Jillian’s Move: Good or Bad for Waterside?

28 12 2009

I think that it can be a good thing. Waterside needs to be remade into a venue that relates more to the original purpose of the building. They need a quality seafood place, independent shops (like “All About Virginia & More” and “All about Racing & More”), locally owned restaurants, and above all, LARGE  windows that give an open, public view of the waterfront. That is what the purpose of Waterside was and still should be. It is the same reason why we invest so heavily in Town Point Park. The waterfront is and ought to be the public’s domain.

Norfolk - mid-1980's - zoom in and pay close attention to the number of people at Waterside

The image above shows a Waterside full of people. It shows a Waterside tha tis not dependent on taxdollars to survive. That is what we need to rebuild. Do not tear the building down. Renovate it. Make it bright inside again.

Back to Jillian’s. They don’t need to be inside waterside. They should remain Downtown, but not in Waterside. Same goes for Hooters, Outback, and Joe’s. By themselves, they are all good places. They simply do not belong in a venue like the one that I have described. They can stay Downtown, definitely. In fact, it would improve Downtown as a whole to have those restaurants move OUT of Waterside and INTO a street-front property. The amount of pedestrian traffic would surely increase traffic and revenue to the other stores. This move is not an end, but a beginning. A good beginning.





VDOT’s Budget Cut Again

6 12 2009

Once again, the state is once again cutting money off of VDOT’s budget. This time, however, there is nothing left but bones. In fact, as early as 2011, Hampton Roads will get zero (you read that right) dollars for road construction. Statewide that same year, Northern Virginia would receive $225 million (93.2%) from VDOT. Even sooner, in 2010, the overall budget will grow 3% despite Hampton Roads’ funding getting cut another 13% for that same year! In 2010, Northern Virginia’s budget actually increases by 5%. Our luck would not change until 2015, when we get a whopping $100 million. Of course, seeing as 2015 is six years from now in the six year budget, our actual chances of seeing anything are very slim. When are we, as Hampton Roads residents going to stand up for ourselves? When will we decide that allowing Northern Virginia rob us blind is no longer acceptable? You know when? When we decide that we are a single, unified voice. Northern Virginia can say that, as suburbs of DC, they all need the same general projects to get by. Hampton Roads, on the other hand, can do nothing of the sort. Norfolk wants money for the Midtown Tunnel. Virginia Beach wants money for the Southeastern ‘Parked’way (which is what it really will be when it is full of traffic). Chesapeake wants a new Dominion Blvd. Portsmouth wants the MLK extended. Hampton wants the HRBT redone. Newport News wants I-64 expanded north. None of the cities here realize that we all need the same things to function. Without one of our major connectors, the whole place is gridlocked. Look at any interstate when one gets all lanes blocked during rush hour. The whole area shuts down. We can’t court new business if we don’t have a reliable road system. We need to work together as one region to secure our road money. We need to tell our legislature that Northern Virginia has robbed us enough and we demand our fair share. People here complain when a city spends tax money on something light Town Center, light rail, Downtown, etc., but they seem to have no problem paying taxes to a state that is ripping us off. Its not VDOTs fault. It is completely the legislature’s fault. We cannot allow current elected state representatives to serve another term. They have not fixed our problem yet and they will never fix it. Short of seceding from the Commonwealth of Virginia, regionalism and voting out our incumbents is our only option.





US Development – Preserving Norfolk’s Past

5 12 2009

The Virginian-Pilot has reported that a South Carolina company, US Development, has purchased the Union Mission building, formerly the Navy YMCA building. They plan on renovating the structure and converting the building into 90 apartments. These units will be priced for the middle class, starting at $800/month. In addition to this great move for the Union Mission building, the company also announced that they have similar plans for at least 4 additional historic downtown properties, totaling $100 million and 1,500 new apartments. This is a excellent opportunity for the City of Norfolk and its residents. The increase in affordable living space downtown will increase the amount of people that live downtown. Most of these new, middle-class renters will be more likely to walk where they need to go and/or take public transportation. This, in turn, will be better for downtown shops and restaurants, the mall, and even the upscale apartments and condos, which will be more desirable when the street-scape is flourishing.

