In 1935, a group of concerned Norfolk residents realized that large areas of the city were in an advanced state of deterioration. Because living conditions in these neighborhoods had become unacceptable, City Manager Thomas P. Thompson formed a five-member advisory committee “to make a study of the slum districts of Norfolk with the hope of obtaining federal funds to eliminate them….” The committee was headed by Charles L. Kaufman and consisted of David Pender, George H. Lewis, C. Wiley Grandy, and Louis H. Windholz.
The work of the Thompson Committee, along with a public crime conference held in the spring of 1937, kindled local interest in housing and slum clearance. Largely as a result of the Thompson Committee report, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in 1938 creating local housing authorities to pursue slum clearance programs and permitting any Virginia city to participate in the federal housing program to eradicate slums.
On January 23, 1940, a statewide slum-clearance conference was held in Richmond. The conference was held by the League of Virginia Municipalities to give local officials an opportunity to see what other cities were doing in slum clearance. One result of that meeting was that on July 30, 1940, Norfolk City Council voted to activate the state law passed in 1938 and created the Norfolk Housing Authority.
Another situation in Norfolk that year had also influenced City Council: the urgency of defense housing. By July 1940, Norfolk was inundated with thousands of defense workers and service members. A strong plea for City Council to set up a local housing authority, which could build low-cost housing for Navy personnel, was made by Rear Adm. Joseph K. Taussig, Commandant of the Fifth Naval District and the Hampton Roads Naval Operating Base.
After City Council created the Authority, Mayor John A. Gurkin appointed a five-man commission. As expected, the same group appointed by City Manager Thompson in 1935 was appointed to run the Housing Authority. Louis H. Windholz, a co-receiver of the Norfolk Southern railroad, was named chairman.
But World War II got in the way of the Authority’s slum clearance. Norfolk fell in step with the rest of the country by building housing for the military; there was simply no adequate housing available for the defense workers and military personnel pouring into the city. On August 28, 1940, President Roosevelt approved a $1.8 million loan for the construction of 500 homes for the families of enlisted personnel stationed at Norfolk Naval Base. Ground was broken for the Authority’s first defense housing project, Merrimack Park, on October 18, 1940. The first group of 20 families moved in April 1, 1941.
On January 29, 1941, the administrator of the United States Housing Authority, Nathan Straus, announced in both an Associated Press dispatch from Washington and a telegram to Louis H. Windholz that the USHA had set aside $2 million for slum clearance in Norfolk. The condition of the allocation was that 10 percent of the project costs would be provided by the Norfolk Housing Authority. The USHA would cover 90 percent.
Acting on the USHA promise, Authority members named three black citizens, P.B. Young, editor and publisher of the Journal and Guide, J. Eugene Diggs, an attorney, and Dr. Richard R. Bowling, a pastor, to serve on an advisory committee. The Advisory Committee met with the Authority’s commissioners from time to time to contribute its views on the major problems affecting the black community. Its members helped set policies governing Authority operations, named housing projects, and supported zoning changes. A primary responsibility was to identify sites for public housing that would replace dilapidated slum dwellings.
Executive Director George H. Lewis was compelled to resign April 1, 1941 because of illness. A year earlier, Lewis had resigned as commissioner to become the Authority’s full-time executive director. James E. Etheridge had succeeded Lewis on September 5, 1940, as commissioner.
Named to replace Lewis as executive director was Norfolk native Lawrence M. Cox. Cox had been acting executive director since December 1940 while Lewis was on leave of absence. Before joining the Authority as assistant executive director, Cox had been employed by the U.S. Housing Authority and its predecessor, the Public Works Administration Housing Division, since the inception of the public housing program in 1933. He served as special assistant to Jacob Crane, assistant administrator of USHA.
In 1941, Lewis died. Louis H. Windholz, the Authority’s first chairman, also died. Thomas H. Wilcox succeeded Windholz as a commissioner. Charles L. Kaufman was elected chairman, a position he held until he retired on the Authority’s 29th anniversary, July 30, 1969. C. Wiley Grandy was elected vice-chairman.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, placed additional priority on the construction of more defense housing at the expense of eliminating slums. Notwithstanding the opening of the 500 units of housing at Merrimack Park in 1941, the housing shortage for defense workers was critical.
The steady influx of defense workers and military personnel continued through the early 1940s. Construction began in July 1941 on a 300-unit defense housing project, Oakleaf Park, and the first families moved into the Campostella Road project on January 2, 1942. Later, Oakleaf Park would be used to house families displaced by slum clearance projects.
Earlier, on May 13, 1941, City Council had approved a cooperation agreement with the Authority for the construction of housing for low-income families displaced by slum clearance. Council’s action resulted in a plan for 230 housing units in 25 buildings on Princess Anne Road. Construction began in February 1942, but when the defense needs for housing increased, Roberts Park was shifted to a war housing project and occupied by defense workers and their families.
A temporary housing project for 124 families was built in 1943 adjacent to Roberts Park. Another temporary project, Commonwealth Apartments, was built for 344 families at Colley Avenue and 25th Street. Both were war housing. A third temporary project, Carney Park, housed an additional 224 families. It was built in 1943 and located in Titustown.
After the war, Roberts Park reverted to being used as housing for families relocated from blighted housing. The temporary project, Roberts Park Apartments, was later demolished and the site made available for Roberts Park Elementary School.
Norfolk’s population grew from 137,500 in 1939 to a wartime peak of 305,121 in 1943. During the World War II years, the Authority stepped up its role in housing to supply an additional 3,462 dwelling units at Merrimack Park, Oakleaf Park, and Roberts Park, 1,592 temporary dwellings, 540 single dormitory rooms, and 300 trailers at Lewis Park.
The 1940 Census showed that 35 percent of Norfolk’s dwellings had no private bath. By 1950, the percentage of dwelling units with no private bath or that were dilapidated had dropped to 29.5 percent.
Toward the end of 1945, the Authority announced a postwar slum-clearance building program. The program would provide housing for both white and black families. The estimated cost for seven projects that would accommodate 1,690 families was $9 million. As the federal law then required eliminating one substandard dwelling for each public-housing unit built, the congested housing conditions existing in Norfolk presented difficult problems to overcome.
That same year, debate began in Congress to remove the restriction that cleared slum areas could be used only for public housing. On November 14, 1945, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate to expand the public housing program and establish a five-year program for urban redevelopment. The legislation became known as the Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill.
Anticipating that the federal law would be amended to remove the restriction to require public housing reuse, NRHA executive director Lawrence Cox made a request of the 1946 Virginia General Assembly. He asked that it pass an enabling act to permit Virginia localities to benefit from the Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill pending before the Congress. Under the proposed federal bill, housing authorities, where states pass enabling legislation, would be empowered to acquire, clear, and make available to private enterprise blighted areas for redevelopment. (Housing authorities were already empowered to make land available for public uses that were consistent with a community’s sound land-use plan. Examples of public use included jails, city halls, fire stations, and schools.)
