolk.com

Barbara Saunders, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Barbara Saunders, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

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.
  • Crime

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



Ward One Candidate Responses, Question #1

April 14, 2010

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 #1: As you know, Wards Corner Now concerns itself with issues that directly affect the Greater Wards Corner Area.  Please list and describe those issues that are, in your opinion, the most pressing issues affecting the Greater Wards Corner Area.

Chuck Brewer’s Response: I called Mr. Brewer and he stated that he would not participate in this Candidate Questionnaire.

Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Andy Protogyrou’s Response:  Wards Corner has been characterized as the Times Square of the south.  Like Times Square, which fell from grace and transformed itself, our own Times Square is in the beginning of its own renaissance.  Wards Corner is the economic engine of the city of Norfolk and sits at the gateway to the world’s largest naval base. It also provides the first impression of a business corridor when one enters Norfolk from the west.  Though the question seeks an answer of plural issues affecting Wards Corner, the main issue that Ward One cannot wait for any longer is prioritizing the redevelopment of the Wards Corner area.

Ironically, when one examines the Norfolk Redevelopment website, the Greater Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan is one of the oldest plans that remains on the site. The performance over years involving the fruition of the plan’s vision has been anemic at best.
Redevelopment and prioritizing same involves the marketing of the Wards Corner area to local and out-of-town developers, assisting in current business growth and marketing it throughout the Hampton Roads area.  In general, the proper marketing for redevelopment assists in expanding the tax base to allow for better schools and creates jobs which reduces crime.

Andy’s website is www.andy-norfolk.com

Barbara Saunders, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Barbara Saunders, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Barbara Saunders’ Response: The Greater Wards Corner Area is challenged by being in two wards. The Ward 1 side, which is on the west side of Granby Street, is developed. We have Walgreen’s, Rite Aid along with a full set of tenants in the shopping strip.  But the past leadership for Ward 1 has made promises for upgrading the east side without effectively working with Ward 2 leadership, as well as, the owners of the two large privately owned properties. Now after eight years those promises seem as empty as the store fronts on the east side of Granby, where there are only a few shops that are still open and they are suffering. It is sad that we have to live in that area witnessing the decline of an area so full of potential. All that being said, I think the three issues that are most pressing for the Greater Wards Corner Area are:

  • Empty retail space
  • Crime
  • Public perception that the problem is too big.

Barbara’s website is www.barbara4ward1.com



Brewer, Protogyrou, and Saunders Questionnaire

March 31, 2010
Ward One

Ward One

The following email was sent to Ward 1 City Council candidates, Chuck Brewer, Andy Protogyrou, and Barbara Saunders.  (If anyone has an email for Paul Trice, please use the “Contact Us” link on this page and I will invite him to participate).

On behalf of Wards Corner Now  I’d like to thank you all for giving up your time and energy to run for the Ward One council seat.  For the first time ever, Wards Corner Now is contacting candidates with a questionnaire, the responses to which I would like to post on www.wardscornernow.com.   I plan on posting each of your responses to Question 1 on April 13, Question 2 on April 14, and Question 3 on April 15.

All responses will be due by April 11.  Please include your website and a digital photograph that you would like posted along with your responses.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit our website and sign up for the email updates.

I thank you for your cooperation and look forward to the receipt of your responses.  Here are the questions:

1.  As you know, Wards Corner Now concerns itself with issues that directly affect the Greater Wards Corner Area.  Please list and describe those issues that are, in your opinion, the most pressing issues affecting the Greater Wards Corner Area.

2.  Please explain in detail the solutions you intend to utilize to address the issues you identified in question #1, above.

3.  Detail those items in the Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan that you believe are incorrect or need to be changed and explain why you believe so.


Norma Dorey not running for Ward 1 seat

January 11, 2010

We’ve just received word from Ms. Dorey that she has given the idea of running for office a tremendous amount of thought and has decided not to run for the Ward 1 seat on City Council.

This leaves three other rumored candidates: Ocean View Developer John Hadjikakos, retired Norfolk Police Officer Chuck Brewer and Ocean View artist, “Red Rooster” Paul Trice.


Wards Corner Civic League opposes Council’s Recall and Petition restrictions

November 16, 2009

The following email was sent to City Council from Jim English, President of the Wards Corner Civic League:

Dear Mayor Fraim and Members of Norfolk City Council:

Included in tomorrows city council meeting agenda is a public hearing regarding changes to the City Charter. Two areas of this charter change are particularly bothersome to the membership of  the Wards Corner Civic League. The first is the change in the referendum regarding signatures increasing the number of petitioners from 4 to 8 thousand. We believe this unfairly raises the bar on citizen input and therefore we are opposed to the change. The second is the change removing the recall process from the City Charter to which we are also opposed. At its regular monthly city league meeting held November 16th at 645PM at the Norfolk Wellness Center the Wards Corner Civic League membership unanimously voted to oppose these two city charter changes and respectfully request that you as members of Norfolk City Council vote against these proposed changes.

We thank you in advance for taking our opposition into consideration prior to voting on these changes

Sincerely,
Jim English
President
Wards Corner Civic League


Norfolk stifling citizens abilities to recall and petition

November 16, 2009

The agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting includes proposed changes to the city charter which include the removal of the ability to recall City Council members and an increase to the signatures needed for a petition from 4,000 to 8,000.

Vivian Paige has the scoop:

Of particular concern to me is the change in sections 32 and 35, which increases the minimum number of signatures required for petition from 4,000 to 8,000. This unfairly raises the bar on citizen input. One of the largest petition drives ever undertaken by the citizens was that relating to Bay Oaks Park.  That petition garnered 5,376 signatures. More recently, the residents of Highland Park undertook a similar petition, gathering over 5,000 signatures.

The Virginian-Pilot has an article as well:

The ordinance, if approved [by City Council and then] by the General Assembly, would also abolish a provision in the city code that allows voters to recall council members. Instead, the city would follow state recall procedures as most Virginia cities do. Currently, Portsmouth, Hampton and Lynchburg are the only other Virginia localities with recall provisions that allow council members who do not break the law to be recalled.

Both Norfolk’s and the state’s provisions allow residents to challenge a sitting council member by gathering signatures on a petition. However, under the city code, the petition leads to a recall election. If proposed changes are approved, Norfolk citizens could use the petition drive only to ask a Circuit Court judge to remove a council member solely for malfeasance. There would be no recall election.


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