Today’s column focuses on big things – big money associated with developers, corporations, and politicians – plus using civic engagement to make big decisions and one very big problem facing our ecosystem that’s being seriously neglected.
Deals with developers top the list this week – specifically big money associated with two projects which I’ve never believed were well thought out.
The first of these is this new outlet mall that Norfolk is bound and determined to shoehorn into a piece of land that really strikes me as a terrible location. Not only is it quite nice to have such an attractive area of greenspace there, it’s adjacent to the airport’s landing path, meaning it’s kind of loud, not to mention being a prime location for a tragedy.
As reported in this story, the project is already facing delays because the Simon Property Group (image below) felt compelled to find a convoluted way to squeeze in an access road from Northhampton Blvd. to the new mall. This after the City of Virginia Beach rejected the developer’s plans to swing the road through a little slice of their city.
But there’s a location that’s almost ridiculously more logical for such a project. You may have heard of it before. It’s called Military Circle.
It has proximity to the most active crossroads of the local Interstate highway system, making it more accessible to potential customers from all the localities in the region. This area is already engineered to handle the kind of traffic such a business is likely to generate. This, as opposed to locating it somewhere in which no amount of traffic engineering will prevent the incredible congestion the mall will create.
Additionally, it’s prime real estate at risk of going fallow because of neglect from city leadership.
Look. I get it. Being able to buy high-end goods at steep discounts makes the average consumer salivate like almost nothing else. And I’m not arguing against the project. I’m just saying that the plan as it stands is an incredibly poor example of land-use management.
I’d really like to hear a better explanation why it has to go in the Lake Wright location given to logic of locating it on the Military Circle property.
Next, I’d like to offer sarcastic congratulations to the Cordish Companies for finally announcing some progress on the redevelopment of Waterside.
According to this story, work to transform this structure into “Waterside Live” is now scheduled to begin next month – about two years behind schedule.
I’ve never been a fan of the plans for Waterside. I believe the Cordish vision is destined to fail as I just don’t think it’s something area residents will embrace. I always loved the idea of turning it into a community marketplace/small business incubator.
But again – city leaders were dazzled by the bright lights associated with the kinds of money that developers flash around. I wonder if they’ll ever be as willing to embrace their failures – the ramifications of which inevitably come out of taxpayers’ pockets.
Speaking of big money, here’s a story about a large amount of funds collected for and donated to a great cause.
To their credit, the city of Virginia Beach is finally getting around to being proactive in addressing the needs of homeless people living within their boundaries. They’re in the planning stages of building a facility that will not only provide shelter for some of those caught in this cycle, but also bring together available resources to help them get back on their feet.
It won’t be cheap ($39 million), so the city is trying to mitigate the costs to taxpayers by engaging in an active fundraising campaign.
As reported in this story, two Virginia Beach churches – Beach Fellowship Church and Wave Church – raised a combined $180,000 to support its construction, as well as operations at the center once it opens.
The issue of homelessness is so much more complex than just financial destitution. Mental health issues also play a significant role, as well as such simple things as being able to come up with a month’s deposit to rent someplace to live.
It will never be completely solved, but this type of progressive approach to addressing the problem will surely go a long way towards alleviating it.
Thanks to these two congregations for stepping up to the plate and being examples to the rest of us of what humanity is all about.
There are two other Pilot stories I’d like to highlight this week. The first is a civic engagement effort by the city of Suffolk. They’re creating opportunities for citizens to have input into the process of choosing a new city manager.
The other story is about how local cities – particularly Virginia Beach – conduct their spraying operations to control mosquitoes.
Most of us are probably aware that bees are in a lot of trouble, and if bees are in trouble, so are we. Bees are critical to growing the crops that feed us.
Mosquito spraying kills bees. In theory, residents of some localities who are concerned about this can opt-out of having the area adjacent to their property sprayed. In practice though, it’s questionable whether the opt-out programs work.
There are a lot of ways residents can have an impact on mosquito propagation. Just making sure that there’s no stagnant fresh water around your home will help a lot. Putting up a bat house can also go a long way as bats are voracious consumers of skeeters. (Note: you may not be aware of just how common bats are around here, but they are, and are very beneficial to the environment.)
If we all just do our part, we can drastically reduce the need for controlling mosquito populations through the use of toxic chemicals.
Save the bees! Start doing your part to reduce the need to use chemicals that can kill them.
(Mike Rau says beer doesn’t help you hydrate in hot weather, but it sure goes down well)