After much debate in the General Assembly, House Bill 236 was approved on March 13, 1946, and became the Virginia Redevelopment Law. This law enabled the Housing Authority of the City of Norfolk to become Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority in June 1946. As a result, NRHA began moving from its war mission into a broad program of urban development.
The Virginia Redevelopment Law was soon validated by the Supreme Court of Virginia. In the case of Hunter v. Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Supreme Court Justice J. Eggleston of Norfolk delivered the opinion of the Court stating: “. . . the primary purpose of the legislation is the eradication of slums, and the provision making property available for redevelopment by private enterprise is merely incidental to this main purpose and reasonably designed to prevent recurrence of the conditions producing slums.”
By 1946, NRHA was ready to assume the role for which it was created: builder and operator of housing for low-income families. In addition, a new function was added to its mission: purchasing blighted areas for resale to private developers.
This emphasis on revitalization was strengthened in 1946 by a change in the Norfolk city leadership. A three-man business-minded Councilmanic ticket came to power. This new City Council set a tone that was to continue for many years. Elected to Norfolk’s five-member Council were Richard D. Cooke, a lawyer who had been chairman of the United War Fund for two years; Pretlow Darden, an automobile dealer; and John Twohy II, head of a sand and gravel business. In September, the new members took their council seats and Cooke was elected mayor.
The businessmen were eager to initiate sound principles of management into city government and to implement the powers brought with the Virginia Redevelopment Law. But first, a city manager had to be appointed because in December 1945, Charles B. Borland had resigned over differences with the City Council.
In October, 1946 C. A. Harrell was appointed to replace Borland. And Harrell quickly began to overhaul city government. Professionals were hired in key positions and municipal services were broadened on a more equitable basis. Harrell foresaw the benefits that Norfolk residents could derive from an active program of redevelopment and revitalization.
Midway through their term, the Cooke-Darden-Twohy leadership took a step that was responsible for Norfolk’s being the first city in the nation to undertake redevelopment under the Housing Act of 1949. To be ready when the Housing Act was passed, consultants were retained on March 21, 1949 to formulate a slum clearance and redevelopment program.
President Truman signed the Housing Act on July 15, 1949. As president of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, NRHA’s executive director, Lawrence Cox, was one of the recognized architects of the national legislation and was present at the signing. President Truman said that the new legislation was his first major victory in his “fair deal” legislative program and that the measure “equips the Federal Government, for the first time, with effective means for aiding cities in the vital task of clearing slums and rebuilding blighted areas.”
Also in July 1949, a new Authority commissioner was named replace Thomas H. Wilcox, who had resigned. The successor was Melvin T. Blassingham, a retired lumber dealer and later the father of Norfolk’s Oyster Bowl.
By August 1949, the federal government had approved Norfolk’s $25 million public-housing program made possible by the 1949 Housing Act. This meant that 3,000 low-rent public housing residences would be built during the next two years. Norfolk and Galveston, Texas, were the first two cities to be assigned an allocation under the new public-housing programs being activated as a result of the Housing Act.
The United States Daily News (official publication of the United States conference of mayors) reported that Norfolk, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis were the first cities to make surveys of the elimination of slums. The U.S. Daily News commended the foresightedness of Norfolk City Council in making $25,000 available to the Authority for a study of local housing conditions that enabled the city to be the first in line with its application for 3,000 housing units.
On October 3, 1949, a 130-page report, augmented by numerous maps and charts, was released. The New York consulting firm of Harrison, Ballard & Allen recommended that priority be given to more than 300 acres of congested slum properties located generally east and northeast of downtown.
The city’s black leaders supported the slum clearance efforts. J. Eugene Diggs, an attorney, pleaded with City Council to see the proposal not only economically but more as saving souls. P. B. Young, publisher of the Journal & Guide, and a member of a three-man black advisory committee to the Authority, said that housing for families of low income was needed to save good people from physical and moral deterioration and to save the community from the consequences of these things.
Ministers also supported slum clearance. Rev. Beverly Tucker White, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, used slum clearance as a sermon topic on December 4, 1949, the final Sunday before the City Council was to act on the recommendation to build public housing.
On Tuesday, December 6, 1949, City Council unanimously approved a program calling for the construction of 3,000 public housing units. This action was to prepare the way for redevelopment, which was to follow. The decision to build public housing as a relocation resource for families moving from slums was an important step in the evolution of Norfolk’s urban revitalization.
With public housing units under construction, NRHA turned its attention to formulating detailed slum clearance plans. In early 1951, the agency filed an application with the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA) for a $6 million loan and $3 million federal grant to carry out its slum clearance plans. It was the first request to reach HHFA.
On March 21, 1951 HHFA earmarked $1 million for what was to the nation’s first redevelopment project under the Housing Act of 1949. Hearings were held August 10 and August 20, 1951, to acquaint property owners with the Authority’s plans for the acquisition of properties in the proposed redevelopment project.
The first redevelopment plan had earmarked land for what are now segments of Tidewater Drive, Virginia Beach Boulevard, and Brambleton Avenue. Chairman Kaufman explained that all property owners would be fairly compensated for their property and that NRHA would help people relocate their homes.
On August 21, 1951, City Council approved the redevelopment project. A month later, families in the clearance area were relocated to Roberts Park, one of five public housing communities that would accommodate people being relocated.
Redevelopment Project No. 1 got under way on December 11, 1951, the date that the first slum structure was demolished, and a date now noted as the beginning of redevelopment in the United States. The ramshackle dwelling was located at 755 Smith Street, just outside the Central Business District. The property is now within the site of housing for low-income families in Young Park. Because Norfolk was the first city in the nation to implement the redevelopment process, representatives of the national news media were present for the pioneering effort. The event attracted an estimated 2,000 people.
Redevelopment Project No. 1 moved swiftly. In fact, the project was four months old before Norfolk had a contract with the federal government that provided funds for the multi-million dollar program. Not until April 15, 1952 did Charles C. McCall, HHFA’s chief financing officer, execute the first contract in the country under Title I of the Slum Clearance and Urban Redevelopment Section of the Housing Act of 1949. By then 200 of the 1,200 structures in the initial slum area had been demolished. About 500 of the 2,900 families living in the project area had been relocated.
More than five years passed between the activation of Norfolk’s first and second urban redevelopment projects. Redevelopment Project No. 1 resulted in the clearance of 127 acres of downtown slums, about one-fifth of the city’s slum area. The planning of the second project, on the northwest boundary of downtown, came after NRHA felt reasonably sure that the first one had fulfilled most of its objectives.
Before that project was phased out in 1964, expected and unexpected results had been achieved. Among the results expected were rights-of-way for two boulevards, the widening of three main streets, a 752-unit low-rent housing development, a new school, several playgrounds, a fire station, police station, and cleared acreage for some 30 new commercial buildings erected by private interests. An unexpected benefit was the Golden Triangle Motor Hotel as the keystone of the project.
