When I moved to southern Virginia, one of the historic cities in the region was not in good shape. Home to a major Navy base, and with a history reaching back to before the Revolution, Norfolk had grown shabby throughout the years. The downtown was stagnant. There were swaths of high-crime area, including the downtown, as I learned when I worked for the police department downtown.
It was a couple of years later than the downtown sprouted a new high-end mall. The area around the mall started to clean up, and that was good. But another shopping venue right on the water struggled and eventually closed. The street that I was working on had mostly empty store fronts. The grocery store, opened to support the new apartments, shut its doors after a couple of years.
Three years ago I worked in downtown again. There was a new library extension going in, and a new hotel. The mall was still going, but there were empty stores, and a new Sephora opening proved not to draw any crowds. There were a few restaurants down there, but they were sparse.
I hadn’t really been back down there until my daughter entered an arts program centered in the city. Walking down the same street with the previously empty store fronts I saw all the little local restaurants, coffee shops and stores. Not big chains…little stores run by locals. There is almost no empty space now, and the choices are everywhere. And the restaurants are hopping, too, even on a Thursday night.
It’s a place I would consider going out of my way to visit now. Before, I would eat at one of the restaurants simply because I wanted to get out of the office at lunch. But now I am looking at places I would like to go to eat in the evenings; and perhaps even walk around the area.
It’s good to see this historic city in a rebirth.
Photo by Sylverado