Close your eyes and think of the first time you visited your most favorite city. What did you see? What did you smell? Where did you sit? How was the food? Where did you eat it? What draws you to go back?
Now open your eyes. Is this city Norfolk? Call me crazy, but it is for me.
Isn’t it inspiring to visit a city for the first time and admire its creativity, its individuality, its innovation and uniqueness? Falling in love with a city is a singular and individual experience for everyone, but when it happens, it’s magic. The stars have aligned and you can know that the people who live there have worked hard to foster an environment that engages, supports, and draws people in.
If the city that you imagined isn’t Norfolk, then how can we change that? You do live here after all. What are you doing or not doing to make this place yours?
My husband and I live in Colonial Place right around the corner from North Colley (NoCo). This strip of Colley Avenue has seen a surge of new restaurants and businesses come in over the last few years that has attracted us to get out of our house and walk over to grab a bite to eat and walk around. There is a new art gallery, a wing joint, a local food market, a couple of pizza spots, a fantastic sub/sandwich restaurant, and lots of room to grow. I told my husband the other day that I want to see lots of outdoor seating here, a local book store, shops, a grocer, a yoga studio, a micro community that encourages us to drive less, walk more and make friends in our community. And I can be a part of that growth and development. So can you.
The City of Norfolk developed a survey that asks us, the residents of Norfolk, to give their input on what they would like to see at several different high density urban spots in our city. City leaders are considering changing some of the streetscapes on Colley Avenue, 21st Street, Granby Street, and 35th Street to accommodate more pedestrians, outside dining, parklets, and green space. All of these small details in dense urban spaces are what make cities special and unique. They are what impress on people who visit and who live here that this is a place that fosters community.
But we cannot rely solely on city leaders to read our minds and do it themselves. We must lend our voices, our opinions, and our muscles to make this city what we want it to be. If you want bike lanes, backyard chickens, parklets, outside dining, walkable shopping spaces, then you must decide to act. Take the survey! Go to city council meetings! Listen to what your city leaders prioritize, what they want to develop, and how they plan on developing it. And don’t stop there. Tell them what you want to see. What you want to smell. What you want to hear. Where you want to sit. What you want to eat. Where you want to eat it. And how you want to get there.
This city is ours. And it’s my most favorite city. From where I live I can walk to get wings and pizza. I can sit on the sidewalk, drink a cup of coffee, and eat a breakfast burrito. And I want to see you all make this city your most favorite, too. But it requires you to act. To work. To speak up.
That’s what makes the most popular and successful cities in the world so great: their residents get up and actualize their visions of their city. So, what do you want? Where do you want it? It’s yours.