Local experts in art, animals, theater, ecology, food, urbanism and regionalism give their visions for the 757 a generation into the future. This Friday AltDaily is showing “Back to the Future”, the 1985 Sci-Fi comedy classic, at the Naro.
The movie starts at 9:15 p.m., for what we hope to be a great gathering of fun, film, and friends. Most of you probably know the story, but the film relays the journey of a teenager, Marty McFly, as he finds himself thirty years back in 1955, struggling to recreate his future and eventually attempting to return to his everyday life in 1985.
The film made us wonder:where we will be in 30 years? We as in Hampton Roads, our community. What would someone from 2041 think if they were sent back into time, to 2011, to now? We came up with a list of questions that peaked our curiosity for the future. In order to get some answers we contacted locals specializing in different aspects of the community. Here’s what they had to say about our future.
What will the local art scene look like in 30 years?
Amy Brandt, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Chrysler Museum:
“As a newcomer to the area and a former Brooklynite, I am deeply impressed with the enormous vibrancy of the Hampton Roads arts community. There are many passionate individuals who are continuously working to keep art alive and relevant to our everyday lives. I think this momentum will only increase in the years to come. The Chrysler Museum in particular has many dynamic projects on the horizon, including the opening of a new glass studio, a planned building expansion, and a set of exciting programs that will bring world-class artists to the area.
Kelly Conway, Curator of Glass, Chrysler Museum:
“The Chrysler’s outstanding glass collection coupled with the new studio programming will result in an explosion of local art projects centered at the Museum. Performance art and large installations with glass will spill out of the Museum walls to create a vibrant campus which will connect us to downtown and our surrounding neighborhood. The Chrysler’s planned renovation will allow the Museum to develop an even more invigorated exhibition program and to display a greater amount of work from our internationally-renowned collection. We will continue to pursue partnerships with other organizations and institutions on a local and national level. These collaborations are the key to the future of the arts and allow us to keep things fresh and innovative. All of these events will help us expand our national and international presence and will have a considerable impact on the local community.”
What will Downtown Norfolk look like?
Kevin Murphy, President, Downtown Norfolk Civic League
“In 2041, it will truly be ‘Back to the Future’ in Downtown Norfolk. A train will connect downtown and Ocean View, ‘like it did until 1948’; a redeveloped Waterside will thrive as a festival marketplace, ‘like it did in the 1980s’; Granby Street will bustle with boutique retailers, ‘like it did in the 1950s’; and passenger train service will terminate at a train station behind Harbor Park, ‘like it did during the first half of the 20th century.'”
What will the Elizabeth River look like in 30 years?
Marjorie Mayfield, Director of Elizabeth River Foundation:
“Our goal is to make the Elizabeth River safe for swimming and fishing by 2020, so by 2041, we will have more than achieved that. People will be swimming in the river without fear of getting sick, and the fish will be healthier (no elevated cancer rates), as we will have completed the cleanup of all known toxic hotspots–the first is underway now. You will still see the river lined with industries as well as homes, but we will have succeeded in another of our goals, to make environmental stewardship the business standard on the Elizabeth. We’ve come along way toward that already, with 84’River Star’ businesses that each year report millions more pounds of pollution reduced. In residential areas, our River Star Homes yard flag will become a common sight. The flag indicates households committed to easy things people can do at home to take care of the Elizabeth. More wetlands and more trees will create a greener shore, with more critters living along it, like the river otter that showed up this summer at Money Point, our biggest clean up site. I also think that development will have had no choice but to start pulling back from the immediate shoreline in many areas, as there are most government authorities now agree in predicting continued sea level rise.”
What will tourism look like in Virginia Beach in the summer of 2041?
Pamela Lingle, Communications Manager, Virginia Beach Convention Center:
“Virginia Beach will be a quality year-round tourism destination. Visitors will be able to plan their vacation in a virtual environment. Getting to ‘Coastal Virginia’ will be a breeze with high speed rail and multiple highways to get people here with minimal delays. Green hospitality options will be the norm. Visitors can leave their cars and use mass transit to get to the airport, the oceanfront, and attractions throughout the region. They will be able to charge their electric cars quickly and in almost any location. Hospitality businesses–hotels, restaurants, and attractions–will be sustainable, many powered by solar or wind power. Technology will make the visitors experience stress free with wireless access everywhere. Reservations for restaurants, tickets for shows, and admissions to attractions will only be a click away. Your hotel will be able to follow your trip by GPS and will know when you will arrive.There will be many new options for entertainment, attractions and multiple districts for first class year round dining, entertainment, and shopping. The key words for the future visitors experience will be virtual and stress free.”
