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Chesapeake Pirate

Trader Building Progress

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I found this site googling around for some information on the condominiums in the Harbor Heights project in downtown Norfolk, and have really enjoyed all the information about development in our peculiar little corner of Virginia. My wife and I gave up traditional surbubia last year and moved from the Great Bridge area of Chesapeake to a downtown condominium. We absolutely love it, and love to follow all the projects that are planned.

A friend who lives in Cary, NC emailed the following to me. It seems to address the "theft" issue by Norfolk of current and future jobs of Trader Publishing by making it pretty clear that this was a business decision of Trader doing what they perceive to be in their best interest.

I think the Virginia Beach attempt to magically build a downtown is a good thing, even if it seems like keeping up with Norfolk. Development of both with make the entire area stronger. Personally, I prefer my view of the USS Wisconsin and the Elizabeth River to a view of Pembroke Mall, but I applaud the Town Center concept and look forward to visiting some of the attractive chain restaurants.

One final comment. This area will never be all that it could be due to the parochial attitudes and arbitrary political boundaries, and the rediculous Hampton Roads name. However, it is a very nice place to live as evidenced by all the people who make their home here. Much progress has been made in recent years, and I look forward to seeing more.

One more final comment. What's up with including information about Hampton Roads in the "North Atlantic Seaboard" section? Just another example of how Hampton Roads/Tidewater, VA finds it tough to find it's niche :)

edited for copyright

http://newsobserver.com/news/story/2166304p-8547721c.html

Published: Feb 28, 2005

Modified: Feb 28, 2005 6:33 PM

Norfolk turns worker-friendly

The USS Wisconsin, a World War II battleship, is docked at the end of Plume Street on Norfolk's downtown. On the right is Trader Publishing Co.'s current building. The expanding company thinks younger workers like working downtown.

Staff Photos by Sher Stoneman

By RICHARD STRADLING, Staff Writer

NORFOLK, Va. -- Trader Publishing Co.'s search for a place to build a new headquarters for its Internet division came down to a choice between suburban Virginia Beach and downtown Norfolk.

Twenty years ago, that would have been an easy call. Empty lots, vacant storefronts and office buildings that cleared out at night formed a patchwork at the center of Norfolk, an old seaport and Navy town in southeastern Virginia. Cathy Coleman, head of the city's downtown booster group, looked out her window on her first days on the job in 1983 and watched drug dealers and prostitutes doing business on the street.

The view from Coleman's office has changed, and so has the equation for companies such as Trader Publishing as they decide where to put their workers. Decades of aggressive demolition and redevelopment by the city have made downtown Norfolk a hub of shopping and entertainment and a hot place to live. Employers who want more than a sterile office park are taking note.

Trader Publishing chose downtown Norfolk because it wanted to put its Internet division in a place that would help attract and keep talented employees. The company's president and CEO, Conrad Hall, figured that workers would rather be in a lively downtown than "stuck in a cul-de-sac out in the woods."

"Look at who's downtown on nights and weekends," Hall said. "It's the young people we want working for us."

Cities such as Norfolk, Raleigh and Durham long counted on government agencies, banks and law firms to remain downtown even as stores and people left. But Norfolk shows that Triangle cities can attract new employers to their cores by creating the right urban ambience.

Trader plans to break ground this spring on a 20-story building on Granby Street, Norfolk's old commercial center, near restaurants and nightspots with such names as Guadalajara City Cafe, Domo Sushi and Blue Hippo.

The new building will eventually house 1,600 workers. The company, which publishes more than 735 magazines and trade papers nationwide, will continue to occupy a seven-story building across the street.

In some ways, Hall, 61, is a classic downtown booster, a Norfolk native proud of his city. He's the kind of homegrown CEO that cities lose when banks merge and family-owned businesses are swallowed by large corporations.

But Hall doesn't talk like a hopeful civic salesman simply doing his part to bring downtown back. Downtown is back, he says, and his company will benefit from being there.

A vote of confidence

A new $55 million office tower and all those workers are great news, said Coleman, who heads the Downtown Norfolk Council. But even more important was Trader's endorsement of downtown.