Just as slum clearance had been the motivating force for Redevelopment Project No. 1, so was it the rationale for undertaking the second project, the Atlantic City Redevelopment Project. A secondary interest for both projects, however, was the need to move traffic to, around, and within the downtown area. For the Atlantic City Redevelopment Project, the De Leuw Cather traffic and highway study provided this impetus. This study reinforced the city’s 1950 Major Highway Plan, which called for the extension of Hampton Boulevard into the downtown area.
On July 10, 1957, the Atlantic City Redevelopment Project received final federal approval from the Urban Renewal Administration. Demolition in the area began September 26, 1957. Some 140 acres were cleared, an effort that involved 361 structures and 400 families. With the exception of two houses, all the dwellings had been built prior to World War I. Unlike the first redevelopment effort, the Atlantic City project did not provide for any public housing. Families displaced from Atlantic City were adequately rehoused in vacancies resulting from normal turnover in public housing. Some families were able to afford housing on the private market.
The Atlantic City Redevelopment Project created a section of highway - Brambleton Avenue - and an extension of Hampton Boulevard that would later link up with the Downtown Tunnel to Portsmouth. Sites were provided for a medical office building next to Norfolk General Hospital. Land was made available for private apartments, commercial development, a park along the Hague waterfront, and Eastern Virginia Medical School. Other medical facilities included a Public Health Center, the expansion of Norfolk General Hospital, King Daughters Children’s Hospital and Tidewater Rehabilitation Institute.
In July 1956, a Master Plan for the Central Business District was published by Charles K. Agle, a Princeton, N.J. architect and consultant who had directed the 1949 study. In his 1956 plan, Agle found that Norfolk had an obsolete and congested street pattern. While he praised the prior redevelopment efforts of bringing traffic arteries to downtown, he criticized downtown for its inadequate internal circulation and parking, the slums and commercial property of waning usefulness, and the appearance of downtown which he termed “neglected and slovenly.” The Agle plan was approved by City Council on November 13, 1956, and made a part of the City Plan.
While downtown Norfolk was being redeveloped on the west, planning activity in the Central Business District had been moving ahead simultaneously and the Downtown Redevelopment Project was established. But implementing the downtown plan through redevelopment became an issue in 1958 when attempts were made in the General Assembly to require a referendum, after the issue was raised by State Senator Robert F. Baldwin.
Although Sen. Baldwin favored the plan’s overall concepts, he felt that downtown redevelopment was such a major undertaking that it should require approval by the voters at a special election. But the threatened referendum legislation failed because of strong public acceptance of the downtown plan. By now there was less than a week before the federal government’s fiscal year ended June 30, 1958. So NRHA had to move swiftly to get the plan approved by the Philadelphia and Washington offices of the Urban Renewal Administration. Approval came in the form of a telegram from Rep. Porter Hardy, Jr., (D. 2nd District) on July 4, 1958.
The Downtown Project, which covered 85 percent of the Central Business District, consisted of Downtown Redevelopment Project-North and Downtown Redevelopment Project-South. The area contained 838 residential and commercial structures.
NRHA began demolition July 30, 1958. The first target was the old National Hotel, on an East Main Street site that would later become the Civic Center. The plan’s objectives also called for a new City Hall, new Public Safety Building, parking facilities, office buildings, and a shopping center.
During the next 10 years, revisions and amendments were continually made to the Downtown Redevelopment Project. On June 27, 1961, City Council added Downtown Redevelopment Project-East. Within a month, plans were announced for a downtown shopping center on the 21-acre site to accommodate merchants who wanted to relocate near their present business establishments.
Other public physical improvements were made downtown in anticipation of future private development and tax monies that would be lost because of clearance. New streets were opened to improve traffic flow between downtown and the area that was to become the Medical Center and location of the Eastern Virginia Medical School. Work began on the second phase of the Civic Center. City Council changed the name of East Main Street to Main Plaza East. St. Paul’s Boulevard was opened to both northbound and southbound traffic.
Through the ingenuity of Lawrence Cox and support from Sen. A. Willis Robertson, Norfolk’s downtown was to benefit from a provision under the Housing Act of 1965 that would allow a Cultural and Convention Center to be included as Norfolk’s non-cash share of redevelopment costs. The non-cash credit for the center, eventually named Scope, was ultimately to be the incentive that spurred other redevelopment and conservation activities in the city.
As the redevelopment plan was being implemented, private development was also occurring. Virginia National Bank announced plans to construct a $12 million, 24-story headquarters. The Downtown Plaza shopping center opened. NRHA contracted with Hague Towers Associates of Washington, D.C., to construct a $7.5 million twin-phase apartment complex on an eight-acre Hague site on the outskirts of downtown.
The decade of the 1960s was one of national importance to Norfolk. The NRHA publication, Downtown Redevelopment, received wide acclaim. Norfolk achieved national prominence with Congress, as Mayor Duckworth and others appeared before the U.S. Senate Banking and Currency Committee to credit urban renewal for keeping the city out of the depressed-area ranks. Roy Martin, Hunter Hogan, Charles Kaufman, and Lawrence Cox stated to a U.S. House Committee that it took a dose of “urban renewal medicine” to cure their “sick and dying city.”
Civic leaders from various cities came to Norfolk to study its renewal program. Executive Director Cox was invited to lecture on urban revitalization at seminars in Athens, Greece, and The Hague, Holland. The national journalism society Sigma Delta Chi held a four-day convention at the Golden Triangle. TV news anchorman Walter Cronkite and other media personalities praised the redevelopment program in downtown Norfolk and adjoining areas.
Fifty-two officials from 26 nations in the underdeveloped areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America arrived for a two-day inspection of Norfolk’s redevelopment and housing projects. The Post-Tribune of Gary, Indiana, declared that “Norfolk is a shining example of how a disreputable city can be transformed into a community in which its residents can take pride.” Detroit’s Mayor Cavanaugh said Norfolk’s redevelopment made the city “a showcase for the rest of the country. HUD’s first secretary, Robert C. Weaver, remarked after a walking tour of Norfolk’s Berkley area that “this city is where the story of rebuilding American cities begins.”
On October 6, 1967, the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved Norfolk’s Survey and Planning Application for $274,396. This approval confirmed a reservation of $8,017,000 in federal funds for East Ghent-North. The grant reservation led ultimately to the development of Ghent Square and the revitalization of surrounding neighborhoods.
Another key development that enhanced the approach to the Central Business District was the Educational Center Project. This project called for the expansion of the campus of Norfolk State College (now Norfolk State University) and Booker T. Washington High School. The primary purpose, however, was to clear deteriorating structures. The blighted area within the project contained more than 400 substandard structures housing 600 families. The redevelopment included the provision for 395 new housing units and the upgrading of public facilities such as utilities, streets, landscaping, lighting, and water and sewer.
Through the efforts of NRHA Commissioner Pretlow Darden and Norfolk State College officials, the Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to pay to NRHA $2.2 million for the Norfolk State College expansion area of this redevelopment project.
