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Norfolk History


wrldcoupe4

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In this universe, Church St. definitely remains in place, and preserve as many buildings as possible. I also agree with what became Young Terrace being the “new downtown”, leading up to Church St. I know Tidewater Gardens hinged on the demolition of many buildings along Church St. that were beyond repairable, but the more you can preserve, the better. 

I also work out a compromise between Norfolk and PA/Norfolk Counties. Maybe a city-county partnership. 

Finally, two buildings that I would never have let go: the old train station and City Market. 

8DF00276-6F1B-41A3-9205-1223E39665A3.jpeg

F78809B3-C05E-4AF9-885A-EA9D6FEF2097.jpeg

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On 2/8/2021 at 6:47 AM, EJ_LEWIS said:

Downtown Norfolk Skyline in 1985.  Waterside was still a busy place and had become a part of Norfolk's urban fabric.  I remember those days well when Downtown Norfolk became a destination on the weekends.  In the foreground is the USS America Air Craft Carrier.  

USS_America_(CV-66)_Norfolk.jpg

This is my childhood right here, I remember the occasional trip to downtown Norfolk during these years.  Whenever it was my mom and I, she would always park in the Waterside garage, but when it was my dad driving, we always parked at the surface lots on Boush because they were cheaper. These trips to downtown was some of my first experiences of an "urban" city.

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It's hard to explain, but even with a smaller skyline, something about mid-80s downtown seems to have more density. I know some of those buildings on Main St. were demolished, plus the SMA tower, so maybe that's it.

Looking at the vacant lots, if I could go back to that exact day, I'd definitely like to add 10-15 stories to any planned building that went up, and not take up so much space with six-story parking garages. Our skyline would look much different had they built the towers atop the garages, instead of side-by-side. For what became MacArthur, I can't remember where I saw it, but around that same time, there were plans for a mixed-use development with office towers and retail (I think JCPenney). That would've been an interesting development, plus you still could've built a "mini-mall" around that, maybe taller and not as spread out?

Random, but does anyone remember these two glossy, black light fixtures that sat on the corner of St. Paul and Waterside? They were right in front of the Omni/Sheraton, were probably about 10' tall, and had rows of neon lights that changed colors. I haven't seen this since the late-80s, but at five years old, I was always fascinated by them.

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This is worth viewing the whole 8 minute clip.   This clip is from a program that aired on WTAR TV 3 in the 1950s and 60s.  The program aired on 9/7/1956 and its interesting to see them talking about adding a new civic arena to Downtown and developing the riverfront. They also talk about redesigning the traffic patterns around Downtown.  You see the beginning planning for Brambleton Ave, St. Paul's Ave and Waterside Dr.    Could this be the beginning of planning for what would become Scope and Waterside?

https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/wtar/id/1925/rec/1

Edited by EJ_LEWIS
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The planning for Scope, and Chrysler Hall, yes, and “The Golden Triangle”, and a riverfront hotel “to be the Omni International” and the esplanade in front of it.  For Waterside per se, probably not as much as it predated what Rouse did in Baltimore by some years.  It definitely laid the groundwork for what would become Waterside and Town Point Park. 
 

We all bemoan the loss of many architecturally significant buildings from downtown, but many were lost due to a necessity to widen what were streets which had been designed for horse and buggy traffic. The new streets had to accommodate traffic patterns brought about by suburban “white flight” and the advent of interstates such as the Norfolk - VB Expressway (now 264) and tunnel crossings of the Elizabeth River. There was keen interest in making sure those moving out could easily access remaining businesses, etc.  Surely, more care could have been taken with much of the demolition, but the zeitgeist of those times was much different than it is now regarding preservation. 

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On 4/8/2021 at 9:32 AM, NFKjeff said:

The planning for Scope, and Chrysler Hall, yes, and “The Golden Triangle”, and a riverfront hotel “to be the Omni International” and the esplanade in front of it.  For Waterside per se, probably not as much as it predated what Rouse did in Baltimore by some years.  It definitely laid the groundwork for what would become Waterside and Town Point Park. 
 

We all bemoan the loss of many architecturally significant buildings from downtown, but many were lost due to a necessity to widen what were streets which had been designed for horse and buggy traffic. The new streets had to accommodate traffic patterns brought about by suburban “white flight” and the advent of interstates such as the Norfolk - VB Expressway (now 264) and tunnel crossings of the Elizabeth River. There was keen interest in making sure those moving out could easily access remaining businesses, etc.  Surely, more care could have been taken with much of the demolition, but the zeitgeist of those times was much different than it is now regarding preservation. 

Unfortunately the city chose to sacrifice its history and walkable urban downtown for motorists so they could easily driving in and out of downtown without having to walk around downtown.  It is a real shame that Norfolk chose that route over trying to improve the quality of life in and around downtown. 

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On 4/8/2021 at 12:32 PM, NFKjeff said:

The planning for Scope, and Chrysler Hall, yes, and “The Golden Triangle”, and a riverfront hotel “to be the Omni International” and the esplanade in front of it.  For Waterside per se, probably not as much as it predated what Rouse did in Baltimore by some years.  It definitely laid the groundwork for what would become Waterside and Town Point Park. 
 