"It's sending a strong message about downtown being a place that employees want to work," she said. "They could have gone anywhere."

Others are coming too. This month, Maersk Line, Ltd., a shipping company, announced it will move its headquarters from suburban Norfolk to three floors in a downtown tower, enough space for about 200 workers. The main draw, said David Sloane, who is overseeing the move, was a good environment for workers.

"There's just so much for them to do down there, especially compared to where we are now," Sloane said.

Dave Willman moved his company, Stratum Marketing, from a nearby neighborhood to a sidewalk-level office on Main Street last year. He figured the added exposure was worth the much higher rent. It also turned out to be a good move for him and his six employees.

"Once I pull into my parking garage in the morning, the rest of my day is spent walking," said Willman, 45. "Four of my best accounts, I walk to their meetings or they come to my office."

The 12 percent vacancy rate for downtown office space matches the region as a whole, said Don Crigger, senior director of office properties for Advantis Real Estate Services Co. But the decision by Maersk and others to move downtown will soon bring the rate down to single digits, he said.

"There's a good strong future for downtown," he said.

Developer Bobby Wright has renovated several old brick and stone buildings downtown and says all 87,000 square feet of office space he owns are occupied.

Wright, who also runs a brokerage, said new clubs and restaurants have created a "cool factor" that attracts companies. His tenants include a firm that designs online games, a wireless Internet provider and the publisher of an alternative weekly newspaper.

"In the early '90s, we had to beg, borrow and steal to get people to even entertain the idea of moving downtown," Wright said. "Now, they call us.".........

Competing bids

When Trader Publishing opens its new building, it will move hundreds of workers to downtown Norfolk from an office park in nearby Virginia Beach, the state's largest city. The five-story Virginia Beach office, clad in reflective glass, overlooks a freeway next to a pond surrounded with benches where people can eat lunch.

In reality, though, most people eat at their desks or get in their cars at lunchtime, said Rick Murchake, vice president of Trader Web Services.

"You've got to hop in your car to get hot, fast, mediocre food," said Murchake, 45.

Virginia Beach officials had hoped Trader Publishing would remain in the city and build its new offices there. Virginia Beach has no downtown, but the city is attempting to build one called The Town Center, on a new grid of streets across from a mall. City officials offered to build Trader a parking garage if the company built there, Hall said.

But Hall said no. He thinks The Town Center is a good idea but says the 10-lane boulevards that lead to it are already clogged.

"The traffic there is just awful, absolutely awful," he said.

Staff writer Richard Stradling can be reached at 829-4739 or rstradli@newsobserver.com.

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Well i went to the trader site today. The lot was still open, i asked a very old and cranky lot attendant what the deal was and he said that tommorrow is the last day the lot will be open and Monday is actually the day they will start construction. I also took the liberty of scoping out places to take pictures from. About the best place i found was the 10th floor of the suntrust building parking deck. Excellent views of the core downtown area and the Trader and Hilton contruction sites. Parking is 75 cents an hour but if u don't want to pay you can just as easily park on the street (free on weekends) and take the elevator to the 10th floor. I plan on returning there once construction activity has picked up and will post pics here when i do.

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So construction on the Trader Tower is truly underway now. I drove by the site today

Norfolk didn't skip a beat. They said Monday and they meant Monday. There were cranes and construction vehicles everywhere, flat bed trucks with what looked like I beams on them, and they even had some streets cordoned off. It was quite a spectacle. Hopefully I'll get some time in the coming days to get out there and take some pics.