Where will Hampton Roads get its food from?
Rachel Burns, Director, Buy Fresh Buy Local:
“In my ideal, Utopian future, Hampton Roads will be getting its food from, well, Hampton Roads! I strongly believe, in actual reality, that the local food movement is catching on. And I don’t think it’s a trend or a fad. I think it’s here to stay because it makes sense on so many levels. Also, once you’ve tasted local food and you understand the importance of it, it’s hard to go back to buying food mindlessly from the grocery store. So as more and more people become aware of the benefits of this movement, the harder it will be for them to go back to buying apples from Washington, strawberries from Florida, Asparagus from Honduras, and meat from who knows where (they don’t have to tell you).
Another reason I see this in the future of Hampton Roads is because we are mightily blessed in this area with so much amazing food. I can’t say that the entire country will be eating local in 30 years, but I think with the wealth of local seafood, meats, produce, vegetables, peanuts, honey, and other products, Hampton Roads residents wouldn’t be sacrificing much in pledging to eat locally. In fact, we’d probably all eat a lot better if we really stuck to what this area does best. So, bring on the future–we’re ready for it.”
Bev Sell, 5 Points Farm Market:
“One: Getting our Food from Corporate Mono Industrial Farms. If we continue to allow our food system to be contaminated by corporate greed, genetically modified organisms and chemicals, the rate of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity will continue to increase at meteoric speed and ultimately result in shorter life spans. As an example, the number of Americans struggling with weight problems has soared and obesity is now the second-leading cause of preventable death. One out of four Virginia adults and one out of five youths are obese. Eighty percent of overweight children between the ages of 10 and 15 were obese at 25. Our once healthy communities will become weak and dependent on pills as a substitute for food.
OR: Getting our food from small farmers and each other. In 2041, we will have become empowered with knowledge and commitment. Food and water are our currency. Pill prescriptions have been replaced with therapeutic nutrition prescriptions for our ailments. Our food system is sustainable. Environmentally sound practices are implemented in all of our office buildings and homes, which include rain barrels or cisterns to capture rain water and equipment that converts it into drinking water. Green roofs with vegetable gardens are on all new homes and the structures are also net zero, using solar power to provide energy. Vacant lots have all been converted into growing spaces for community shared food. Older buildings are transformed into vertical farms that provide jobs by day and shelter by night for our homeless. Neighborhoods feature lush vegetable gardens in every yard, front and back. Neighbors share the harvest with each other and trade recipes, bringing everyone together for the greater good”.
Will we have more bike and pedestrian side streets for people to travel without a car? Any eco-friendly vehicles for alternatives to cars?
Wes Cheney, owner, VeloBamboo, board member of Bike Norfolk:
“I’m dreaming of a fleet of fifty bamboo bikes, built locally by VeloBamboo, for Norfolk Bike Share. Not only will they be a convenient source of shared transportation around the westside of Norfolk, but they’ll look really cool, too. And within five years I see hundreds of ‘sharrows‘ on the streets of Norfolk, encouraging even more people to join a burgeoning community of local cyclists”.
Paul Forehand, Management Analyst, Norfolk Parks and Recreation :
“We may say with certainty that our city will be much more accommodating to alternate methods of moving around town. Some very exciting new approaches are being used to make biking and walking on our streets more attractive and safe. In the past we were pretty much limited to separate built from scratch bike paths or on street bike lanes. Both are valuable assets to any community, but have cost comfort/ability level and space limitations.
Portland State University and Alta Planning and Design have developed a concept called the Bike Boulevard. This approach looks for low volume, low speed streets and utilizes traffic calming and reduction, signage and pavement marking along with Bike-Ped intersection treatments. The result is a natural blending of ways to move about the city and its neighborhoods.
To this end Norfolk has recently established a Task Force of planning, design, construction professionals, and citizens to look at current and future street projects to see what opportunities exist to utilize any of the methods listed above. Additionally we hope in the near future to develop an actual Bike-Ped Master Plan that will guide us in planning and funding our bike-ped future.
A critical component of this future is our own rapidly growing bike culture. Streets that are bike and pedestrian friendly are a vital quality of life component to any city. Hundreds of citizens participated in last springs Bike Month. The Bike Norfolk organization was the driving force behind the landmark awakening of this new culture.
With regard to a new eco-friendly vehicle I would say the answer would be a qualified yes. The cars we drive today are many times more efficient than my first car, a 1957 Mercury that weighed 3,200 lbs and got somewhere between 15 and 18 mpg with gas selling at 31 cents per gallon. The market and EPA will continue to push the trend toward better vehicles.”
