The BizBlog – March 2021
South Norfolk’s Spring 2021 Update has arrived!
Change takes time. Here’s a vastly abbreviated summary of improvements in South Norfolk, all noted since your publishers arrived in 2004. Click the image for a larger view. If you still can’t see, you can download the PDF, HERE (863k). Print it out and put it on your fridge to remind you how far South Norfolk has come and how far it is going!
TIPS: Click or tap any image for a larger view. Click X or outside the image to close it. Turn phone sideways for larger images. Phrases with green text are links to safe external websites.
Links to an addendum at the bottom of this page. Includes important context to this article.
South Norfolk’s Spring 2021 Update
Estimated Reading Time: 16 minutes
It is 33 degrees right now, but with all the hopeful optimism of the spring, we sprouted this recap of milestones to celebrate.
So much has changed since we, your publishers, immigrated to South Norfolk from Chesapeake’s Hickory in 2004.
Putting it into a timeline helps put things in perspective.
South Norfolk has “good bones” but its people are its heart.
The renaissance that South Norfolk is experiencing is the result of the efforts of many people who all share a passion for making a difference in the community.
– Jaleh Shea, Director, Chesapeake Planning Department
ForKids, Virginia’s largest provider of services to end homelessness, will move into its new headquarters in the spring of 2021. You can see the frame for the roof-top garden above the building.
By the way, ForKids is hiring.
The Gateway at Sono
The “Big Pig” property was aptly nicknamed. In 2004, it was a giant dirt lot, right at the entrance of our new home’s community.
In a few years, a plan emerged from a private developer to erect a gem of an entrance to South Norfolk, to be called “The Gateway at Sono.”
As an aside: Yes, we know. Nobody likes the name “Sono.” We didn’t pick the name. That’s what developers named it. When you see “Sono,” try to just let it go. We all know what it stands for. “South Norfolk” is just too long for branding in some cases.
As the Gateway construction advanced, the old library next door closed. Briefly, there was support to move the police station to the library. But, the library was too far gone and the building was condemned and razed.
Meanwhile, the economy entered a recession. The Gateway suffered; units did not sell as expected and the project neared foreclosure.
At about this same time, the city spent several million dollars on plans for a new library to be built in the same location on Poindexter.
But as the Gateway teetered on the fence of failure, the city invested in the project to keep the gemstone-entrance optics alive.
So, the library plans were scrapped for new plans to assume most of the ground floor of the Gateway building for the new South Norfolk Memorial Library and the Bookends Café.
Overall, it’s been a positive addition to South Norfolk amenities to have the new library in the Gateway.
New Fountains and Circulators at the Lake
It was about a year ago that someone pointed out new “whirlpools” in the lake.
Those turned out to be circulators added by the city to mitigate problems caused by stagnant water. Soon after that, a new fountain sprang forth at the east end, and the little pond was not besieged with algae last summer.
What’s more, during the holidays, we discovered one of our fountains has new abilities to turn itself every color of the rainbow in the dark of night.
The video of the fountain lights on the HistoricSouthNorfolk.com Facebook page got more likes and views than any we’ve posted in a while.
In addition to the fountain, Avis Hinton, Community Development Planning Administrator with the city’s planning department, reminded us of these other improvements made between 2017 and 2020:
- An ADA accessible walkover bridge
- New park guard rails
- Fountain upgrades, and
- Energy-efficient pond lighting
Just last weekend, we passed the park and realized the fountain lights were slow-flashing green, presumably for St. Patrick’s Day.
That was such a nice surprise for your Irish-descended publishers, and for you too, we hope. We’re all Irish on St. Patty’s Day.
Elizabeth River Park & the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge
The two intertwine on the east side of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River creating a secret sanctuary unlike anything anywhere.
People run and walk the bridge every day, while people in the park down below look up and think, “dang, that’s high.”
Truly, the bridge and the park are magical, individually and together.
The park boat ramp, such as it was in 2004, was a huge factor in our decision to homestead on Seaboard. It was exciting to have a boat ramp so nearby.
But the parking lot was terrible. The canal near the launch was full of tug boats and oil, there were no stores or restrooms and the piers were in need of attention.
Looking back, we probably should have guessed that a ship-ton of improvements would come to the park after we sold the boat.
Now, when it’s nice out, the Elizabeth River Park is the perfect place to launch your boat, purchase convenience items, play with the kids on the playground, exercise alone or with friends, or treat your pup to the dog park.
