Save Waterside! But who is going to continue to pay the bills? Waterside has been an embarrassment and a sore spot for the city of Norfolk for many years. The place was a cool destination until McArthur Mall stole a significant part of their business. But a big part of the reason for the demise of Waterside is the City of Norfolk itself. Running bars out of the area, closing clubs, the list goes on.
At the end of the day I sincerely believe that Waterside will become a nice green space in Downtown Norfolk. Private developers would not do anything but raise another hotel or high rise condominium. It could make an interesting space for another shopping mall, but there is little evidence to suggest that Downtown Norfolk could sustain another shopping mall. I am sure that the City would prefer something high end, you know what would typically be in step with a downtown area, but there is already too much of that in the city as it is.
The bottom line is that the City of Norfolk needs to find creative uses for what already exists downtown before addressing Waterside. If downtown were “bursting at the seams” then a creative use for Waterside would be worth talking about. Downtown Norfolk should use Waterside to differentiate itself from downtown areas elsewhere in the region. Sure all of the tall buildings are in downtown Norfolk, that is great, but what else can you really say about it? They tried clubs and those did not work, but those clubs pandered to a young crowd, like most do in this region.
Perhaps Waterside could be a destination for someone, oh I don’t know, over 30 that is mature enough to appreciate something a bit different. Something for those in their middle age can do. It doesn’t necessarily have to include something that has a family appeal, but it could offer something completely different.
Seeing that the City does not have any ideas of what to do with Waterside, and probably does not want to bear the expense of tearing it down, they should leave it up to developers to find a creative use for it. Part of the City wants the other part of the City to tear it down, big surprise there. Look at it this way, when people come to Hampton Roads the first place they go is the Oceanfront, knock themselves out there, then quickly learn that there are other cities in the region, and that those other cities have beaches. The beach in Norfolk is severely underdeveloped with absolutely no tourist amenities in place under the pretense that the neighborhood is dangerous and it would be more important to get a higher caliber of individual to live there. Yet a lot of those houses are empty, because the neighborhood is still dangerous, new residents clash with those that already live there, and the average person cannot afford the new construction. The neighborhood is completely dis-invested, with nothing but a new public library.
Seeing that the City completely dropped the ball with respect to Ocean View, perhaps they can get it right downtown. But then again there are housing projects within a stones throw of downtown. You cannot tell when you are in the thick of downtown, but you can certainly tell once you leave. Virginia Beach does not have this problem with Town Center; it is in a good neighborhood, and they can actually fill their high rise condominiums with residents. This leads us to Waterside, which is an interesting development that is completely surrounded by buildings with some activity. At least the City is not squatting on Waterside waiting for enough money to come in to build another grandiose hotel or apartment complex; enough of those have failed within the last 10 years. But the City needs to do something, as no city “worth its salt”, has eyesores on the shore. Until they find a use for Waterside, it will be a sore reminder that as far as downtown Norfolk has come, it still has a long way to go …