A press conference was held today, March 16, 2012 at 1:30PM in the parking lot in front of the old People’s location in the Midtown Shopping Center (northeast corner of Wards Corner). There, acting Department of Development Director, Chuck Rigney announced Joan Dalis’ plans to spend more than 1 million dollars on a new facade and a redone parking lot, to include new lighting. Some photos from the press conference are below. This post will be updated with official images when they are received from the Department of Development.
Thaler McCormick, CEO of local charity ForKids, presented her organization’s Wards Corner based Thrift Store proposal on Saturday at the monthly Wards Corner Now meeting.
The store, which is slated to occupy space in the shopping center at the southeast corner of Wards Corner (commonly referred to as the Perry Property), would include 7500 square feet of retail space and 3500 square feet of warehouse space in the former Sports Zone location. That space has been vacant for 18 months according to the landlord, Chris Perry, who also attended the Saturday meeting.
Major concerns with the proposal included a thrift store not being the direction that the business district needs to move in and the appearance of donations being left in front of the store.
Ms. McCormick indicated that she understood that the eventual plan is to redevelop the shopping center and a clause will be included in her lease that will require her to move out upon six months notice.
Mayor Fraim, who was also present at the meeting, offered support for Ms. McCormick and her organization but indicated he understood why some people have concerns. The Mayor suggested that Ms. McCormick meet with the civic leagues individually before any decisions by Council are made.
To open a thrift store a special exception to the zoning must be approved by City Council. Another concern was that the zoning change would allow other thrift stores to open up in the same shopping center or that ForKids could sell the store to a different operator. Mayor Fraim indicated he would have the city attorney research whether the special exception can be tied to the particular owner.
Other details of the proposed project:
- The Thrift Store will be owner operated
- Two full time paid staff, 5 part time paid staff, plus volunteers
- Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-7PM, Sun 12PM-5PM
- Investors: Hampton Roads Community Foundation, The Parsons Foundation, Suburban Asset Management
- Project Director: Bill Young, former owner of Taste Unlimited
Mayor Fraim gave the State if the City Address on Friday, February 19, 2010. It included the following information regarding the Wards Corner area:
More than $13 million has been invested in the Greater Wards Corner area since approval of the Comprehensive Plan. Last year, police presence and code enforcement activities were stepped up, surveillance cameras installed in Denby Park, and a neighborhood watch begun with 60 residents participating. As a result, violent crime in Wards Corner dropped 35% and property crime 6%.
Three residential rehabilitation programs were begun for Denby Park, Oakdale Farms and Monticello Village to assist residents in upgrading their homes. The programs were so successful that within six months, the first $1 million was committed to 21 homeowners. Another $1 million was committed this fiscal year to assist 40 homeowners, and there’s already a waiting list for next year.
On the commercial side, the department of development is in active discussions with major property owners in the heart of the Wards Corner business district, and we expect new development opportunities to be identified later this year.
The Mayor had this to say about crime:
We were disappointed and concerned by last year’s increase in the homicide rate. With that exception, overall violent crime was down 14%.
In a very positive sign, juvenile arrests dropped significantly in selective enforcement areas – 83% in Huntersville; 41% in Denby Park and 14% in the Pleasant Avenue corridor. Overall juvenile arrests were down 52%. But the problem is still severe, it affects our children and school safety. That is why I will ask the city council to establish a task force on youth and gang violence to be chaired by the vice mayor, Anthony Burfoot.
Not surprisingly, the Mayor touted the real estate purchases in Ocean View:
The City and NRHA continue to acquire dilapidated properties in Ocean View for redevelopment. Recent examples include a 16 unit apartment on First View, a 15 unit apartment in Willoughby and the old Ramada Inn property on Ocean View Avenue.
Successful resolution for use of the property along 5th and 7th Bay Streets now makes it possible to begin thinking about preparing a development plan that includes public open space for this very desirable site.
But the purchase of property in the worst area of the Texas Streets portion of Denby Park continues to move at a snails pace (no properties have been purchased, no offers made). Remember that the Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan’s first listed priority was the redevelopment of those Texas Streets. From page 30 of the Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan:
We have identified three critical areas for the future of the Greater Wards Corner Area:1. The Texas Streets portion of Denby Park and related areas extending along East Little Creek Road to the Southern Shopping Center,…
Joan Griffey, Wards Corner resident, wrote the following email to Mayor Fraim:
Dear Mayor Fraim
You were elected the Mayor of our City of Norfolk. Recently, you stated that “the growth downtown hasn’t occurred by accident. It occurred because we had a vision.” Wards Corner is a wonderful, but neglected, part of our city. Do you have a vision for us?? We are open to a comfortable place for pedestrians to be, to a series of plans for local development, to retail shops and housing and restuarants. Is there a vision to extend downtown priorities to our section of the City? We would love to shed our image as a “deadzone”. As the City visions an user friendly downtown area for light rail travelers, it should also envision making Wards Corner user friendly for I64 /HRBT gridlock travelers. I refer to Harry Minium’s article on Nov. 23 “PLAN FOR 2020 RESHAPES CITY” in the VA PILOT. We have 4 Council members as representatives of our Partnershiop area. Surely, working with them, a vision could be formed and shaped and acted upon. We are waiting ……and waiting. Thank you for making it a front burner issue in 2009.
