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, LARGEĀ  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.



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 StreetĀ  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.