By 1969 most of the blight in downtown Norfolk had been removed. A new Downtown Plaza shopping center had been built, and a north-south artery in downtown - St. Paul’s Boulevard - had been constructed. Downtown had been able to attract new office buildings. A portion of East Main Street was closed and became Main Plaza East, a landscaped pedestrian walkway.
There were also some unintended benefits for downtown. The $28 million Cultural and Convention Center, the largest single construction project ever undertaken by the city, was built. It was designed by Pier Luigi Nervi of Italy, world-famous designer of concrete structures, in conjunction with the Norfolk architectural firm of Williams and Tazewell & Associates. The dual facility enabled Norfolk to accommodate big conventions for the first time. With its graceful buttresses, the Convention Hall, eventually named Scope, provided a 340-foot clear span dome with an 11,500 seating capacity. An adjacent theatre, Chrysler Hall, is a five-story structure encased in tinted glass, with 2,500 seats.
The construction of Scope and Chrysler Hall triggered several developments, among them a Holiday Inn at Tidewater Drive and Virginia Beach Boulevard and a 260-room expansion of the 361-room Golden Triangle hotel across from Scope.
Downtown redevelopment provided the city an opportunity to relocate its central library to a more convenient and spacious facility at City Hall Avenue and Bank Street. The $2.7 million building, named Kirn Memorial Library, was built with city and private funds. Civic leadership on the Public Library Board also made possible an expansion program that resulted in branch libraries at strategic locations around the city.
The MacArthur Memorial likewise exists because of downtown redevelopment and civic leadership. Although Gen. Douglas MacArthur was born in Arkansas, he selected Norfolk for his memorial because his mother was born and reared in Norfolk and lived on East Main Street in the Berkley neighborhood. Through redevelopment, the area around the memorial was cleared of blighted buildings. The MacArthur Memorial occupied the old Norfolk Court House, which had been built as a City Hall in 1847. Civic leadership made it possible to preserve the building.
In 1969, downtown Norfolk was much different from the downtown of 1951. Street patterns had been established, older buildings restored, blight removed, and new buildings constructed. That was also the year of a major change in leadership NRHA.
In February 1969 Executive Director Lawrence Cox resigned to become Assistant Secretary for Housing and Renewal Assistance with HUD, a post he held for about two years. That summer, Chairman Charles L. Kaufman, a member of NRHA for 29 years, would not accept reappointment as commissioner and resigned from the board.
On July 7, 1969, Jack H. Shiver became NRHA’s executive director. On August 11, 1969, former Norfolk Mayor Pretlow Darden was elected chairman of NRHA’s Board of Commissioners, succeeding Kaufman. Darden had been appointed to the Board on October 3, 1950.
As had been the custom since 1935, the City Council and NRHA Commissioners considered comprehensive planning a necessity in shaping and reshaping the city. So by 1969 it was time for another downtown plan. But the concentric-zone pattern of land development was being replaced by a new clustering concept. Housing, office buildings, a shopping center, public buildings, and medical facilities developed interrelationships. There was evidence of a growing interdependence among land uses as banks, for example, located in close proximity to each other.
Advanced medical services on the western edge of the Central Business District were following the clustering theory. Soon, Norfolk General Hospital and an adjacent office building housing 100 doctors would be joined by another related enterprise, Eastern Virginia Medical School.
As predicted under the new central place theory, there would be a clustering of land uses around this expanding medical center, such as housing, office buildings, and public buildings. Eventually, the medical school achieved international recognition with such facilities as the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine and the International Institute for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. But the development of the medical center on downtown’s perimeter would never have happened without the extensive clearance and reprogramming brought about through redevelopment. The several thousand employees occupying important health and medical jobs would have been lost to Norfolk’s economy.
From 1969 through the mid ’70s, NRHA continued directing its efforts toward housing, redevelopment, and conservation programs across the city, including downtown. Just prior to this period, the climate of slum clearance and redevelopment had begun to shift to housing-oriented projects. Rehabilitation and housing for low- and moderate-income groups had become the goals of both the federal government and NRHA. Their focus turned to residential neighborhoods, although the emphasis on downtown development also remained strong.
In January 1970, plans were announced for a 400-car downtown garage in the 100 block of West Main Street. The United Virginia Bank building at Main Plaza East was dedicated in April 1970. Before 1971 ended, several other downtown changes occurred. City Council approved a $7 million appropriation for a Scope parking garage. Funds were approved to widen Monticello Avenue. The federal government approved a $907,515 grant for a pedestrian walkway and new streets between the MacArthur Memorial and the waterfront. A new six-lane Waterfront Drive was opened between Boush Street and St. Paul’s Boulevard.
In 1974, more growth was announced. International City Corporation unveiled plans for a $9 million, 10-story office building next to the Virginia National Bank. City Council and the NRHA Board of Commissioners considered redeveloping the western sector of downtown. And plans for a $14.6 million Federal Building were announced.
Around this time, changes also occurred in federal programs. The General Revenue Sharing Program was introduced into Norfolk’s budget in fiscal year 1974. Also in 1974, the Community Development Block Grant Program replaced categorical urban development, which had been in place over the previous 25 years.
It is important to mention the changes in the composition of the Board, as well as the City’s leadership, that occurred during the late 1960s and early ‘70s. As noted, Kaufman had resigned in July 1969 as member and chairman of the Board. Darden served as chairman from August 11, 1969 until July 30, 1971. Robert R. MacMillan began his service with the Authority on July 31, 1969 succeeding Kaufman. MacMillan was elected vice-chairman of the Authority on June 1, 1970 and served as its chairman from August 16, 1971 until September 25, 1973.
Another resignation of importance was that of James E. Etheridge. Etheridge had been appointed to the Board of Commissioners on September 5, 1940. He replaced George H. Lewis, one of the Authority’s charter members who had resigned to be the Authority’s first executive director. Etheridge had served on the Board longer than any other Commissioner, exceeding Kaufman by six months.
Julian Rashkind was named to replace Etheridge on April 21, 1970. He was a native of New York and graduate of Columbia University. Rashkind had been involved in residential development in the Hampton Roads area for many years and joined the Board at a time when residential development was of major importance to the city. Rashkind served as vice-chairman from August 16, 1971 until September 25, 1973, at which time he was elected chairman.
Patricia T. Riley and Alfred E. Abiouness were named to the Board of Commissioners following the resignations of Darden and Roper. Riley served from July 31, 1969 until June 30, 1975. Abiouness was appointed June 22, 1971. Riley resigned because she moved out of the city. Reid Spencer was named to serve as Commissioner on August 21, 1973. Attorney Spencer had run for the U.S. Senate in 1959.
Another significant change during the 1970s was the appointment of G. Robert House as city manager of Norfolk. House, who had been city manager in Chesapeake, succeeded Thomas F. Maxwell, who submitted his resignation on September 22, 1970 for personal reasons.