We all bemoan the loss of many architecturally significant buildings from downtown, but many were lost due to a necessity to widen what were streets which had been designed for horse and buggy traffic. The new streets had to accommodate traffic patterns brought about by suburban “white flight” and the advent of interstates such as the Norfolk - VB Expressway (now 264) and tunnel crossings of the Elizabeth River. There was keen interest in making sure those moving out could easily access remaining businesses, etc.  Surely, more care could have been taken with much of the demolition, but the zeitgeist of those times was much different than it is now regarding preservation. 

A lot of the housing was dilapidated and needed to be demolished, but the city went way way too far and demolished buildings that were old but were sturdy.  The mindset seemed to be Norfolk has to be remade into a model city and old structures don't fit in the model city mode.   

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8 hours ago, EJ_LEWIS said:

A lot of the housing was dilapidated and needed to be demolished, but the city went way way too far and demolished buildings that were old but were sturdy.  The mindset seemed to be Norfolk has to be remade into a model city and old structures don't fit in the model city mode.   

I am not sure how true this is, when you look at the neighborhoods that were demolished, they were mostly full of African American people living in them and most of the businesses were black owned businesses. I am sure there were a lot of prewar buildings that lacked basic water but I think there were a lot of buildings that were just fine, especially the commercial buildings. 

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12 hours ago, urbanlife said:

I am not sure how true this is, when you look at the neighborhoods that were demolished, they were mostly full of African American people living in them and most of the businesses were black owned businesses. I am sure there were a lot of prewar buildings that lacked basic water but I think there were a lot of buildings that were just fine, especially the commercial buildings. 

I've seen videos from NRHA from the 1960s and they filmed the neighborhoods and some of the houses looked like they could be blown over in a stiff wind, but there were well built homes and businesses  owned by black people that were caught up in the urban "renewal" craze of the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Church St. is nothing like it was 40 and 50 years ago.  Only remaining structure is the Attucks Theatre.  Now the street looks like some suburban hell you would find in Chesapeake or Virginia Beach.   Yes I agree that many building demolished in this period were fine.  

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On 4/16/2021 at 10:40 AM, EJ_LEWIS said:

I've seen videos from NRHA from the 1960s and they filmed the neighborhoods and some of the houses looked like they could be blown over in a stiff wind, but there were well built homes and businesses  owned by black people that were caught up in the urban "renewal" craze of the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Church St. is nothing like it was 40 and 50 years ago.  Only remaining structure is the Attucks Theatre.  Now the street looks like some suburban hell you would find in Chesapeake or Virginia Beach.   Yes I agree that many building demolished in this period were fine.  

Church St especially, when you see old photos and know it was a busy black district that "needed" to have the road widen even though the road just east of it was widened and this one could have stayed an old fashioned urban street but had to be renewed really showcases how bad racism was then. Here in Portland, the city leaders literally had an entire African American neighborhood demolished so an arena could be built. They also had an another neighborhood full of Jewish and Italian (if I remember correctly) leveled so some mid century apartment towers in the park could be built. 

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On 4/16/2021 at 1:06 AM, urbanlife said:

I think there were a lot of buildings that were just fine, especially the commercial buildings. 

On 4/`6/2021 at  01:40 PM, EJ_LEWIS said:

Yes I agree that many building demolished in this period were fine.  

 

Even though many of the pre-1960s office buildings were structurally sound, it was often not economically feasible to continue to use them as office buildings.  One big problem would have been air conditioning.  I am not talking about the initial cost of the A/C equipment since the equipment would have been required for new construction as well as remodeling.  The buildings were not insulated adequately for air conditioning, but that could be resolved by added insulation on the inside of the exterior walls and giving up a few square feet of floor area.  The big problem was the ceiling heights were too low.  There was not enough headroom to add air conditioning ductwork and modern lighting and hide it all with a new suspended ceiling. There was no feasible way to mitigate that problem. Another problem would have been the column layout.  The construction materials and methods used back then limited column spacing to 20 to 25 feet.   That was okay when everyone had individual offices, but as businesses transitioned into open offices and cubicle farms, the tenants demanded open, column-free office spaces.  The older buildings could not compete. 

 

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3 hours ago, virginia pe said:

On 4/`6/2021 at  01:40 PM, EJ_LEWIS said:

Yes I agree that many building demolished in this period were fine.  

 

Even though many of the pre-1960s office buildings were structurally sound, it was often not economically feasible to continue to use them as office buildings.  One big problem would have been air conditioning.  I am not talking about the initial cost of the A/C equipment since the equipment would have been required for new construction as well as remodeling.  The buildings were not insulated adequately for air conditioning, but that could be resolved by added insulation on the inside of the exterior walls and giving up a few square feet of floor area.  The big problem was the ceiling heights were too low.  There was not enough headroom to add air conditioning ductwork and modern lighting and hide it all with a new suspended ceiling. There was no feasible way to mitigate that problem. Another problem would have been the column layout.  The construction materials and methods used back then limited column spacing to 20 to 25 feet.   That was okay when everyone had individual offices, but as businesses transitioned into open offices and cubicle farms, the tenants demanded open, column-free office spaces.  The older buildings could not compete. 

 

I'm not talking office buildings, I am talking about small retail storefront buildings that are 1-4 stories tall.  What used to exist there was the same types of old buildings you would find in any old urban district on the east coast and those types of buildings most definitely would have a value today.

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