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PeninsulaKiddo

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About PeninsulaKiddo

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  • Birthday 09/09/1988

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    Poquoson, Va

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  1. Good Lord, I've been away from this forum for much too long. Sorry to post here with limited new, substantive content, but between this project (totally unexpected for someone living outside the region these last two years), the really strong design of Harbors Edge 2.0, and a lot of clever, sustainable infill projects throughout the region, it's an exciting time to take stock of where Hampton Roads is and will be going in the coming years and decades. (And if it makes anyone feel better, I can't read the comments sections of any papers or news outlets in the Bay Area either, and for pretty much the same reasons. Ignorance defies geographic bounds like nothing else. ) I'm not sure if this link has been shared elsewhere (perhaps in another thread, though I didn't find it while catching up on the projects and updates I've missed in the last year or so working tirelessly at the office this morning), but Greater Greater Washington has a very interesting read about the options for Tide expansions in Norfolk, running through alternative routes and the advantages and pitfalls of a few specific ones, as well as a map I hadn't seen elsewhere (map image link: http://www.gohrt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/FINAL-NSNTES-Projec1FC4106.pdf ) That might just owe to my being so out of the loop lately, but I wanted to add a little to the discussion of the northerly routes toward Naval Station Norfolk -- long a part of this forum's analysis of the Tide's viability, ridership, and ultimate success, given the base's huge concentration of personnel -- as well as to provide an analogue/illustration for the southerly option into Chesapeake. The GGW article merits extensive quotation here: Granby or Hampton would be strong options, given existing density and, for the latter, a large number of car-less students who would gain easier, faster access to downtown Norfolk. More to the point, isn't disrupting the comforts of driving kind of the point of promoting mass transit anyway? That is, to foster ridership and mass transit use, driving should be made less attractive, at least at peak hours. The MUNI Metro system in San Francisco is a good (though, maybe not great) illustration of how peak rush hour commuting and non-peak drivability are not mutually exclusive. (Plus I take it daily, so it's an accessible comparison for me to explore.) From about 7:00 am until 9:00 am, and again from roughly 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, during peak hours, MUNI Metro runs about every 5-7 minutes along the N-Judah line, which stretches from the edge of the Pacific Ocean through the sprawling Sunset District toward downtown San Francisco. At peak hours, Judah (and parallel route Taraval Street, which carries the L-Taraval line) is largely devoid of cars; the middle two lanes are dedicated to MUNI cars, with mini-platforms/railings to demarcate stops, while through-traffic is relegated to the outside lanes. This forces the distribution of driving commuters onto side streets, and traffic in the Sunset District can be pretty heinous at certain times of the day. Outside peak hours, however, when trains run every 10-15 minutes (or every 30 minutes after 9:00pm), though, driving is much less challenging, as cars can move between lanes, and as there are fewer trains with fewer, less frequent stops delaying traffic at lights and stop signs. All of this is to say that the traffic disruption/serving existing density trade-off isn't even such a zero-sum issue anyway -- indeed, a lot of residents in the Sunset District alternate between modes of transit readily, knowing the schedule of transit services/peak hours vs. midday or late evening ease of driving. A similar model could easily apply to the southern stretches of Granby, which is about as wide as Taraval or Judah Streets in San Francisco, and could very easily be applied to the wider Hampton Boulevard a bit further north. There is tremendous potential for these northerly routes to dramatically alter the connectivity and interrelationships among Norfolk's neighborhoods. To tie this back to the southerly expansion into Chesapeake, the second highlighted section in the original GGW quote raises some questions as Chesapeake considers moving forward with the Tide. There will be many changes to many plans over many years before any of this comes to fruition, but I think the hardest challenge facing Chesapeake will be not just making mass transit appealing and functional in a lower-density environment, but also constraining the existing suburban highway infrastructure of its major roads to make driving significantly less appealing. Ultimately, there's a quote I'll paraphrase (read: slightly beotchize) that has been the primary lens through which I've viewed transit development in recent years: a bus or train that has 100 times the capacity of a single-occupant car should have 100 times more privilege and priority on that same street. That's obviously a tough sell in the Hampton Roads region, but it's a norm that's worth embracing and slowly injecting into the area's conversations on transportation and mobility. Thus, the viability and opportunity presented by the southerly expansion into Chesapeake raises questions that hinge much more on political will and shifting perspectives than most engineering, legal/zoning, or even financial considerations, and I'm curious to see how that will play out over the coming years and decades. Thanks again to all for keeping me connected to everything going on back home -- I'll be around from time to time, and I look forward to hearing more -PK
  2. Agreed completely. I have some hope that, even if they don't revise the plan as it is, there is the option to redevelop the parking lots at a later date. I am concerned that the shape and infrastructural design of the project makes that inherently more difficult -- but, from my newfangled San Francisco point of view, odd-shaped lots and blocks can be a blessing in terms of architectural design creativity (Keeping things a little more positive today hah!) And, on that positive note, the R&D oriented design of the "campus" section is something I am very, very interested in seeing. I always thought J Lab was underutilized as a major opportunity for the city and region, so cheers to finally realizing that at least. Fingers crossed!