What will be in the space where Waterside is right now?
Rick Henn, Interim Director, Waterside:
“What will exist where Waterside sits now in the year 2041? I would hope a gathering place on the Elizabeth River for visitors and Hampton Roads residents to enjoy the water and sunsets.”
What will the local theater scene look like in 30 years?
Patrick Mullins, Associate Artistic Director, Virginia Stage Company:
“In 30 years, the theatre scene here will have blossomed. There will be several smaller theatres presenting alternative work. At least one more, if not two equity houses will have opened to serve the beach and or peninsula and will help monetize the vacation crowd.
Warehouses in Ghent and the beach will convert to work spaces for alternative physical theatre and ensemble created theatre groups–providing an affordable place for artist from across the US and across the world to come and work, while able to draw inspiration from the nature and beaches our area offers. Virginia Stage Company and other companies will continue to commission new works and will sometimes serve as a springboard for commercial productions looking for a convenient place outside of NY to put up a first performance. Training programs from ODU, Regent, VSC, and CNU will continue to draw more and more national recognition.
As the theatre of the future finds itself, the fairly blank slate of Hampton Roads could become an amazing workplace for folks from across the country. All it takes is a little creative thinking and creative funding. Theatre is taking a democratic swing right now. A swing toward becoming an art form of the people, not of the elite. In a world like that, Hampton Roads has the advantage. Honest people living thoughtful lives by the sea. Some great folks are creating the beginnings of a great movement right now.I can’t wait to watch to it grow.”
What new type of establishment will popularize in Hampton Roads?
Missy Schmidt, Vice President, Strategic Communication and Marketing, Hampton Roads Partnership
“1. Google established its Google-East headquarters at Fort Monroe over 20 years ago, where, partnered with the National Park Service, they developed a national center of excellence for history education. Today, using Hampton Roads’ prominence in Modeling & Simulation, Google-East is changing the way a ‘living history museum’ is viewed. History becomes a much sought after advanced degree program again for its new ‘cool’ factor.
2. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on the Eastern Shore partnered with mainland Hampton Roads’ tourism industry in the late 2010s. Today, MARS trains and launches dozens of new ‘citizen astronauts’ daily. With new technologies from NASA, can planned outposts on Mars, the planet, be far behind?
3. A Hampton Roads BioScience company developed a way to project an individual’s vital health statistics into a Smartphone application for ‘virtual office visits’ in 2011. Today that technology has revolutionized the healthcare industry, reducing doctor visits and costs dramatically, saving the federal budget from eminent collapse.
4. The first Mid-Atlantic ocean-based wind farm opened off the Virginia Beach coastline to rave reviews from environmentalists and economic developers alike early last year. The tourism industry finds that wind farm boat tours are more popular than dolphin or whale-watching, and the fishing industry is stunned by the new seafood habitat and the large amount of fresh catch.
5. The first light rail system in Virginia, opened in 2011 with a starter line in Norfolk, brought such rave reviews that it now expands to reach all the major cities of the Hampton Roads region, far surpassing expected ridership. Vacant parking lots and garages region-wide are under consideration for removal to make room for more green-space as transit-oriented development, predicted in the first part of the century, comes to fruition.
6. Advanced university research in sensors and robotics in Hampton Roads, which has heretofore been used solely for the Defense Department, made a new connection to the commercial healthcare marketplace. Will we make paraplegia a thing of the past? Has the bionic man and woman become a reality?
7. The prevalence of rooftop gardens in urban areas of Hampton Roads all but eliminates street flooding, saving millions in taxpayer dollars expected to be needed to mitigate storm surges.
8. Technologies discovered in Hampton Roads in the cross-disciplines of marine science and energy research have discovered a cost-effective way to desalinate ocean water to end the world’s drinking water crisis. The by-product is a clean and cost-effective fuel alternative; we have also averted sea level rise.
9. The National Center for Collaboration in Medical Modeling & Simulation in Hampton Roads, established by Congress in 2001, has grown rapidly over the last 30 years, since the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized its importance, providing funds beginning in 2011. Hampton Roads has become world renowned for its boutique medical procedures by doctors trained entirely using M&S.”
What change does Norfolk need in 30 years?
Frank Duke, City Planner, City of Norfolk:
“If we recognize the importance of providing transportation choices, then we may have a more appealing future. Yes, we will still have congestion and some roads will still need to be widened to accommodate traffic volumes, but as part of any road widening we will be making accommodations for transportation alternatives, including bicycles, mass transit (with dedicated rights-of-way), and pedestrians. In this future, consumers have the choice of the transportation mode they want. This choice enables people who want to drive their car that opportunity, but also recognizes that not everyone shares that desire. Providing options for people gives them the ability to choose for themselves the transportation modality that works best for them.
