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Library, condos part of South Norfolk’s revitalization vision – The Virginian


A 4-acre lot near Interstate 464 that was once the site of the Big Pig supermarket sat undeveloped for years. The asphalt parcel that greeted visitors coming into South Norfolk was described in a 2004 city report as an “image of vacancy and neglect.”

Now, vintage lampposts line Poindexter Street and children scamper toward a pastel green building on the corner lot.

After decades of plans and failed attempts, a transformation of the northern Chesapeake community appears to be under way.

“The area is slowly, but surely, moving forward,” said Tammi Amick, South Norfolk Civic League president.

The space at the corner of Poindexter Street and Bainbridge Boulevard is now home to luxury condos that have just gone on the market, as well as the South Norfolk Memorial Library, which has exceeded expectations since its new location opened in July 2013.

The area’s evolution hasn’t been without controversy.

In 2012, the City Council decided against a $6.4 million plan to build a new library in a stand-alone building. Instead, the city spent $2.1 million on vacant space in the Village at Gateway to prevent the planned retail and residential development from going into foreclosure. South Norfolk residents felt cheated.

In the years since, feelings have changed, and people have flocked to the 17,000-square-foot library. Dim lights, oversized chairs near a faux fireplace and a cafe make it feel more like a bookstore than a city-owned building.

South Norfolk resident Daniel Murphy has been going to the library every day for about a month to read his textbook on heating and air-conditioning systems. From his table near the cafe’s patio, he has a view of the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge.

“It’s quiet and I’m able to get my stuff done,” he said.

More than 800 programs were offered in 2014, a five-fold increase over 2012, according to library records. The number of people who attended civic and community meetings in the new location’s second year nearly tripled to 7,688.

Library Director Victoria Strickland-Cordial attributes the success of the library to the added space. The previous location, a few blocks away, had only one meeting room. Now there are two, in addition to a children’s area that can be used for early literacy classes.

“It really has exceeded our initial thoughts,” Strickland-Cordial said. “Customer visits have increased tremendously.”

Now, the second part of the plan is coming to fruition as residents move into the condos next to the library.

Jerry Harris, developer of The Gateway, said the recession derailed most of the plans for the residential side of the project, but signs of recovery in the housing market last year were reason enough to start it again.

“We’ve been sitting and waiting,” Harris said.

Four buyers went under contract sight-unseen for condos in the complex, Harris said. Two have closed on the deal, and the others are to sign in the next couple of weeks. At least three other potential buyers have expressed interest since the model condo opened for viewing a couple of weeks ago.

The condos range from $142,000 to $178,000 depending on upgrades.

The first of six possible buildings, named The Chesapeake, has been built and is move-in ready. Construction on The Norfolk is set to begin this fall. Each building holds 24 two-bedroom condos.

Area businesses haven’t seen an increase in customers since the library opened but are hopeful that the new residents will bring sales.

George Pegram, an optometrist in the same building as the library, said his only concern is the lack of parking. When there is a community meeting at the library, the 150 spots fill quickly and his customers have to park down the street. There are no designated spots for his practice.

Harris said more parking spaces are planned.

The revitalization efforts don’t stop with The Gateway.

Amick is trying to get more blue exit signs on Interstate 464 to advertise businesses in South Norfolk.

“Right now, the signs are empty, so it looks like the Sahara Desert,” she said.

Those who work around Poindexter Street would like to see more places to visit on lunch breaks. Most said they go home or eat in a break room.

“I want to be able to walk down to have dinner or bike to have a cup of coffee,” Amick said. “But I can’t do that here.”

There are no pending applications with the city’s planning department for the area around the library, despite several vacant buildings.

Harris isn’t worried.

“Once there are enough people,” Harris said, “the rest will follow.”

Mary Beth Gahan, 757-222-5208,


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Posted to: Chesapeake News

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