  3. For the Tech Center, as it is called, here is the official page: http://www.vttechcenter.com/
  4. A few announcements and groundbreakings in the very near future for Newport News: First, CNU is finally replacing its old Administration Building - the oldest building on the "Great Lawn" - with a new student success center, bringing various administrative and student-related services offices under one roof. The school is also seeking proposals for the construction of a bell tower, diagonally across the Lawn, between the existing Forbes and McMurran buildings. The Daily Press discusses both projects at greater length, and includes the school's official video, here. A rendering of the $45 million, 81,000 sf structure, anchoring the eastern edge of the Great Lawn. The City of Newport News, in cooperation with W.M. Jordan CEO John Lawson, are also moving ahead with a $250 million mixed-use, research and development-oriented project at the corner of Jefferson and Oyster Point in midtown. Here is the rendering, also via Daily Press: The 100-acre project features a mix of retail, commercial, and research office spaces along with apartments and the City's first Whole Foods grocery store. Build-out for the first phase of the project (pictured) would last 18-24 months, following groundbreaking in October of this year, while the research center would take as long as a decade. Mr. Lawson assured the City that "none" of the retail or commercial portions of the project will duplicate existing stores in Port Warwick or City Center, insisting that he is pushing for a "greater Oyster Point" with this development. The full DP story is here. I see a number of pros and cons to this development. First, it's absolutely worth noting that the entire project - including infrastructure improvements and a comprehensive "research campus" - will be privately funded. Also, I think bringing high-tech business in contact with the incredible R&D resources, staff, and faculty at J Lab obviously stands to benefit the City tremendously. My misgivings are pretty consistent with any and every major development in Newport News, particularly in the Midtown area -- it's distant from the other two "new urbanist" developments already in the area, Port Warwick and City Center, meaning that the only means of getting from one to the other is via car. Moreover, like Port Warwick and City Center, the design of this development is inwardly-focused, relying upon limited access points from already severely-congested roadways (Jefferson Avenue and Oyster Point Road). Given the leasing challenges of similarly high-end apartment communities in a 5 mile radius, I have serious doubts about the viability of an unspecified number of "very high end" apartments in this location. At a minimum, it would've been nice to see a mix of apartments targeting different socioeconomic groups in the City. Since the project still requires a rezoning approval (tentatively scheduled for next month, but with private financing, I doubt that will be a problem), I hope additional information will come out shortly. And, of course, there's the aesthetic quality of the first phase of the project. Glad to see the creeping spread of Patrick Henry's surface parking lots will continue unabated into the next decade as well. (/end sarcasm)
  5. Agreed -- a solid 13 years growing up just across the York Co. line and I agree completely. I will say that economic pressures (massive deficits, by Poquoson scale) and the natural cap on population growth (developable land has essentially reached its limit) may finally put a fire under city leaders this time. Signage is up behind the LFCU bank branch on Wythe Creek (no pictures or renderings, though). So, perhaps, that means something is actually coming together. Only time will tell... and time moves slowly out there, hah.