Norfolk has spent so much time and effort erasing our past that we have already lost so many buildings. Not too long ago (2007), Norfolk demolished three historic buildings to construct a four-star hotel. At the time, they couldn’t wait. It just had to be done right then or the building would not get built and the world would end. So they tore them down. Going on three years later, the still-vacant lot sits, covered in grass and gravel. The city says that they are waiting for the economy. I wonder how they could be waiting if it was supposed to be built two years ago when the economy was good.

Regardless, it is about time that we had a developer who had an actual interest in preserving historic buildings instead of tearing them down. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new path for Downtown. The district will actually grow, without the city’s help. More residents are needed Downtown to truly make a successful downtown. It is a shame that our council could not see that. Instead, they tore down buildings and catered toward the wealthy and the upscale. All of that is nice, but it won’t survive without the people of the middle class.





Downtown Anchors?

23 11 2009

Everyone knows that nearly every shopping center in the United States relies on “anchor stores,” or large department stores or “big box” stores to bring in the interest sufficient for generated foot traffic to the small stores situated between each anchor. Without these anchors, most malls would close down quickly.

MacArthur Center

 

  • Dillard’s
  • Nordstroms
  • Regal
Chesapeake Square Mall

 

  • Macy’s
  • JCPenney
  • Sears
  • Target
Gallery at Military Circle

 

  • Cinemark
  • JCPenney
  • Macy’s
  • Sears
Lynnhaven Mall

 

  • JCPenney
  • Dillard’s
  • Macy’s
  • AMC
  • Dick’s
Pembroke Mall

 

  • Sears
  • Kohl’s
  • Stein Mart
  • Regal
Greenbrier Mall

 

  • Macy’s
  • JCPennys
  • Dillard’s
  • Sears

My question is this: Why can that same principle not be applied to Downtown in general? For example, I think a Macy’s would make a great fit into Downtown’s plan and clientele. I don’t think, however, that it should be part of MacArthur Center. Instead, I think that Macy’s would be a good fit somewhere outside, such as the building on Market between Granby and Monticello (used to be TCC offices and Targeted Publications). This location would be in good proximity to MacArthur. Shoppers would shop at Macy’s and cross the street to MacArthur Center. In fact, compared to standard malls like Greenbriers, with four anchors, this location would be a de-facto fourth anchor to MacArthur.  However, because it is outside, the patrons would be inclined to shop around on Granby Street, leading to an increase in demand for Granby Street storefronts. As for the Center’s elusive third anchor, I think that something like a Best Buy (or better yet, their new competition in the region, hhgregg) would be good. A Target would be another good store to have, but since Norfolk has no full electronics store, the hhgregg might be a better option. This third anchor would be included in the current plan, of course. If you are unfamiliar, Norfolk’s vision of the third anchor lot is a high rise, mixed-use building, including an anchor, perimeter storefront shops, and apartments/condos and/or offices upstairs. This plan would do wonders for the Center, due to its residential population.

Norfolk 2020 Plan

Norfolk needs to start looking at Downtown as an area with faded boundaries. They have spent that past 30 years trying to divide it. We have office space on Main St., Commercial Retail on Granby St., etc. We need to mix this up a bit. Stores won’t move in by themselves unless there is sufficient foot traffic. You can’t get foot traffic without having residential towers. Norfolk needs to try to get these stores to work with developers to build mixed use, high-rise residential buildings with plenty of storefront shops. Additionally, they need to attract larger retailers as “anchors” Downtown. A full-time residential population, combined with jobs and retail, is the key to a successful, viable Downtown.

Cambie St & W 7th Ave., Vancouver - Note the Urban Home Depot. Across the street is an Urban Best Buy. There are condos on top of each of these buildings





MacArthur Center’s New Policy

8 10 2009

As I am sure that you have heard by now, MacArthur Center is going to be enacting a new policy on October the 19th. This new policy will require adult (21+) supervision of anyone under the age of 18 after 5 PM. At first, I had mixed feelings about this new policy. I remember when I was 16 and 17. I would not have wanted to go to the movies with my girlfriend and my mom. Forget hanging out with my friends too. Its nothing personal to my wonderful mother, it is just normal for teens to want to have some degree of independence and responsibility. On the other hand, I also remember other kids at 16 or 17 and younger. Everyone knows who I am talking about. Those kids that shout at each other from different floors. Those that may be affiliated with a gang trying to start trouble. Those that take advantage of a more crowded evening setting to get a five-finger discount in their favorite store. These are the kids that they are trying to keep under control. It just happens to be easier to restrict the group in general than to fight each case independently, which often lead to arguments about it being ‘fair.’