By the late1970s, federal funding for urban development programs was declining. In fiscal year 1975, the entitlement for Norfolk was $17.8 million. By the end of the fiscal year 1977, the entitlement had declined to $15.9 million, with prospects of Norfolk’s amount continuing to decline the ensuing six years. Projections under Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, Public Law 93-383, placed Norfolk’s level of funding at $5.9 million by the end of fiscal year 1980.
Not only did the period 1969 through 1976 witness a decline in federal funding for urban redevelopment, President Nixon began using impoundment to eliminate or reduce housing and community development programs he disliked. It was not until Congress passed Title 10 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 that some compromises were reached. Yet the Impoundment Control Act continued to be disregarded by Presidents Nixon and Ford, with President Ford using rescissions and deferrals in a routine manner until 1976.
During the 1970s, General Revenue Sharing dollars benefited Norfolk with its operating and capital expenditures. By 1983, the city manager had greatly reduced the support for the Operating Budget from Revenue Sharing Fund monies. The significance of this is that only a nominal amount of funds were devoted to downtown redevelopment. Through 1982, the total program for the city amounted to $88,666,457. Of that amount, $6,504,000 had been expended on downtown, or about 7 percent.
Despite the decline in federal funding, revitalization activities in downtown and other areas of the city continued. Predictions were made in the mid-‘70s that downtown Norfolk would become a retail shopping center for convenience goods while big-ticket buying would be in shopping centers.
Plans were also unveiled for a new downtown plan to save Freemason Street homes from being severed by Waterfront Drive (later changed to Waterside Drive). The 1956 Master Plan for Norfolk’s Central Business District had called for a 100-foot wide loop freeway that would begin at Botetourt and York Streets and intercept Boush at Tazewell Street. The new plan placed emphasis on pedestrians. It anticipated extensive office and commercial development south of Scope, new residential communities along the waterfront, and the preservation of historic area.
The Omni International Hotel opened in January 1976, with high hopes for attracting more conventions and tourists to Norfolk. Granby Mall opened in April 1976, with predictions that it would bring people back downtown. By 1977, a new framework for downtown was emerging. Downtown’s rejuvenation received another boost in August 1977, as clearance began for the Downtown West Redevelopment Project.
While actions were occurring within the Central Business District during the 1970s to stimulate social and economic revitalization, other activities in areas outside the district were beginning to affect downtown favorably. The East Ghent Redevelopment Project was well under way, with the first site cleared in 1970. Philanthropist Walter Chrysler announced that he was willing to transfer to Norfolk from Provincetown, Mass., an art collection valued at more than $60 million.
On July 15, 1975, Evelyn T. Butts was appointed an NRHA commissioner. She had been a local Civil Rights leader and member of the Citizens Advisory Committee. She is remembered for her 1966 Supreme Court win declaring the Virginia Poll Tax unconstitutional. She was the second minority member of the commission.
On November 30, 1977, David H. Rice was named NRHA’s executive director. The commissioners at the time of Rice’s appointment were: Chairman Julian Rashkind; Vice-Chairman Franklin W. Thornton; Alfred E. Abiouness, Reid M. Spencer ,and Evelyn T. Butts.
Downtown activities that had been started during earlier NRHA administrations continued as 1977 ended. The development of the area along the CBD’s west waterfront (later named Freemason Harbour) kicked off. Contracts were awarded during December 1977 for cobblestone street improvements in the Freemason Historic District. Plans for the waterfront area development were considered realistic and feasible.
In 1978 NRHA returned its focus to downtown development and the eradication of slums in the approach zone to downtown, from the east along the Princess Anne Road and Virginia Beach Boulevard corridors. Although a Huntersville Redevelopment Project begun in 1971 had eliminated some blight, slums remained in the Huntersville area.
During 1978, downtown Norfolk received attention in the headlines as a place to be. Editorials in local newspapers commented on downtown’s comeback. Entertainment, conventions and tourism were thriving. Norfolk’s Harborfest drew 140,000 people downtown as public efforts pushed for festivals to revitalize social interaction. Creating open space for the enjoyment of Norfolk residents received a boost in 1978 as the result of federal grants for waterfront parks in America’s downtowns.
The 1979 opening of the Federal Building brought additional employees downtown, and private and public efforts were launched to revitalize Granby Mall. Out-of-town consultants were hired to help redesign storefronts along the mall. Attempts were made to develop a farmer’s market. The first International In-the-Water Boat Show was held. Union Mission homeless shelter became a target of downtown merchants. NRHA approved the expenditure of $118,000 for a study that might lead to a Jacques Cousteau educational and research center on downtown’s waterfront. The revitalization of the Wells Theatre kicked off after NRHA approved $315,000 for the effort. The defunct Norva Theatre was considered for renovation into a fitness center. Two-hour free parking was provided to lure shoppers. And it was a record convention year.
Another economic generator made its presence felt in 1979. Before that, only one tax-exempt commercial bond issue had ever been sold to finance downtown development. During 1979, 10 bond issues were sold. Among them were bonds for office and retail use along Granby Mall and the Monticello Arcade.
As the 1980s began, Norfolk city officials were optimistic about downtown’s future. Plans were announced for a $3.5 million rehabilitation of the Commodore Maury Hotel (later renamed Hotel Madison). The renovation of Monticello Arcade was finished. Virginia Stage Company celebrated its opening night in the Wells Theatre. The theatre was declared an historic landmark. The Boush Cold Storage building was renovated and converted into loft condominiums.
Bank of the Commonwealth opened its new headquarters on Boush Street. This was important to NRHA because it was built on redevelopment land and its construction financed through a tax-exempt bond issued by NRHA. The 26-floor Dominion Tower building went up just east of the Omni Hotel, and the 21-floor Norfolk Southern Tower was built adjacent to the Sovran (now Bank of America) building. The firm of Crow, Terwilliger and Michaux, Inc. built 123 residential condominium units near downtown's western waterfront.
In 1981, Waterside Festival Marketplace became an issue. The question was whether or not the City of Norfolk should take the risk of spending public funds to finance a waterfront marketplace. The controversy was resolved and on June 1, 1983, the $13.5 million marketplace opened. During its first few days of operation, it was clear that it would spur further downtown revitalization.
NRHA Commissioner Reid Spencer received the endorsement of the Norfolk-Portsmouth Bar Association for a General District Court judgeship. Spencer was appointed by the Circuit Court judges as interim General District Court judge and sworn in on July 1, 1983. Although Spencer’s term as Commissioner did not expire until December 6, 1983, he did not participate as a voting member of the Board after July 1.
In November 1983, Corbin B. White was named to fill the Spencer’s term. White had retired in 1978 as director of Atlantic Permanent Federal Savings & Loan Association. Prior to that, he had been president of C.B. White & Bro., Inc., a home heating fuel company.