THE SECOND BEST THING
The second-best thing about the park, we think, is that you can fish on the pier without a fishing license! It’s like a secret club, just for South Norfolk.
Thankfully, you don’t need to prove residence to enjoy the park. It’s fun and easy to pretend it’s a private, secret place known only to you, and maybe those few neighbors over there that you haven’t met yet.
Except for the 464 overpass, a massive mountain of asphalt, lights and cars, we love to ride our bikes to Elizabeth River Park.
You will need Quadfather legs (or maybe 17 gears) to ascend that steep grade.
You’ll also need strong brakes and dry wheels to stop gracefully. It would be inconvenient, to say the least, to survive the grueling uphill climb, only to fly into the traffic at the bottom on the way down.
We have heard there is a plan to build a safer passage way for pedestrians and bikers, but we have not seen anything new on that lately.
Hopefully, the passageway is still in the works because it’s badly needed. For survivors of the cross-mountain trek, there are bike racks at the park.
When the food trucks return (sorry, not quite yet), we’ll be making that ride again.
THE BEST THING
So, what’s the BEST thing about the park? It’s the stunning sunset views — for South Norfolkians only. ❤
South Norfolk Biz Directory
After founding HistoricSouthNorfolk.com in 2006, your publishers created the South Norfolk Business Directory in 2014. What we really wanted was a billboard that said, “Hey! Stop! We have stores here!”
Unfortunately, we could not afford a billboard, though we still wish someone would help get something on the blank blue sign at the 464 exit.
What we could do, though, was build this directory, with special search engine software, live maps, pictures, content and links to company websites.
Our online billboard now gets about 18,000 visits per month, compared to HistoricSouthNorfolk.com’s 3,500. So, are you listed? It’s free, you know. Create your listing now! (Contact us if you need help).
South Norfolk adopted ForKids as one of its forever partners in 2019. Their initial investment of several millions has grown to $17.5M for the mammoth 3-story building that is nearly completed near the old library property on Poindexter.
As Virginia’s largest provider of services to families threatened by homelessness, ForKids will employ about 100 salaried professionals, coming to South Norfolk daily; needing coffee, gas, food, beverages and convenience items.
While here, they might get their eyes checked at Dr. Pegrams, or they might need to buy a car at Sono Auto Sales. The point is, people who are here every day will spend their money here every day. And that is good for all of us.
It sounds like ForKids will operate like its own ship or a little city. The south-facing windows at the entrance are massive and flood the building with bright natural light, perfect for plants.
We heard CEO Thaler McCormick mandated a plant for every worker’s desk. Smart move, Thaler! Plants in close proximity enhance our environment by filtering CO2 and increasing moisture in the air.
Additionally, studies show that a beautiful workplace fosters creativity and productivity. And, most plants are edible, though probably not the ones on the ForKids’ desks.
Unlike some new kids, ForKids won’t be eating anyone “out of house and home.” There is a garden on the roof being planted with fruits and vegetables; tended by volunteers and consumed by clients and workers.
There will more surprises coming from ForKids including a new public playground to replace one lost to new construction. Stay tuned! ForKids is scheduled to open sometime in the spring of 2021.
There is always a full list of road projects for South Norfolk. It seems they never stop. By the time a project finishes at one end, it is time to start again at the other end.
These projects are managed by the city’s Public Works Department. If you want to see the roads being resurfaced, visit the Public Works page on the subject, HERE.
Road improvement schedules are often revised before, during and after the project has commenced. Weather is always a scheduling factor, as well as other issues, such as this pesky pandemic that we all must work around.
Despite the challenges, Bainbridge through South Norfolk was resurfaced and repainted from Poindexter south to just past Portlock Road.
Chesapeake RX Pharmacy
After too many years with no pharmacy in South Norfolk, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center opened Chesapeake RX Pharmacy in the Bainbridge Marketplace at 2544 Bainbridge Blvd.
The grand opening was held mid-day on a weekday. We’d heard there might be another opening for those who missed the first one, but sadly, that never came.
It’s okay though. The pharmacy, named for the pharmacy that used to be on Chesapeake Avenue in South Norfolk, is a welcome neighbor in the community.
It is a “compounding pharmacy,” which means they can create specially mixed medicines as ordered by your physician. The staff is friendly and helpful, and they keep a good supply of over-the-counter medicines, healing aids and equipment.
