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My recent trip back to Hampton Roads - VB part

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I thought I would do a quick write up on my recent trip back to Hampton Roads over the weekend.  It was the first time I have been back in over 13 years.  I grew up over in the Ocean Lakes area and took my wife to visit a number of the houses and neighborhoods we lived in. 

 

This write up will be based on my impression I got from the city and what has happened with it since I moved away.

 

Starting with the Oceanfront, it is really impressive the amount of new hotels along Atlantic and the amount of parking garages along Pacific, which actually make sense and is very fitting for the area.  Obviously Atlantic still looks and feels the same, basically a big tourist trap like it is designed to be.  Peabody's still has the same crowd of people waiting outside of it.  The new convention center is massive and looks great from 19th St, but looks utilitarian from the back when coming in from 264.  I actually miss the look of the old convention center from the highway.  There needs to be crosswalk lights put in place for people getting from the parking to the convention center to help reduce the amount of people just wandering out into the road with traffic.  I saw too many close calls and stupid things people were doing with the cheerleader competition that looked to be going on there over the weekend.

 

The Laskin Rd change looks good, very urban beach feeling with lots of room still to grow in that area.  I can definitely see that area turn into a unique urban district at the oceanfront.

 

Chick's Beach along Shore Dr all still looks the same, but that area feels like it hasn't changed since the 80s.

 

The renovations going on at Lynnhaven Mall are looking good, though the mall looks much smaller than I remember when I was younger, but that is common when you visit something when you are a kid compared to an adult.  Though the surrounding areas looks the same suburbia as when I left.

 

The big change that I visited was obviously the Town Center in Pembroke.  When I left they had just cut the trees down and were just starting to build the first buildings.  I think they had just put the first crane up right before we left.  So needless to say, everything in that area was completely new to me.

 

Seeing a skyline in VB is something I never thought I would see.  The Westin is definitely a big tower in the skyline and really stands out.  The cluster of buildings around the Hoffler buildings looks good as well, I really like the new building overall.

 

We took a walk through the TC which obviously only took us about 20 minutes to do to go from the garage at Dicks to walk through most of the blocks and back.  Overall it is still a very small area, but a good start.  The density of the new downtown is good, as well as the building placements.  The performing arts center is beautiful, probably the best piece of architecture in the TC.

 

My issues with the TC come in the form of traffic, obviously everyone in VB drives, we all know this, and that shouldn't be denied, but if the city wants to make the new downtown walkable, they need to put lights or 4 way stop signs at every intersection.  There were too many points crossing the streets where we weren't sure if the drivers were gonna actually stop for us as they try to get to the parking garages that were the closest to where they were going.  Also, people in VB need to realize that one doesn't need to actually park right next to where they are going at all time, it is a walkable area, they can park a few blocks away and actually walk.

 

The retail is also an issue in the TC, there are too many stretches in the area that are void of potential retail spaces, especially with the new building along Constitution.  That whole complex should have retail on all four sides.

 

Another issue I had was with the city of Virginia Beach, while this TC is very ambitious for the city, the city seems to lack the ability to make the big picture actually happen.  The new Walmart and facade renovation of the Pembroke Mall are proof of this.  I don't like the fact that the city isn't buying up as much land as possible around the TC for future development, instead it seems like they choose to let the developers decide the future of their downtown.  It would have made more sense for the city to buy up as much land as possible, put in a street grid and then sell off the parcels to developers with a guide with what they can and cannot develop.  That would have made it much easier for future expansions of the downtown.

 

Overall we had a great trip and I was happy to see the progress the city has done, and obviously I enjoyed loading up on food places I use to go to, but definitely happy with my choice to leave.  I hope this didn't come off as too critical or negative because that wasn't my intention, there is just so much more the city could and should be doing.

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Fantastic post! It's always interesting to see what "outsiders" think of our region, and to hear from a current outsider who grew up here is even better. Do you have write-ups for any other cities in the region?

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Fantastic post! It's always interesting to see what "outsiders" think of our region, and to hear from a current outsider who grew up here is even better. Do you have write-ups for any other cities in the region?

Nah, it was a really short trip.  We went up to Williamsburg for a day, and only really had enough time to visit the places I grew up and spend a little bit of time in Norfolk.  We had an impromptu stop in DC for a few hours which was a lot of fun.

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