In an effort to coordinate the public and private planning efforts for downtown, the Downtown Plan Study Team had been created in 1978. The group’s objectives were to assess development opportunities and recommend a plan and implementation program. The results of the study were published in the early 1980s and a new detailed General Development Plan for revitalizing downtown Norfolk was accepted. A companion piece was prepared by the firm of Wallace, Roberts and Todd of Philadelphia. This document would serve as a guiding framework for future development interests.
As a result of close cooperation between the City of Norfolk and NRHA at the policy and staff levels, downtown’s physical development moved rapidly during the ‘80s. Selden Arcade became an upscale retail center and a $19 million World Trade Center built near the waterfront. Town Point Park was also completed, and plans for a second phase of Waterside were undertaken.
On July 30, 1987, Commissioner Evelyn T. Butts completed 12 years of service and asked not to be reappointed. Beatrice Jennings, executive director of the Olde Huntersville Development Corporation, indicated her willingness to be appointed to the board, but as of this writing, City Council has not taken action to effect the appointment.
April 1, 1989, assisted-rental communities dropped "Park" from their names.
The 1993 Norfolk Housing Attitude Study conducted by Continental Research Associates, Inc., found that Norfolk is “a recognized leader when it comes to cultural and recreation activities,” with the majority of citizens polled ranking its recreational activities as better than those in neighboring cities. Seventy-two percent also felt that homes in Norfolk were a good value for the money. When asked to rate the quality of life in Norfolk, 78.4% of residents, 82% of real estate agents and 80% of builders rated it as good or excellent.
In 1995, NRHA stepped into the “green” era by renovating two public housing units in Young Terrace to be energy efficient. Both units included self-contained total energy meter systems with central air and heat, new water-saving bathroom and kitchen fixtures and compact fluorescent lighting throughout. The “Geo” geothermal model has a ground-to-air heat pump and the “Apollo” model has a gas fired combination hot water system that provides heat and hot water, with central air provided by an air-to-air split system. In addition, both apartments have plastered walls throughout, a “One Step” terrazzo-like floor system in the bath and on the stairs, enhanced landscaping, exposed aggregate concrete patios and vinyl wired shelving. New kitchen cabinets and appliances, vinyl floors, exterior and screen doors have been installed as well.
Norfolk received the Enterprise Community designation and a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in January 1995. The funding was used to provide job readiness training through Norfolk Works, Inc.
Diggs Town was selected as one of 63 Great American Places in May 1995, by Urban Initiatives, a New York-based non-profit firm dedicated to the better understanding and preservation of design in American cities. New York’s Central Park and Florida’s Seaside were among the winners. The competition was sponsored by the Lyndhurst Foundation of Chattanooga in an effort to reverse development trends that threaten the quality of life in America. Diggs Town, the only public housing development selected, was chosen because it “was a great example of how you can retrofit an obsolete design,” said Urban Initiatives President Gianni Longo. The 419 apartments in Diggs Town, originally opened in 1952, underwent a $17 million major interior and exterior renovation in 1993 with HUD modernization funds.
In August 1995, Poplar Hall resident Joshua Paige was appointed by Norfolk City Council to NRHA’s Board of Commissioners, replacing Mrs. Johnnie Q. Branch, who held the seat for six years previously. A native of Greensboro, Ala., Paige retired from the U.S. Navy and lived in Norfolk for 26 years before becoming a commissioner. He was president of the Poplar Hall Civic League and president of the Inner-City Federation of Civic Leagues.
“It’s Fresh! It’s Good! It’s From the Hood!” was the slogan of the Pizza-Ria, the Roberts Village Youth Council’s pizza delivery service started on September 13, 1995. Working in conjunction with counselors from Junior Achievement and the Boys and Girls Club, five members of the youth council, ages 14 to 16, negotiated with the Pizza Hut on 22nd Street to purchase pizzas at a discount to sell to residents of Bowling Green, Moton Circle and Roberts Village. Utilizing seed money from NRHA’s revolving loan program, they purchased a pizza warmer, uniforms, telephone line, answering machine and promotional materials. The youth were paid according to the Junior Achievement model, a small salary and the opportunity to buy shares in the business. Additional profits were used by the youth council for community projects.
The Bowling Green Tenant Management Corporation utilized a $15,000 grant from the Drug Elimination Program to start community radio station WBGB 1510 AM on October 6, 1995. The station had a varied format of music talk shows, public service, job announcements and other programming to respond to residents’ issues and concerns about the community. The station, which was on air from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., was run by volunteers and provided youth the opportunity to learn about broadcasting.
In November 1995, George W. C. Brown Jr., head of the Coronado-Inglenook Civic League, was elected Vice Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, a position that had been left vacant by Commissioner Branch when her term ended in July 1995. Brown had been a commissioner since 1989. A retired real estate agent and World War II Army veteran, Brown was a member of the City Council task force on affordable housing in the late 1980’s and a member of the Board of Plumb Line Ministries, a nonprofit organization which builds and renovates homes in central Brambleton for low- to moderate-income families.
NRHA received the High Performer ranking from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the fifth consecutive year in 1996, for its rating of 95 out of a possible 100. The Public Housing Management Assessment Program scores housing authorities on 12 areas of management and operation including vacancy rates, modernization, energy consumption, annual unit inspection, resident initiative programs, financial management and budget controls. High performing agencies are regarded as well-run businesses that have adequate controls and checks in place and have proven they follow sound business practices.
On September 24, 1996, NRHA signed the deed to the Oakmont North apartment complex it purchased from HUD for $10 (ten U.S. dollars). NRHA applied for and received an $8.7 million redevelopment grant from the Federal Housing Administration, to renovate the apartments and create support services within the community. Plans for the community included a day care, computer learning and community center; safety and security programs; access to job readiness and training programs; and the creation of up to 12 transitional housing units.
NRHA received its second Sustained Performance Award from HUD on October 3, 1996. The first was awarded in 1991. The award recognizes continued excellence in providing quality management, maintenance and services to public housing residents.
The 17-story SMA Tower, six-story Rennert Building and four-story JC Penney building were imploded on November 24, 1996, to make way for MacArthur Center, which opened in March 1999. Old Dominion Demolition Corporation of Portsmouth and subcontractor Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Md., utilized approximately 775 pounds of gelatin dynamite to bring the structures down.
NRHA served as developer on the Tidewater Community College downtown Norfolk campus project. The campus opened in January 1997. In 2000, the project was enhanced by the opening of the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center. In September 2002, the $34 million development was honored with the Economic Development Award from the International Downtown Association.
The City of Norfolk and NRHA entered into a development agreement with Collins Enterprises Inc., of Connecticut, on January 13, 1997, for a residential/retail development along the Elizabeth River, marking the sale of the last five parcels of land in Freemason Harbor. Freemason Harbor, located west of Boush Street and south of College Place, is a mixed-use development which began in 1977 with the construction of 20 townhomes, followed by 300 residential units, a marina and a waterfront park. The new $32 million development agreement would include the development of 146 apartments, 45 townhouses, an 80+ suite inn, a 168 slip marina and a restaurant on the pier.