  6. http://www.poquoson-va.gov/economic_development/big_woods I had no idea where else to post this since we don't exactly get frequent development news out of Poquoson. Nevertheless, it seems the city is moving forward with plans to develop a "town center" (in the traditional sense) around the existing block of retail and commercial spaces at the junction of Victory Blvd. and Wythe Creek Road. Given the location's proximity to Langley AFB and the NASA-Langley Research Center(s), I think the emphasis on a R&D-oriented development is (perhaps surprisingly) sensible. The "Village Commercial" parcels seem to be a new urbanist-styled proposal, with ground level shops and apartments above. With very high median per capita and household incomes ($65k/year+ for a household), not to mention the dearth of proximate retail/commercial options within a few miles' radius (the nearest major shopping centers are about 4 miles west along Victory, a stretch of George Washington Highway near the York Co./Hampton lines, and the Mercury Boulevard corridor 4 miles east, in Hampton proper), that makes sense to me. I think a mini-Merchant's Square could actually function well in Poquoson and draw a lot of people out of southern York County who are reluctant to go as far as Oyster Point City Center, Port Warwick, or other boutique/niche retail centers, yet have the money to keep small businesses alive. Of course longterm execution, solid design, and implementation of a sound infrastructure network are the keys to making this successful, but this is still a really interesting move from a local city I wouldn't have anticipated. My only major fears are the usual and obvious: I hope the apartments in the plan are reasonably priced, since the tiny housing market of Poquoson increasingly trends very, very high-end. Also, again with respect to LAFB/NASA proximity, affordable apartments that are safer and connected to neighborhood essentials (green spaces, retail, commercial, banks) present a smarter alternative to the massive apartment complexes at similar distances from the base's gates. (The original announcement of the plans from early 2010 can be found here.)
  7. "Va. Beach proposes $18 million for Cavalier project" http://hamptonroads.com/2013/06/beach-could-give-18-million-cavalier-project Seems the City of Virginia Beach is set to pay off the ransom after all. Glad the Cavalier will be spared, but still infuriated about... everything else about this.
  8. Time for my semi-annual UP posting. (I've been lurking in the shadows, quietly nodding in agreement this whole time.) Agreed with the above-quoted. It's one thing to request city assistance with infrastructure or other public-accessible assets (still hotly debated, but you can guess where I fall on that one); it's another thing entirely to hold a landmark hostage and threaten to pull the trigger. Virginia Beach is known for many laudable features, but a rich architectural heritage, frankly, is not one of them. Threatening to destroy one of extraordinarily few landmark buildings is outrageous. Moreover, while increasing density up and down the Boardwalk area is great looking ahead, both for sustainability/walkability concerns and improving the overall quality of life at the Oceanfront, I don't know that this is the time to start building upwards of 40th Street, much less an ill-defined and vague plan that calls for a relatively large number of detached and/or low-density housing options. The city should invest first in continuing improvements to the grid network between 20th and 30th Streets, increasing density and diversifying housing options, rather than throwing money at a developer who views a landmark hotel as an expendable bargaining chip, and whose proposal promises only to further drive up housing costs. 2006 was not that long ago, Mr. Thompson, and this proposal reeks of bubble-era broken promises. Looking at Virginia Beach demographic and economic data (here), Virginia Beach's population is younger than the Virginia average, with a slightly lower per capita income (but modestly higher household income). The homeownership rate is already near 66%, which indicates that these "luxury" units (even if financed and completed) would probably pull locals out of existing higher-end homes elsewhere in the city, or pull in out-of-towners searching for secondary homes. Nothing is inherently wrong with that, except that the city's population is growing much slower than it was during the 1970s-1990s, just 3% between 2000 and 2010. (The city estimates a growth rate of more than 2% between 2010 and 2012, but city estimates tend to overstate year-over-year when compared to official Census Bureau data; New Orleans and Detroit can attest to that). With a youthful population (who increasingly prefer denser housing options and can ill-afford "luxury" units) and flatlined income in the city, I would oppose this project even if the Cavalier would be preserved and restored beautifully. (Retreats to a dark corner again.)
