Op-ed: Wards Corner is Suburbia, Harris Teeter would be good

October 6, 2011

This is a response, or counter-point, to Stephen Truman Sugg’s Op-ed posted on Altdaily.com 

Wards Corner should remain Suburban.

Right now you can go to Wards Corner and shop at the Suburban Park Shopping Center. A few blocks away you can drive down Suburban Parkway and visit a neighbor in a stately house on a large lot in Suburban Acres. Looking at a zoning map, or simply driving around the neighborhoods surrounding Wards Corner, one can easily discern that this is suburbia.

Image from the 2004 Greater Wards Corner Comprehensive Study showing the mostly single family, auto centric land use in the study area (yellow)

Image from the 2004 Greater Wards Corner Comprehensive Study showing the mostly single family, auto centric land use in the study area (yellow)

Living in suburban Norfolk is not a bad thing. I could talk for hours about the benefits – from commute time to proximity to amenities. But when it comes to the revitalization of Wards Corner we must be reminded that when this area was developed in the 40s and 50s it was the crossroads of the city and it was built around the automobile. The land use has not significantly changed since that time. The bulk of the neighborhoods from Hampton Blvd to Tidewater Drive and from the Granby Street bridge to Bayview Ave continue to be mostly low density and auto centric.

Traffic counts are not only evidence of the auto-centric nature of the greater Wards Corner area but also proof that Wards Corner is a fantastic location for commercial development easily accessible by the automobile. The traffic count on Granby St near Wards Corner is 27,000 vehicles per day. Little Creek near Wards Corner is 26,000. I-64 at Wards Corner – a whopping 148,000 vehicles per day.

Rebuilding Wards Corner as a commercial area in which the bulk of the customers arrive via automobile is best and most appropriate use of the land.

A possible Harris Teeter is a good thing.

Let’s set the record straight. As far as I know there is no deal with Harris Teeter; it’s a rumor. And the City has not offered tax dollars, or tax abatements, to the developer either. I have confirmed this with Councilmembers and staff.

Nonetheless, a Harris Teeter at Wards Corner would be fantastic news and an immediate upgrade. Despite there being a number of other grocery stores in the Wards Corner area, a Harris Teeter would be a benefit as a high quality retailer that will attract other retailers of the same or similar quality. For years this is what the residents of Wards Corner have been demanding. The demographics support revitalization as well. Historically Wards Corner was the preferred shopping area for residents of Larchmont, Edgewater, Lochaven and east and north to Ocean View. Given the lack of a higher quality grocery store in those areas and the traffic to get to Harris Teeter’s Ghent location, it is foreseeable that those residents will return to a revitalized Wards Corner.

The shopping centers currently in Wards Corner suffer from functional obsolescence. The narrow and deep layout of most of the units is undesirable in today’s retail market and the parking situation can only be improved upon.

Don’t look at the prospect of a  Harris Teeter as simply another grocery store. Look at it as the start of the revitalization of the entire Wards Corner commercial district which needs to remain suburban in character. A district which will hopefully include new shopping, eating, and office destinations and maybe even a hotel. That is what we have been working so hard to achieve.

About the writer: Martin A. Thomas, Jr. is a lawyer at the Decker Law Firm, a member of the Planning Commission for the City of Norfolk, an editor for Wards Corner Now, and a Vice-President of the Wards Corner Civic League.


In Support of Andy Protogyrou for City Council

April 26, 2010
Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Over the course of the last three months, four candidates running for Norfolk City Council for Ward 1 have been vying for the support and vote of Wards Corner residents in the May 4th election. Many of us have attended several of the candidate forums where the candidates have appeared and discussed the issues. Recently, those of us who live in Ward 1 have started receiving campaign literature from three of the four candidates.

We want to set the record straight.  The candidates, with the exception of one, have not indicated any real plan to revitalize Wards Corner.  Mr. Brewer and Mrs. Saunders tend to dance around that issue without offering any real ideas.  Mr. Brewer has repeatedly said, in the forums that we have attended, that putting more police officers and code enforcement inspectors will effect change. We, however, all agree that this approach is merely a temporary band-aid that has been tried over the past 10 years without any substantial results.

Let us be very clear. We, as active civic leaders of the Greater Wards Corner Area, support Andy Protogyrou for City Council as the only credible and viable candidate for Ward One. We encourage you to do the same.

The other two candidates have only recently positioned Wards Corner as a top priority due to the positive feedback and endorsements that Andy Protogyrou is receiving.

Andy Protogyrou lives in the Greater Wards Corner Area, has been a Civic League President, and demonstrates a resume that clearly puts him head and shoulders above the other candidates. He has what it takes to be our advocate and get the job done to revitalize Wards Corner and address the issues of Ward 1.

It was us, the undersigned, who approached Andy Protogyrou to run for City Council and NOT the downtown crowd as some have suggested.

Andy’s approach to revitalization is based on good business sense, proper economic development strategies, and a clear understanding that a healthy business district drives healthy neighborhoods.  More police and code inspectors, although important, don’t effect the necessary change.

Andy has said from the day he announced his candidacy that his focus will be on:
1.  The redevelopment and the economic prosperity of Wards Corner,
2.  The flooding of Mason Creek and Willoughby,
3.  Bringing a commonsense approach to City spending,
4.  Creating a good learning environment for our children, and
5.  Improving the quality of life for all.

We all believe that Andy Protogyrou possesses those qualities that are required and necessary to revitalize Wards Corner and be an effective advocate on City Council.   Several organizations agree, including the: Norfolk Professional Firefighters Local 68, Tidewater Builders Association, Eastern Virginia Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Hampton Roads Realtors Association and United Black Firefighters.  This is perhaps the most important election to date for the citizens of Ward 1. We ask that you join us and vote for Andy Protogyrou.

Sincerely,

Jim English
Louis Eisenberg
Jim McDonnell
Dr. Brad Robinson
Martin Thomas Jr.
Update: The Virginian-Pilot agrees and has endorsed Andy as well!

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