The Home Buyers Fair was held May 31, 1997, at ODU’s Webb Center. The event, sponsored by NRHA, several banks, Norfolk Works Inc., and the Urban League of Hampton Roads, brought prospective home buyers together with financial counselors, mortgage lenders, Realtors, builders and affordable housing developers. It also kicked off NRHA’s HomeNet program which educates prospective buyers on the home buying process and walks them through it from start to finish. Participants also had a chance to register to buy a house for $1.00 in the Park Place conservation area.
“Learning and Living a Healthy Life,” NRHA’s first better living workshop for senior citizens was held June 12, 1997, and became an annual event. Participants learned about housing alternatives, special health needs, volunteer service and employment opportunities.
As part of NRHA’s Conservation Plan for the Berkley area, the building at 530 South Main Street formerly owned by the City of Norfolk was renovated to become the new home of the NCP (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth) Community Development Federal Credit Union. The building was obtained by the Beacon Light Civic League to bring the member-owned, not-for-profit financial institution to an area without a bank and serve individual members of the community, small businesses and community-based organizations.
HUD designated both the Norfolk and Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authorities as High Performers in 1998, with a perfect score of 100 for the Public Housing Management Assessment Program. The same year, NRHA was awarded a $1,061,990 Public Housing Drug Elimination Program grant from HUD to continue its highly successful drug-use and drug-related crime elimination programs by offering security services and youth programs. Each public housing neighborhood has an officer from the Norfolk Police Department assigned to the community full time. Each community also has a youth council with representatives who serve on NRHA’s Youth Executive Council that provides leadership, communication and entrepreneurial training and opportunities.
A deed transition ceremony was held May 30, 1998, for residents of Bell Diamond, a Berkley community of 74 townhomes that were built in 1973 through a pilot program between NRHA and HUD wherein residents took part in a special rent to buy program that allowed families to have a portion of their rent accumulate toward the purchase of their home.
L. Robert “Bob” Layton was appointed to the Board of Commissioners effective July 28, 1998. Layton, a lifelong Norfolk resident, began serving on Norfolk’s Planning Commission in 1992. He was also the president of Atlantic Equipment Corporation, a food service equipment distribution firm, and vice president of Elrell Corporation, a property management company.
In December 1998, renovations were completed on NRHA’s 201 Granby Street location in the historic Royster building which was built in 1912.
MacArthur Center Mall opened March 12, 1999.
A social services office was relocated from the former Tucker Center to Oakleaf Forest in what became known as the Campostella Center at Greenleaf in 1999. The new location provided services such as application acceptance for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), Medicaid, food stamps, a food closet and assistance for unattached children. The center serviced not only public housing residents, but the extended Campostella community as well.
NRHA maintained its High Performer HUD rating with a score of 100 for the second year in a row in 1999.
In 1999, HUD awarded NRHA a $672,924 Family Unification Grant to benefit about 100 families who are separated or about to be separated because of domestic violence, homelessness or unsafe housing conditions. NRHA was the only housing agency in the Commonwealth of Virginia to receive this type of grant.
HUD recognized NRHA in 1999 for “best practices” for its Partnership Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) program which cut energy costs in half by installing energy-efficient, geo-thermal heating and cooling systems in its administration building, apartments and a community center. Water consumption in residential units was reduced by 100 gallons a day. The Parent Advocate Program which assigned parents to work closely with schools, resident organizations and mental health agencies to address absenteeism and truancy issues among public housing youth also was recognized for “best practices.” Best practice programs are those considered to have the potential to serve as models for other communities across the country to follow.
In 2000, NRHA opened the Family Investment Center (FIC) at Oakmont North. The FIC is the focal point of the renovated apartment complex and open to residents of the surrounding communities as well as Oakmont North residents. It houses a childcare wing, computer lab, family resource and meeting areas, game and music rooms.
In August 2001, NRHA partnered with the City of Norfolk and the Crispus Attucks Cultural Center Inc., to begin a more than $6 million renovation of The Attucks Theater, named for the first African-American to lose his life in the Boston Massacre of 1770. As part of its renovation, the 675-seat theater had space added for meeting rooms and a cultural museum. Built in 1919 at the corner of Church Street and Virginia Beach Boulevard, it was the only theater in Norfolk that served African-American patrons and hosted African-American performers at that time. It is the only theater in the nation completely designed, financed, constructed and operated by African-Americans. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Ernest Freeman joined NRHA as its executive director in November 2001, bringing with him nearly 20 years of experience as a city planner for Norfolk, Portsmouth, Cincinnati, San Diego and Baltimore. Freeman resigned the executive directorship in 2004.
Rodney Jordan was appointed to the Board of Commissioners in January 2002 and served until September 2009.
NRHA partnered with the Old Dominion University Real Estate Foundation in development of the 75-acre University Village project which included a shopping center, restaurants, theaters, offices, research labs and residences with high-tech connections to the campus. The Ted Constant Convocation Center, which opened in October 2002, was the cornerstone of this project.
The Broad Creek Renaissance initiative began in 2002 as a model for new urban revitalization. The mixed-income community combines townhomes, single family homes, retail space, a linear park, recreation center and grassy open spaces for community gatherings on two square miles. It was the site of Homearama 2005.
Also in 2002, the two-phase renovation of Grandy Village began as part of the Broad Creek Renaissance initiative. Phase I consisted of utility upgrades including site lighting, storm drains and water-conserving plumbing fixtures as well as replacement of existing overhead electrical services with new underground services. Phase II targeted construction of a new road to provide better connections with surrounding neighborhoods and greater access for fire and police services as well as renovation of the existing recreation center, property management office, landscaping and street lighting. The reclamation of Elizabeth River waterfront adjacent to Grandy Village was a joint effort between NRHA, the City and the Army Corp of Engineers that created wetlands and an open space for use by the residents.
Spring 2002 saw the partnering of NRHA and Empowerment 2010 to offer the six-week Construction Contractors College, designed to provide women- and minority-owned small businesses with the tools to compete for local government contracts. There were 90 graduates.
Franklin Arms, a 100-unit apartment complex for senior citizens located at 2500 Princess Anne Road, opened in September 2003 as the first phase of the Broad Creek Renaissance. The building was named for Vera Franklin, a longtime NRHA employee who passed away in 2002.
NRHA’s receipt of $15 million in New Markets Tax Credits from the U.S. Treasury Department was the cover story of the September/October 2003 issue of the Journal of Housing & Community Development. NRHA was the only agency in Virginia and the only housing authority in the nation to be awarded New Market Tax Credits.
Ulysses Turner was appointed to the Board of Commissioners at the Sept. 23, 2003, meeting of Norfolk City Council. Turner’s appointment filled the vacancy created by Joshua C. Paige’s resignation in July 2003. Turner served on the Board of Commissioners until August 10, 2009.
East Beach, a public-private initiative of NRHA, the City of Norfolk and East Beach Company, LLC, turned nearly 100 acres of once-blighted property in Ocean View into a waterfront village of nearly 700 residences, offices, retail space, walking paths, parks and a beach pavilion. East Beach was the site of Homearama 2004.