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So construction on the Trader Tower is truly underway now. I drove by the site today

Norfolk didn't skip a beat. They said Monday and they meant Monday. There were cranes and construction vehicles everywhere, flat bed trucks with what looked like I beams on them, and they even had some streets cordoned off. It was quite a spectacle. Hopefully I'll get some time in the coming days to get out there and take some pics.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Try and take some photos of the construction of harbor heights too if you can. I would but im so busy right now

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Don't think I'm mad or something, but I was a little surprised to see NO ONE working at the Trader Site yesterday when I walked by there. In reality, that pile-driver hasn't moved anywhere and has stayed on the same spot on that site in the last 3 days but it moved 3 times to different spots on that lot in the first week of construction. What's up with that? Plus most of those trees, brushery, concrete curbs and that ugly parking lot attendant stand is still sitting there. The whole lot is blocked off with a fence and closed but if you ask me, you can still park there with the exception of the corner where that pile-driver is at. Yeah I know I'm being a little impatient but I guess it's because it was torture to said 8 months of them to even close the lot. ok im done ranting lol

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Don't think I'm mad or something, but I was a little surprised to see NO ONE working at the Trader Site yesterday when I walked by there. In reality, that pile-driver hasn't moved anywhere and has stayed on the same spot on that site in the last 3 days but it moved 3 times to different spots on that lot in the first week of construction. What's up with that? Plus most of those trees, brushery, concrete curbs and that ugly parking lot attendant stand is still sitting there. The whole lot is blocked off with a fence and closed but if you ask me, you can still park there with the exception of the corner where that pile-driver is at. Yeah I know I'm being a little impatient but I guess it's because it was torture to said 8 months of them to even close the lot. ok im done ranting lol

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Who knows. The first day there was tons of construction activity, but that was just getting everything set up. I wonder if they're waiting for an official groundbreaking ceremony (which hasn't happened yet to my knowledge) before they truly commence. I do know that one day last week that pile driver was actually running and they drove piles into the spots that you referred too. Not sure what that was all about though.

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Who knows. The first day there was tons of construction activity, but that was just getting everything set up. I wonder if they're waiting for an official groundbreaking ceremony (which hasn't happened yet to my knowledge) before they truly commence. I do know that one day last week that pile driver was actually running and they drove piles into the spots that you referred too. Not sure what that was all about though.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Construction is a funny beast. Anything could be holding it up right now. They could be a simply put making a showing up to let the area know that it is progress. They could be waiting on othe equipment or things to really start the job.

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Construction is a funny beast. Anything could be holding it up right now. They could be a simply put making a showing up to let the area know that it is progress. They could be waiting on othe equipment or things to really start the job.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I just hope the shortage of steel doesn't hold this building back. If they are waiting for a new equipment, i hope its to get that ugly attendant building, all that brushery, and curbs out of the way.

Then again, I also think there will be a ground breaking when that lot is cleared out.

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The last two are of the parking garage that is part of 388 Boush St. That whole garage will be wrapped with condos, which will be called 388 Boush St.

It will look something like this when finished. There will be 94+ condos that will have at least 9 ft. tall ceilings, others will have 11 ft tall ceilings and some with ceilings as high as 17 ft.

388front.jpg

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They have to put in nearly a 1000 pilings (sp?) before anything major happens.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

They have a looooooong way to go then. I went by there this afternoon. Both the pile driver and excavator were just sitting on the lot. There are three pilings in a cluster near the center of the lot and one piling off by itself close to Granby St. Maybe the builders are waiting for the weather to finally break before they start construction in earnest.

4 down - appx. 996 to go! ^_^

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There could be so many reasons for them not driving pilings, there could be utlities in the way or they might be waiting for more pilings. They may have changed something to the building

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Yeah, anything is possible. Its just that since I (along with others) have waited so long for Trader to start construction and now that construction has begun, it seems like its going at a rather slow pace. I know that buildings aren't constructed overnight so I'll just wait patiently and leave it up to the contractors - they get paid the big bucks because they know the ins and outs of building construction.

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It might be a showing that they are starting even thought they are not really ready. To show the development is really going on downtown.

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It might be a showing that they are starting even thought they are not really ready. To show the development is really going on downtown.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

lol, i've thought that myself. Not trying to be cynical but i've always wondered if they'd actually do something like that just for show.

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They have done some more work on the Trader building. Mostly Earth moving, but I thought I would post these pics for everyone.

DSC019982.jpg

DSC019992.jpg

DSC020002.jpg

DSC020012.jpg

Hope you enjoy.

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