Downtown Norfolk Council’s Vibrant Spaces program had an overwhelmingly positive response from businesses wishing to locate Downtown and existing businesses wanting to create improvements to increase vibrancy. The request for proposals generated 85 new business ideas and 12 existing business submissions, which was more than three times what was expected.
“There were many very creative proposals, and the Vibrant Spaces committee has carefully considered all of them,” said Drew Ungvarsky, committee chair. “The process has been as exciting as it’s been challenging, trying to create the best combination of businesses and match them to the perfect spaces.”
The committee is excited to announce the first new businesses that will join Downtown’s roster and grants to existing businesses. Future announcements will be made in 2016.
Prince Ink Co. – 433 Granby Street
The Prince Ink Co. is moving to Downtown Norfolk to expand production, pump up its retail presence and activate the space like never before. In the front window, they’ll operate a 100-year-old letterpress machine. Between the retail and production areas, they’ll create wall of reclaimed windows, allowing visitors to watch the production process while they visit. The retail area will also include goods crafted by other local artists.
Lamia’s Crepes – 401 Granby Street
Lamia’s Crepes is a Parisian-style creperie that will offer authentic, freshly made crepes. It is the first of its kind in Hampton Roads. The business will make the most of the smallest space from the program with a unique, modern, European aesthetic. The restaurant will feature a crepe-making station in the front window and small, cafe-style tables on the sidewalk. The owners also plan to participate in local food and art festivals.
Muddy Paws Downtown – 400 Granby Street, Suite B
Offering chic, boutique-style pet supplies plus self-service dog washing, Muddy Paws
Downtown will cater to the many pet owners living and working in Downtown. The selection is in response to survey of Downtown residents, and the location is complementary to a planned dog walk nearby. The owners plan to activate the space inside and out, hosting pet-friendly social events like Yappy Hours throughout the year.
Existing Business Grants
Brick Anchor Brew-House, 241 Granby Street
Brick Anchor Brew-House will open next year in more ways than one. Featuring large, accordion-style doors, the entire storefront will open to the street with a small outdoor dining area. Everything about Brick Anchor’s appearance, from the signage to the color selection and even awnings, has been chosen to honor the building’s past while looking towards its future. It will feature more than 200 beers plus a full menu.
Work | Release, 759 Granby Street
Work I Release is already proving to be an iconic NEON District cornerstone, and it will further activate both Granby and Olney Streets with outdoor dining and clean, bold signage. With more outdoor dining space, Work I Release will be better able to cater to the dining needs of both the casual diner and the late-night crowd.
The Hurrah Players, 112 W. Wilson Ave.
The Hurrah Players will bring life to the NEON District by adding a lively facade to its new home at 112 W. Wilson Ave. One highlight is the inclusion a roll-up garage door exposing the scene shop. A new classroom and studio space is being added to accommodate more students, which will also help activate the entire block.
Future Announcements Forthcoming
Among the many insights gained in the process, the committee found that the majority of the businesses wanted the smallest space in the program at just 500 square feet. Additionally, the proposals included several great business ideas that didn’t match the spaces available, although the committee would like to ensure that they come to Downtown.
“We learned a lot and are really thrilled with the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time,” said Mary Miller, president and CEO of Downtown Norfolk Council. “Although not all of the committee’s progress is complete at this time, we have grants committed to three other new businesses to Downtown, providing they sign a lease within the next year. Two other grants are pending for existing businesses providing they are able to incorporate more vibrancy into their applications.”
New Grants and More Funding
Vibrant Spaces will evolve to respond to market needs. The Vibrant Spaces program will continue with an additional $50,000 in matching grants. These grants will be available to new and existing businesses that create street-level vibrancy. The committee will work with small businesses to identify available spaces and encourage landlords to offer incentives to get new businesses established in Downtown. It will also continue to act as a matchmaker, but businesses will need to identify desired spaces and bring the ideas to the committee for consideration and funding.
Lastly, the committee is seeking partners to establish a Retail Incubator that could provide space for multiple small businesses. Additional information and grant applications for the matching Vibrancy Spaces grants are available at www.vibrantspaces.com.