The pharmacy’s list of accepted insurance has grown. If you are able to move your prescriptions to the new pharmacy, you gain a nearby source for your medicines and support the pharmacy that is so sorely needed in South Norfolk.
We urge everyone in South Norfolk and Portlock to use Chesapeake RX if they can.
Southgate Plaza Repaved
We noticed growing piles of materials near the Southgate Plaza next to Oscar Smith Middle School one day.
We thought the road down there might be getting fixed, but no; it turned out they were fixing nearly the whole pothole of a parking lot at the Southgate Plaza. We were flabbergasted!
Finally, after years of businesses and patrons tolerating a parking lot that was more pot than lot, the new surface is smooth, black and freshly marked.
The portion of Jerome Street that is owned by the owner of Southgate Plaza has still not been repaved, but it has been improved somewhat. The road is currently blocked to through traffic by a line of trucks.
New Family Dollar opens on Overton property
Old-timers remember, back before Food Lion and convenience stores, Overton’s Market was THE place for groceries in South Norfolk.
Overton’s Market is long gone, but the property has been developed into a nice little shopping center between Poindexter and 22nd streets in downtown South Norfolk.
A Family Dollar anchors the marketplace, with several smaller stores in the periphery which will soon be contracted and built to suit restaurants or retail stores.
As the newest store in the Chesapeake-based Family Dollar headquarters, the South Norfolk Family Dollar is said to be a flagship store. It is used as a working exhibit of the company’s innovations in retail marketing such as lights, flooring, shelving, signage and products. The aisles are wide; the store is brightly lit and clearly marked. It’s no Overton’s, for sure, but it should be a nice revenue-generating addition to our little downtown.
New Municipal Building and Parking Lot
It’s been more than a year since we reported there would be changes to the plans for the new municipal building and parking lot between the Gateway building and the ForKids headquarters.
We were privileged to get a secret glimpse of an artist’s rendering of the new building, and we can tell you it’s big, very nice and will blend in nicely with the existing architecture along Poindexter. But that’s all we have for you at this time. We will keep you posted on this and other developments happening in South Norfolk.
For now, though, you can look forward to more good things to come, just as sure as you know spring will be here any day. Stay well, and please remember to Shop Sono First.
Notable South Norfolk Milestones as Listed by Comprehensive City Planning Administrator
Mark Woodward, comprehensive planning administrator for the City of Chesapeake, contributed this list of additional “accomplishments / milestones” for this update.
- South Norfolk Business Overlay District – established by City Council on February 16, 1999 for the purpose of creating special zoning standards under the City’s Zoning Ordinance to make the district an attractive and creative area consistent with the historic character of South Norfolk; to limit uses to those that are consistent with promoting commercial revitalization in the area; and to provide development flexibility that encourages improvement and upgrading of the area.
- South Norfolk Historic and Cultural Preservation Overlay District – also known simply as the South Norfolk Local Historic District, it was established by City Council on November 28, 2000 under the Zoning Ordinance as a specific component of the citywide Chesapeake Historic and Cultural Preservation Overlay District. Its purpose is to ensure that important historic, architectural, archaeological, or cultural buildings, structures, landmarks, areas or premises are protected from destruction or encroachment; to encourage uses that will lead to preservation of the cultural and historic heritage of the City; to encourage development and redevelopment consistent with the character of the district and which discourages negative environmental influences; and to preserve and promote tourist access.
- Poindexter Corridor Strategic Development Plan – adopted by City Council in April 2004 as a supplement to the 1990 Comprehensive Plan and included as a supporting policy of the 2026 and 2035 Comprehensive Plans. Its purpose is to create a vision and implementation plan for a revitalized, positive identity for the corridor that preserves and builds on the historic context to create a welcoming environment for all. The Plan has served as the basis for subsequent investment and improvements by the City and others.
- Poindexter Corridor Streetscape Improvement Project – the genesis for this project was the completion of the Poindexter Street Master Plan in August 2003 through a collaborative effort of citizens, elected officials, City staff, and the consulting firm LandMark Design Group. The Master Plan resulted from widespread interest in the community to develop strategies for streetscape improvements along the Poindexter Street corridor from its interchange with Interstate 464 to its terminus with Liberty Street. The purpose of the project was to implement beautification and infrastructure improvements that would encourage redevelopment and improvement activities to enhance economic conditions of the area. The Master Plan and subsequent streetscape improvement projects were funded primarily through a transportation enhancement grant awarded to the City under the Federal Transportation Equity Act – 21st Century (TEA-21) Program.
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