Better may lead to best in decades for area of Norfolk

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by Brian Farrell, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 17 at 6:07 AM

Better Block Project in Norview

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 NORFOLK -- It's been years since a couple blocks of Sewells Point Road had any real hustle and bustle to them. With any luck, that could change within the next few months.

Columbus Day Weekend, Team Better Block will help transform mostly empty businesses near Five Points. The group works with works with cities, developers, property/business owners, and other members of a community  to create quick and inexpensive changes  that improve and revitalize properties, highlighting the potential for ares to become “Complete Streets” again.

Typically, the process involves unshuttering vacant stores, filling them with pop-up businesses for a weekend. Other elements -- which include artistic and entertainment contributions -- round the transformation out. Essentially, the Better Block Project draws attention to an underutilized street with the idea that seeing its potential will generate long-term interest.

"Very, very excited," said Garnzie West, President of the Coronado/Inglenook Civic League.

He was among the group of people who took a foot tour of the targeted area Wednesday night.

West envisions businesses including a coffee shop, a doughnut shop, and an ice cream parlor taking up residence. He told 13News Now those could help make Sewells Point Road a walking destination for senior citizens.

"Come out, and help us, and get involved, and get things going out here in the Five Points area, because we are way overdue," stated West.

"We would like to participate to whatever extent we can," said property owner Jay Morgado. "We've already talked to two of our tenants, and they're looking forward to it, and, hopefully, we'll have the restaurant leased by then as well., and if not, we'll make that into a coffee shop for the day or something."

"The idea of being able to fill up this street and getting more lively businesses to come in here is definitely important to us," said Austin Loney who owns Norfolk Pawn Shop and the old bank building that sits below it.

"Just empty buildings is a problem on its own," Loney explained. "It makes it easier for gangs and, you know, criminals to be able to do their activities, so the idea of just having people on the street and, you know, people that are invested in the neighborhood would be positive no matter what."

Team Better Block will plan out specifics for the weekend the project will take hold of the area.

Norview is the third location for the project in Norfolk since the City hired the group. Previous locations were part of Granby Street in the since-designated arts district and West 35th Street.

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