What we need over the next thirty years is to work together to address some of the major issues that are just now coming into clear view. We need to be able to better understand the impacts of sea level rise and warming water temperatures on our city at the same time that we are experiencing soil subsidence. We will never address tidal flooding, but we need to better address its impacts. We need to recognize the changing demographics have an impact on demand for various housing types and respond to that demand by ensuring a good mix of all types and price points of housing. We need to improve access to our waterfront…and engage in practical ways to improve the quality of our rivers and streams. We need to encourage reinvestment in and creative use of our existing buildings that offer historic character and a sense of tradition. We need to recognize the importance of providing opportunities for life-long learning, acknowledging the value of technical education just as much as traditional college.
Two changes are most critical, however: (1) We need to recognize that neighborhoods belong to the people who live in them–and we need to empower those residents to work together to create the type of neighborhood they want, ensuring that ALL residents, renters as well as owners, recognize their responsibility to their neighborhood. (2) We need to celebrate life, recognizing the many good things we have in Norfolk rather than focus on a few problems.”
What will we have as pets?
Angela Maxwell, Virginia Zoo Education Department:
“Genpets–these little creatures have been displayed in numerous Toronto galleries as well as a retail store (Iodine & Arsenic on Queen Street), and they will soon be headed to Alberta as well as over to Europe to show in Basel Switzerland. So what exactly what are they? The Genpets are pre-packaged, bioengineered pets. They are living, breathing, genetic animals, and come in 2 base configurations: a 1-year model and 3-year model. We use a process called ‘Zygote Micro Injection’ which is quickly becoming a favorable method to combine DNA, or to insert certain proteins from different species. Most notably it was used in 1997 to splice mice with bioluminescent jellyfish, and has since been used to create glowing rabbits, pigs, fish, and monkeys. Since then, human DNA has been injected into rabbits, chimpanzees, spider DNA into sheep, and now, Genpets have arrived. Each Genpet comes with a color-coded personality (7 in total). If you want a very energetic pet then you would choose a Red Genpet. Their packages really set them apart from other products on the market today. Each package has a microchip that monitors that state of the Genpet while it is asleep and comes with a fully functioning heart monitor with green LED lights and a speaker. These guys do have limited mobility and must be cared for on a constant basis. So here’s the question then–‘Are we as a society responsible enough to move into the realm of bioengineering?'”
What will the Chesapeake Bay look like?
Kate Wilson, Chesapeake Bay Foundation:
“Three decades from now, I envision a restored Bay with healthy rivers and clean water, abundant with thriving, well-managed populations of crabs, oysters, striped bass, menhaden, and other species. Today, the Bay is plagued (truly) by dead zones and algal blooms, and is murky with pollution, sediment, and debris. As a result, the Chesapeake Bay and thousands of miles of tributary rivers are listed officially as ‘impaired’ by federal Clean Water Act standards. Impaired waters have real implications for our community and the greater Mid-Atlantic region: watermen’s livelihoods are dwindling, seafood processing plants closing, and key species struggling to survive.
My family and I enjoy walking and biking along The Hague, watching the occasional Snowy Egret and Night Heron early in the morning, but I won’t allow my family to touch those waters. I dream about my children and grandchildren enjoying the Elizabeth and Lafayette Rivers without fear of getting sick. I imagine weekends spent canoeing, kayaking, and even fishing and crabbing in neighborhood waters clean enough for children to enjoy and not risk sickness.
In 30 years, I see the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams clean and healthy enough to support prosperous seafood, tourism, and recreational businesses. We’ll have a fishable, swimmable, vibrant Bay watershed with abundant underwater grasses, blue crabs and native oysters. And it will be protected and preserved by tomorrow’s leaders and engaged citizens who have learned from the mistakes of the past. They will be active, responsible watershed stewards who, as students, learned about their personal connection to the Bay through widespread outdoor, environmental education programs and who as adults practice an ethic of conservation and sustainability.
This vision will remain only a vision unless we take action today. We all can help ensure that the Bay will be significantly healthier in 30 years by insisting our leaders hold polluters accountable and by taking personal responsibility for our own actions. What can we do? Volunteer more, fertilize less. Call and write your state and federal reps and urge them to support the Bay cleanup. Plant more trees and native plants, use less water. Conserve energy, drive less. The waterways are our collective backyard; let’s treat them like we want them to be healthy and productive for decades to come.”