  9. I want to state as a disclaimer that I love high-rise architecture, it's among my greatest passions, and whenever I drive around Hampton Roads I'm constantly picturing beautiful vistas with high-rises, especially in Downtown Norfolk. There is tremendous, often unseen potential in the few remaining open lots, and in some areas that are ripe for redevelopment, and the feel of the density Downtown is really something both exciting yet cozy. That said, I feel as though I must play Devil's Advocate. When I think about what makes a city great, in the context of quality of life and socio-cultural identity, I don't think Fortune 500 companies -- or, daresay, even economic boom times -- are prerequisites. Consider the case of Helsinki, Finland (of all places). The city has been a mainstay of Monocle magazine's "Liveable Cities Index"/ranking for years and, in 2011, finally reached the #1 spot. It has a great arts and live music scene, amazing restaurants and clubs, and a 24-hour energy that is enviable. The skyline is dotted with beautiful landmarks, the waterfront is in the midst of a massive redevelopment campaign, and, with a metro population of less than 1.4 million, it's smaller than Hampton Roads. Moreover, Helsinki does not have a single Fortune 500 company headquartered there. (Admittedly, Nokia is headquarted just outside the city in the suburb of Espoo. No joke, I totally giggle at that name every time.) While on the Monocle kick, there's a fascinating article in the current edition about when relatively poor cities have quite outstanding quality of life characteristics. An example is pre-boom Berlin (think, mid 1990s to roughly 2005), whose mayor famously said the city was "poor but sexy." Obviously Berlin and Norfolk are in two entirely different leagues, but the broader point is that cities have opportunities to build in a greater quality of life without needing an economic boom or a massive Fortune 500 relocation. I think Norfolk's goal looking forward should be two-fold. Getting a signature high-rise into the skyline, something that makes Norfolk and the region a little more identifiable to outsiders, would be a great start, but with the global economy still reeling that could be several years off. As has been often-discussed on UP, building filler buildings to increase street-level density -- various smaller projects, rather than one or two huge projects -- is probably a better-bet not only economically/feasibly, but in terms of creating a really dynamic atmosphere at the street level. Several of the projects along Granby (for instance, the new TCC student center project) accomplish this and keep the scale on the sidewalks approachable, rather than monolithic. Low and mid-rise buildings can accomplish what signature skyscrapers do as well; an iconic structure, like the new (2004) Copenhagen Opera House, is a good example (and ties in the notions of creating public-use spaces with dynamic functions). Just a few thoughts to move discussion along -- and I'm definitely not saying I wouldn't love to see a new, 500+ footer skyscraper go up somewhere in Downtown Norfolk
  10. The planner-economic development employee distinction is an important one that I failed to make, but I did not make the case that it is the city's responsibility to keep struggling businesses alive; rather, I do believe it is the city's responsibility to pursue development that is responsible rather than errant, that follows a comprehensive vision rather than allows developers to run amok. I would also still argue that her words counter her job description as a city development employee; if her job is to attract businesses, jobs, and revenue-generating events to the city, I fail to see how signing off on every proposed project in the city (irrespective of location or quality, which has been a mainstay of Newport News development) achieves that. Even though that responsibility is not hers -- she's probably an administrator, not a major driving force behind the city department's long-term work, though she may coordinate with city officials who do sign off on projects -- she still implicitly defended that lack of long-term design and planning vision that has been the hallmark of the city's development patterns. Moving businesses from strip mall to strip mall does not really count as attracting businesses. Also, if Ms. Meredith doesn't view her job as even remotely overlapping with urban planning, she should not have made the commentary she made that alludes to issues of comprehensive city planning (or the lack thereof; RE: discussion of vacancies along other Jefferson strip malls -- she made the discussion about the city government picking "winners and losers," which I do not believe reflects reality or the point of the reporter's question, which had more to do with how Jefferson Marketplace fit into the broader retail market of the city, an increasingly vacant market that is begging for redevelopment rather than new development on untouched land -- and I don't think that is the same as "picking" winners and losers, but rather setting realistic bounds for the pattern of growth which, given negligible population growth over the last decade in the city, should be a major consideration for the city. The city simply doesn't have to approve projects that don't coincide with a long-term plans for the city, whatever vision that might be that they haven't filled us in on.). I came down rather harshly on Ms. Meredith, personally, which reflects an unfair assessment of her role in the city, but also a growing cumulative frustration with the wasted potential of the city of Newport News.