The following letter was mailed to Mayor Fraim and the rest of City Council by the Greater Wards Corner Partnership:
Dear Mayor Fraim and members of City Council:
The purpose of this letter is to seek your immediate help in the revitalization of the Wards Corner area consistent with the strategies outlined in the Greater Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan adopted by City Council in November 2004. We do so because the residents of the entire area are growing increasingly frustrated with the apparent inattention given to this area despite our monthly meetings with council representatives to the Wards Corner Task Force.
The Wards Corner area has been in a steady state of decline for over 20 years. Most notable in the business district, this deterioration is also evident in the Denby Park, Monticello Village and Oakdale Farms neighborhoods as well as the Titustown area and is putting negative pressure on many other neighborhoods in the Greater Wards Corner area.
The Greater Wards Corner Partnership was formed eleven years ago, in an attempt to work in partnership with the city to address this growing blight. The 22 civic leagues, numerous businesses, churches, schools and individuals were committed then and are as committed today to see the entire area revitalized so that it is an economically viable section of the city. We all live here, love the area and do not want to see it decline any further.
In 2000, the Wards Corner Task Force was reestablished as a partnership of the city, City Council and citizens of the Greater Wards Corner Partnership area to develop revitalization plans and strategies for the area. In the beginning we were all hopeful that we would see positive progress and with the adoption of the Greater Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan we were encouraged that we would have tools to assist us and the city to move forward. While we recognize that some progress was made initially, it is now evident that all of these plans have been stalled.
As a result of these concerns the Greater Wards Corner Partnership is now calling for your immediate action to the following prioritized items. Wards Corner’s location as a gateway to downtown Norfolk and potential for increased city tax revenue should make its revitalization a priority item on Council’s agenda.
1. A revitalization action plan for the Denby Park/Monticello Village/Oakdale Farms neighborhoods that will include the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the NRHA and the city so that this area may be a designated area with benefits similar to a Conservation Plan.
2. The purchase of the Alexis Apartments in Titustown and renewal of that area.
3. A plan to address the deteriorating infrastructure in the Wards Corner Business
4. The location of the new Police Station into the Central Business Park.
We believe that these are reasonable requests and consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Very little attention has been given to the Greater Wards Corner area for the past several years and as a result it continues to decline. We are concerned that, unlike other areas of Norfolk, the Partnership area does not have a champion on City Council and call on our representatives to support us in moving forward. We can no longer wait; the time for you to act is now.
We look forward to your timely response and an agenda which addresses these concerns at the next Wards Corner Task Force meeting.
The members and residents of the Greater Wards Corner Partnership
The above letter can be downloaded, printed, and sent to your Council representatives:
Below is a letter penned by Wards Corner resident, Joan Griffey.
Dear Mayor Fraim,
The 2004 Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan was proposed and financed by City Council with a quarter million dollars of taxpayer funds. What positive remarks will you include in your State of the City report concerning progress on this plan and the Wards Corner Business District?
In four years, the plan has not delivered on various items:
- There are currently 15 empty storefronts which were supposed to be occupied with family friendly businesses
- A badly painted crosswalk was installed instead of a brick crosswalk
- New mast-arm traffic poles were planned to reduce overhead wiring mishmash
- Elimination of blight was supposed to be the focus
- Updated buildings have not been addressed
- A parking garage has not been delivered
- Housing was supposed to be built above storefronts to generate community living
Last Tuesday, nearly 100 Norfolk voters assembled to discuss our frustration and the rank discrimination by our Council and City Manager towards the Wards Corner section of Norfolk. We voiced plans to continue to meet and energize our civic leagues for fair treatment for Wards Corner. Since 1997, the WCPartnership, in 2000 the WC Taskforce, in 2003, the WC Comprehensive Plan all have made aware our problems with blight, crime and public safety, esthetics decline , downturn of business activity and a “war zone” image as a gateway to downtown. These reports have been ignored and pushed aside, oblivious to the very people we elected as our leaders.
On our city website, the mission states that the City of Norfolk shall provide leadership and direction responsive to the needs and desires of all citizens of Norfolk. This does not exclude Wards Corner citizens from leadership to improve our quality of life and civic opportunities. Discrimination exists when certain areas of the city are given preference to Wards Corner (i.e., $11 million for frivolous fountains in Town Point Park where people go to look at the River, and the St Paul’s Quadrant, and a skateboard park and new development near the light rail stations).
Why is the City not interested in developing Wards Corner area? The city is doing nothing to encourage development. Promoting downtown is fine, but not at the sacrifice of the rest of the City. Are you expecting to concentrate misplaced and indigent peoples in downtown to our geographical area? This problem needs to be addressed. Perhaps our only recourse is to approach the news media for help to call attention to Council’s neglect. Why is Wards Corner consistently on “the back burner” when development is discussed?
Wards Corner citizens expect our leaders to step up and represent us. We are waiting for you to deliver on your promises and “stick to the task”! Wards Corner First.
Joan S. Griffey