NORFOLK, Va. — Leaders at the Downtown Norfolk Council are excited about what's happening downtown. New businesses are opening, construction is continuing, in spite of the pandemic.
"A lot of it had to do with we do have a great residential population in downtown and in the surrounding environment and those residents help support our downtown businesses, in particular, our downtown restaurants," said Downtown Norfolk Council President and CEO, Mary Miller.
Major Phillie Cheesesteaks is one of those new businesses, opening up just seven months ago on Granby Street. Owner, Allan Young, originally from Philadelphia stepped out on faith to give Norfolk a chance. He says business is good but the city needs to embrace more diversity to make downtown more vibrant.
"I just think, it could use a little more diversity and kind of embrace the new culture. Hip-hop is the wave no matter whether you're Black, White, Asian," said Young.
Miller believes development plans on the horizon will no doubt draw diverse crowds. "You have a casino on the waterfront, so you have much more foot traffic of people going back and forth of that area to the core of downtown."
More luxury apartments by real estate developer, Marathon Development Group, are coming in a downtown in which apartments are 98 percent occupied. "Gravity, which is the apartment complex that will happen behind Icon and Waterside Drive. That's going to start construction in the coming months. Fusion apartments, which is on the site that is gray street," said Miller.
The three recent high rises in Fort Norfolk; Harbor's Edge, EVMS' Waitzer Hall and CHKD's mental hospital will soon have a company with an apartment complex already under construction on the waterfront. Next door could become the site of mixed-use development.
The Downtown Norfolk Council 2030 map projects high rises along with waterfront at Harbor Park, which includes the casino; mixed-use and mixed-income developments in the Saint Pauls' area, and open space where MacArthur Mall sits.
The construction isn't arbitrary. The goal is to connect each part of downtown to the next, making it more pedestrian-friendly.
Anything we can do the knit together these areas of downtown, would just benefit everybody and we have a walkable downtown," said Miller.