Overall, while I dislike blanket rules, I support MacArthur Center’s attempt to keep it from going the way of Military Circle Mall, where I no longer feel safe due to large groups of kids hanging out at night. Even if the feeling is just a perception, I know that many people will not show somewhere that they perceive is bad. I applaud the Mall for taking a measure to prevent the continuation of a trend instead of waiting until the damage has been done. Good job MacArthur.





Need a ride? Call FRED!

7 10 2009

Even though many people did not even know that a Downtown Ambassador (The people that look like informational security guards in white and blue), the Downtown Norfolk Council is now offering free rides on their new golf-cart-style FRED (meaning Free Ride Every Day). Anybody can use them (or the ambassador’s walking services) as long as they are coming from or going to a Downtown location.

Call: (757) 478-7233

Hours:
7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday
7:30 a.m. to midnight Friday
11 a.m. to midnight Saturday
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday





Waterside

7 10 2009

If you read the paper yesterday, there was an article regarding a proposal to turn waterside into a farmer’s market. I think this would be a great idea, if done properly. I have heard many people talk about what it used to be. I have heard it compared to Harborplace in Baltimore. There are many reasons why I do not think that these are cases that could be successful in the Waterside of 2009, however, I think that some valuable lessons could be learned from them.

First, let’s talk about Harborplace. What is commonly referred to as Harborplace is actually made up of three structures. The first two, the Pratt Street  and the Light Street Pavilions, are the original two. They were built in 1980 and are similar in shape and design of our very own Waterside. Combined, they are roughly 152,000 sq.ft., which is slightly larger than Waterside’s 130,000 sq.ft.. The third building in the Harborplace complex is called The Gallery at Harborplace, which measures in at 132,000 sq.ft.. As you can see, Harborplace is over twice the size of Waterside (Harborplace combined: 284,000 sq.ft.). It’s size definitely contributes to its success.

Harborplace simply cannot be compared to Waterside. Not just because of the size difference, but because of the area that it is located in. Harborplace is the largest retail center in Downtown Baltimore, whereas Downtown Norfolk has MacArthur Center, which has around 500,000 sq.ft of leasable space. Overall, Downtown Baltimore has 2.1 million sq.ft of retail space compared to Downtown Norfolk’s nearly 5 million sq.ft.. Out of the Baltimore MSA’s population of 2.7 million, only 40,000 (1.5%)actually live in Downtown Baltimore. In Norfolk, whose MSA population is 1.6 million, only 3,700 (0.2%) people live Downtown. I may not be an economist, but I do understand the Law of Supply & Demand. Baltimore has 52 sq.ft. of retail space per person. Norfolk, on the other hand, has a whopping 1,351 sq.ft per person. In other words, Baltimore has a high residential population to regularly support its Downtown retail shops. Norfolk has to rely on outside visitors.

Lesson learned: increase residency. I think we are well on out way. With the soon-to-be-completed Belmont at Freemason and a ever-growing list of planned projects, the population is set for a steady increase. Throw in the new light rail and the projects that it will bring, including the newly-released high-density development on the Virginia Beach-side of Newtown Road, as Downtown’s population and foot traffic will make it a prime site for redeveloping existing sites and expanding new ones.

As far as Waterside is concerned specifically, I think that the city needs to help relocate (not close) the nightclubs. The nightclubs should have a place downtown, as a well-managed nightlife can add a youthful appeal that can lead to increased residency. They need to completely renovate the inside to make it brighter and give it the waterfront views that it deserves (and the the name implies). Without the nightclubs, the upstairs should be re-opened, to allows people on the second floor to see down to the first in a open atmosphere. It should focus on local shops, but allow for chains. It should without-a-doubt have a high-end seafood restaurant. While doing all of this, it should focus on no losing current tenants who, after sticking through what Waterside has become, deserve to take their rightful place in a new facility. Waterside was once looked to by cities nationwide, as a model on which to build their very own marketplaces. Waterside deserves a remodel. Norfolk deserves the icon that Waterside once was.