Downtown Norfolk will soon get a fresh new look. The Downtown Norfolk Council has established the Vibrant Spaces program to create a more lively atmosphere to shop, dine, and hang out in downtown Norfolk.
But what exactly is a “Vibrant Space”? According to the website, a Vibrant Space describes a store that brings together unique customer experiences under one roof. Often these stores will combine dining, retail, entertainment, and more in one environment. What makes the experience at a Vibrant Space unique is the interior and exterior design of the property. Creative signage, graphics, and window displays will offer an inviting and exciting ambiance to downtown. Additionally, with open and inviting storefronts, it will seem as if the whole street is partaking in the dining, shopping, or entertainment.
Think back to when Grow held the contest that ultimately created Field Guide. But on steroids.
The program offers established businesses with the most creative ideas in downtown Norfolk up to $10,000 to go towards up to 50% of the project costs. This money will go towards improving signage, adding outdoor or rooftop seating, and other creative improvements. The program has allotted $60,000 total for established businesses. Additionally, the program is offering $20,000 and half-off rent for two years for 6 entrepreneurs with unique business ideas desiring to open shop in downtown Norfolk. The application process for both established businesses and those with new ideas began on May 20th and runs until July 8th. The selections will be announced on July 31st.
The introduction of the Vibrant Spaces program to Norfolk has sparked some energetic conversation. Everyone seems to have wild ideas for what they’d like to see in the spaces, and we’d hate for this wonderful opportunity to be wasted on the wrong idea. Finding the right match for these spaces will give Norfolk a huge boost forward and continue our rapid forward momentum. There is a huge hole in the downtown market that needs to be filled with a remarkable, signature business, ones that helps to define our city’s unique identity.
So, what would we like to see in some of these spaces?
We’ve heard some wild ideas throughout our discussions:
1. A BarCade: Just what it sounds like, a fully functional arcade with the addition of a fully functional bar (or 2).
2. Cat Lounge: Ya know, just a place for cats and humans to mingle together, maybe they serve coffee and cat nip, maybe its decked out with cat toys and equipment, maybe they also serve alcohol, who knows?
image | a small cat café in Kyoto
3. Dog Spa + Bar: In direct rivalry to the Cat Lounge, this space would be a place for dog owners to come get their pets groomed and bathed. And when they’re done they can hang out in doggy day care while us owners have a few drinks and do human things.
4. Brewery + Signature Game: Having a brewery that is known for a signature game will draw the community together and bring downtown back to life!
5. An open to the public production studio where you can create high quality videos, music, and other media.
6. Rent-a-Dog: A place where you can rent dogs for a period of time. Whether it be for a weekend, or a month! (Seriously, one person, Paul Rice, said he would rent a pup right now.)
No matter what we decide, it has to be a lively, edgy idea. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity and “play it safe.” The business that fills this space has to be aimed at creating an open, engaging, and, well, vibrant atmosphere. It has to be focused on creating an experience, whether that be retail, dining, or whatever. Something that people will travel more than 30 minutes to come to that will lubricate spending in downtown. We don’t need another status quo, that’s not what will drive traffic to our area. We need these vibrant spaces to build experiences, and thus, our community.
Have cool ideas? #VibrantSpacesNFK