  11. http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-jefferson-marketplace-20110709,0,3880596.story Here's my favorite (ahem...) quote from this Daily Press article about Jefferson Marketplace, a mixed-use, retail/residential development near the Newport News airport: I wrote an extensive criticism of the article -- and of the lack of a comprehensive development plan for the city -- here, but I'll replicate the upshot in a little less-verbose form. This might be the dumbest thing I've ever read from a city planner. Translation: "I'm a visionless city planner, so let the market decide what is built, when, where, and how, since they seem to know better." With all due respect to Ms. Meredith, she needs her head examined and her position with the City of Newport News should be reconsidered. Implicit in her words, Carol Meredith is arguing that (re)development should be dictated by the market, not the city. Is that not what the last decade of urban development across the US precisely did, with rather disastrous outcomes from Las Vegas to Miami, the valleys of California to Atlanta? Lack of regulation in housing markets and a lack of comprehensive, controlled urban planning proved just as disastrous as the lack of financial market regulation; left to their own devices, private interests have far less interest in the public good than in their own bottom line -- and, frankly, appropriately so. I'm not making a negative value judgment about the perils of private motives but rather making an argument that the role of city planners is to ensure the public good, guiding private development toward that end, rather than allowing private development to run rampant. Private development "run rampant" very succinctly describes the last decade of development for the City of Newport News and I hope they give serious reconsideration to not only Ms. Meredith's position with the city, but the overall (lack of) vision for the future.
  12. Hello everybody! It's been quite a long while since I've posted, but I found something that I had to share with everyone at UP (plus my family/friends are rather indifferent at best). http://www.siemens.com/entry/cc/en/greencityindex.htm The Siemens Green City Index is very interesting, but not too surprising, particularly for present company. It ranks major cities in given regions (Europe, North America, etc.) by 9 measures of commitment to green initiatives with an extensive guide to the methodology. (All data are current through the end of 2010, where available.) Spoiler alert (though not much of a surprise), San Francisco decisively outpaces other cities in North America, with comprehensive efforts toward green initiatives through construction (tons of LEED-certified buildings, among other measures), through commuting initiatives and the expansion of mass transit in the Bay Area, and other initiatives such as the foci of local businesses (high-tech and services). If nothing else, reading through the world's greenest cities' amenities and programs offers an interesting insight into the cutting edge of urban planning and design, as well as the highest benchmarks for design/planning success as defined by major international firms, e.g., Siemens, exactly the type of company many of us have long fantasized about coming to Hampton Roads. Local cities can take a lot of lessons from the cities on the list (not just SF and Copenhagen, but a range of cities to include Seattle, New York, Washington D.C., Brussels, among others), and a lot of these lessons correspond to things that have long been posted all over UP -- foster density and walkability wherever possible, pursue energy-efficient construction, elect energy-conscious leadership, improve transportation - especially mass transit, etc. Anyway, enjoy perusing the rankings! I already lost an hour of the holiday to it
  13. I saw this in the newspaper awhile back (a blurb or something, nothing overly specific). The city (as articulated by someone -- I don't recall exactly) is hoping this school will become a catalyst for further development downtown; eventually shops and restaurants will combine with apartments near the school. I don't anticipate downtown Newport News will exactly explode with development... but it can't get much worse, really, so I welcome it. Plus, the influx of all that money into the city's economy can't hurt either.
  14. http://www.dailypress.com/news/hampton/dp-nws-creative-phoebus-20100619,0,246141.story Interesting little read... I know a few people involved in the group of LGBT young professionals trying to kickstart this. Good, intelligent, and hard-working group that has great ideas; I'd love to see them come to fruition. And I've always thought that Phoebus had a lot of potential, and there are good bones in the community to build up from.
  15. BRIEFLY back to the master plan link, I loved that they're including some wetlands restoration as they expand their piers. Kudos to them for doing that!! (...As my own alma mater makes a point of systematically eradicating natural life from the campus..... ahem)
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