The early morning sun rises. The air is warm but the breeze sends cool whirlpools of air whipping through the trees. It is Sunday morning and I want to take my dog for a walk.
Riverview is quiet this early. One or two people are taking their first jog of the day or tugging their dogs along for a peaceful stroll. The kids have yet to awaken and start playing. I walk with my dog just down 39th Street and hitch a left turn on Holly Avenue to the small park down the road. Green grass, freshly blooming flowers and the perfect view of the water.
My pup and I enjoy a moment of relaxation on one of the nearby benches, watching the glittering water flow by us. The perfect start to the perfect day. My next step? Explore the new vintage and consignment shops down the road on Granby Street. A new pair of shoes, perhaps a new dress for summer. Something to wear for a family picnic at Lafayette Park, just around the corner. Maybe even catch a movie at the Riverview Theater – so conveniently close that I don’t even have to drive. A film to end the evening is always my favorite activity.
However, for the moment, this day – as lovely as it sounds – is just a hopeful vision of the future. As of now, this luscious garden and park is merely an empty lot, there are few shops to explore and the theater is boarded up and has been for years.
Riverview is a historic district, settled right next to the Lafayette River and a mere five minutes away from the Norfolk Zoo. It was originally developed in 1895 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Not as many people are aware of its existence as, say, Downtown or Ghent, but, in my humble opinion as a dedicated Riverview resident – it is one of the most beautiful, family-friendly neighborhoods you’ll find in Norfolk.
I have lived in this neighborhood since I was two years old. I have lived in multiple houses in this neighborhood, and both of my parents reside in this neighborhood. It is my favorite place in Norfolk, and it is my home. Therefore, when it comes to the much needed revitalization of the area, I believe there are a few things that should be taken into consideration. My only desire is to see my home become an even more exciting place – a place that everyone can enjoy. And it has the potential to be just that.
Revamp Riverview Theater
Most people who traverse up and down Granby Street have noticed the Riverview Theater, which is currently, and has been for a long time, locked up. The theater has been around since the 1940s and has been both a movie theater and a live music venue. It has housed films such as The Sound of Music in 1965. It is a beautiful, vintage building that is reminiscent of Naro Cinema, a staple in the community that so many people love. But for as long as I can remember, the building has remained untouched and gathering dust. Broken glass, plywood and locked doors. Such an amazing place with so much history and in front of a historical neighborhood, it has the potential to liven up the area if it were to be reopened.
There is an open lot directly next door to the building and would be prime for a parking lot or even a two story parking deck. It’s a terrific location on a busy street that people travel every day. It would bring business to the area, even people who are not locals. And there are terrific restaurants located in the very same area where they can grab a bite to eat after watching a film.
Opening the theater could expand the area to new people and local people. As someone who has lived here her whole life, to be able to once again experience this gorgeous, vintage theater would be incredible. And for Norfolk to have two historic theaters within minutes of each other would set us apart.
While Granby Street isn’t exactly known for being a shopping district, there are a few very cute and unique places to explore. One of the newest and more eclectic places on the street is The Village Mermaid, which is known as an antique and consignment shop. There is also Mary Barnett’s, which has been around much longer and sells gifts with decorative accessories. Some recent additions to the area also include Breathe Yoga Studio and the ever-popular Crackers, which serves some of the most delicious martinis I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.
However, there are quite a few buildings on the street that could use some upgrading. Perhaps a thrift shop, since those are heavily popular in the Norfolk area. Or perhaps an art shop that can showcase some of the local talent that this city is bursting with.
After living in Richmond for the last few years, I’ve noticed the unique array of shops they had. And it would be nice to see Granby Street become like a miniature Broad Street. Or perhaps even like a small version of Carytown. A vintage shop, more consignment shops or a discount book or movie store. To be entirely honest, if there were a Tech Exchange around the corner from my house, my pockets would be empty within a span of minutes.
Preserving the history
One of my favorite aspects about this neighborhood is how wonderfully historical it is and this extends to the architecture. Within the last few years a few new homes and condos have been built in the neighborhood and it is my personal opinion that they just don’t fit with the atmosphere of the area. I believe that if there are going to be new additional houses or shops that they should take into account the long-standing history of the neighborhood. The architectural style encompasses both Late Victorian and Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals.
A few of my favorites from the neighborhood
Even though we cannot always keep the same buildings and renovations are sometimes necessary – it would be nice to see these renovations or new buildings and houses try to incorporate some of these styles. That way it would mesh and fit with the rest of the neighborhood.
When you see Granby Street it kind of gives you a first impression of what the rest of the neighborhood is going to look like. If they see beautiful old-style buildings then it will fit with the style of the other homes. However, when people see the new, large condos or fresh, boxy houses that are more modernized, it doesn’t keep with the neighborhood being labeled as historical. As a loving member of this place, I would like to see the area be as cohesive as possible.
One of the greatest aspects of Norfolk is how it fosters local talent and local art. And the artistic scene is spreading. New spots to showcase art have been opening up on Granby Street near downtown and it’s pretty fantastic to see.
Something that would be interesting to add to this area would be some fresh new landscaping around the neighborhood. I always quite enjoyed seeing the unique sculptures that were put into place downtown and also the new artwork on the side of Bob’s Gun shop (which is some of the most incredible I have ever seen) could be something to bring down here.
It would also be nice to keep the natural, green areas of the neighborhood in place. We have already lost a few nice, green lots (spots I used to play in as a child) to new buildings. One is currently being constructed on and there is only one left, on Holly Avenue right on the water. A house was once in its place but was taken down years ago. For the moment, nothing is being done to it and it is a lovely little spot.
Perhaps it can be turned into a neighborhood garden or maybe even a small little park for people to bring their children or their dogs. It would bring the people of this community together and they could all help to maintain the beauty and cleanliness of the area.
Additions and renovations to Lafayette Park
Lafayette Park is a beautiful and spacious park right between Riverview and the Norfolk Zoo. It has a tennis court, basketball hoops and a small playground. However, aside from the semi-frequent sport’s games and other family gatherings or parties, the park is relatively left alone and empty. As nice a place it is, it was never really a place that I went to often, even as a kid. I frequented the small playground on and off with my father as a child but the park always seemed sort of empty to me.
However, the area has a lot of potential. One step in the right direction would possibly be to renovate some of the benches in the park and replace them with new ones. And maybe even add some more seating areas in the middle of the park. It is the perfect place to set up camp and have a picnic in the middle of the afternoon.
As much as I love Norfolk and Riverview as it is, it would be nice to see them incorporating new things. One of the nicest parks I have been to is Monroe Park in Richmond. It has pathways, a fountain and nice benches dispersed throughout the area for sitting. It’s peaceful, clean and always full of people.
I would also enjoy seeing another small playground in the park. While the one that currently exists is nice (and a form of great nostalgia for me), it is small and it isn’t easily accessible from Granby Street and is difficult to see. It is somewhat hidden near the back. Putting in an additional, small playground would bring in more families and children and knowing that there are places for kids to play here would bring more to the current playground as well.
I love Riverview, it has been a source of great memories for me and it is where my family raised me. And as a dedicated member of this area, I would like to see it expand and become more than it is. There is much that can be done to this neighborhood, but these are just a few that I, personally, would like to see come to fruition.