West Church was the first new residential community set along Church Street in decades when its 31 architecturally distinctive homes ranging in price from $98,000 to $160,000 quickly sold out.
In 2004, Shurl Montgomery was named executive director of NRHA following his retirement in July 2004 after 14 years as a Norfolk assistant city manager. A native of West Virginia, Montgomery began his career with the City of Norfolk’s administration in 1978 as assistant director of Parks and Recreation.
In 2004, NRHA was honored with Awards of Merit by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) for four of its five entries. Winning for Project Design/New Project was Central Brambleton Arch, a neighborhood revitalization project that featured 31 two-story, single family homes priced from $95,000 to $150,000 as well as new streets, open space and a landscaped pond. It was a collaborative effort between NRHA, the City of Norfolk, Plumb Line Ministries, Norfolk State University and the Central Brambleton Civic League. Hampton Roads Ventures won the Program Innovation/Community Revitalization category. Created in 2003, Hampton Roads Ventures is a community-development investment company that channels private sector capital into underserved communities. The Home Ownership Center was honored with the Program Innovation/Self-Sufficiency Program award. The center houses the HomeNet program which serves anyone shopping for a home in Norfolk, and the Housing Opportunities program which serves residents of public housing. The Youth Entertainment Studio (YES) was honored with the Program Innovation/Youth Services award. Launched in 2001, YES was a community-based youth program that combined video and music production, graphic arts, technology and internet skills to guide youth into developing their passions into marketable abilities while building confidence, character and leadership.
Robert Soble was appointed to the Board of Commissioners in April 2004. The president of his own business, Pottery Art Studio, Soble has served as vice chairman of Norfolk’s Industrial Development Authority as well as vice president of the Virginia Zoological Society; chaired the Fan Fair of Virginia orchestra group; helped establish Harborfest, Festevents and the Virginia Stage Company; and been a board member of the City’s Economic Development Authority, Virginia Symphony, Arthritis Foundation and Cultural Alliance of Hampton Roads.
On April 30, 2005, Calvert Square was one of five communities nationwide to receive an “extreme makeover” in a program sponsored by Keep America Beautiful and Scotts Miracle-Gro Companies. The $10,000 project provided plants, trees, flowers, a picnic area, butterfly garden and new main walkway.
In 2006, NRHA won three NAHRO Awards of Merit. Homearama 2005 at Broad Creek won the Housing & Community Development category. The Builders & Designers Guild won the Housing & Community Development category. Established in 2005, the Guild was formed to protect and enhance the investment of public dollars that attract private dollars to restore and build new housing. The Broad Creek Resident Relocation Program won the Housing & Community Development category. The program was responsible for the relocation of 553 families from the Roberts Village and Bowling Green public housing communities that were demolished to make way for Broad Creek.
In July 2006, 18 families received the keys to their new homes at the dedication of a group of condominiums to be renovated as part of Park Place revitalization. The condos are the Touraine, Norment, Anchorage, Colonial Arms and Herman Court.
In 2006, HUD required all housing authorities to operate their public housing rental properties more like private business in a move known as asset management. It moved certain functions and tasks from the central office to each property site. Property managers became primarily responsible for the daily operation of their communities and maintaining HUD compliance.
2007 saw the construction of 11 Energy Star duplexes (22 units) at Grandy Village as part of the Grandy Village renovation that began in 2002. Energy Star is the highest building conservation rating awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and HUD. The Grandy Village duplexes are the first multi-family complex in Hampton Roads to be designed Energy Star.
NRHA won two NAHRO Awards of Merit in 2007. One was for Asset Management Professional Development for becoming the first housing authority in the nation to partner with the Institute for Real Estate Management (IREM) on asset management training, providing comprehensive in-house training that prepared employees to become Accredited Residential Managers (ARM), the most recognized credential for residential real estate managers. The other award was for Restoration of Historic African-American Landmarks. Hampton Roads Ventures utilized New Market Tax Credits and other innovation financial techniques to readapt the Dumas Center for Artistic Development in Roanoke from a 90-year-old historic hotel and The Strand Theatre/Culinary Arts School, also in Roanoke, from an 83-year-old historic theatre.
Park Terrace apartment complex received a 2007 Award of Excellence from the Tidewater Multi-Family Housing Council.
Construction on the Townhomes at East Church, later renamed The Maplewoods, began in March 2007 and 11 were sold by summer of that year. Half of the 27 townhomes were reserved for restricted income buyers and the others were market rate. The brick townhomes, located two blocks north of the renovated Attucks Theater and directly across from West Church, are energy efficient and boast two-car garages. In Hampton Roads where new townhouses averaged $296,000 at the time of construction, these townhomes were priced at $165,000 to $225,000.
In 2007, NRHA began working on a new strategic plan. It would continue the process of changes that accompanied the previous year’s transition to asset management by developing improvement processes. Springsted Inc., a national consulting firm, assisted NRHA with a comprehensive analysis of both the internal organization and NRHA’s external operating environment. That information was used to evaluate and update NRHA’s mission, values and goals.
HRV’s first annual scholarship gala was held February 24, 2007, at the Attucks Theater and featured a performance by The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards. The black tie event garnered more than 600 attendees and $40,000 in scholarship donations.
Judge Greg Mathis, known for his television show Judge Mathis, was the keynote speaker at Client Services’ 2007 Recognition of Achievement Banquet. The City of Norfolk proclaimed June 7, 2007, Judge Greg Mathis Day. The banquet honors residents of public housing who have made significant achievements such as graduating a post-secondary program, high school students who graduate with honors and receive scholarships and residents who have completed training for and maintained employment. A total of $100,000 in scholarships was awarded to high school graduates at the event.
On May 21, 2008, the wetlands restoration along the Elizabeth River at Grandy Village was showcased in observance of American Wetland Month. Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) restored 1.7 acres of wetlands at the location to offset the impact of 1.57 acres of wetlands caused by the construction of The Tide, a light rail system.
In 2008, NRHA won four Awards of Merit from NAHRO. The awards were for The Maplewoods townhomes at East Church; the New Markets Tax Credits & Tax-Exempt Empowerment Zone Bonds; the strategic plan; and EarthCraft and Energy Star residences.
In 2008 and 2009, NRHA showed its support for Lee’s Friends, a philanthropic organization assisting cancer patients and their families, by participating in the annual Run on the Wild Side at the Virginia Zoo. Employees made company-matched contributions, ran the 5K race or volunteered and several residents from the public housing communities participated as well.
NRHA began a $7.5 million renovation project at Mission College apartments in 2008 as part of the Broad Creek Renaissance. Renovations include a new entrance gateway, signage, energy efficient grounds lighting as well as new plumbing, flooring, HVAC systems, fencing, landscaping and a community clubhouse and pool.
In autumn 2008, City officials, working with NRHA, approved $1 million in revitalization assistance funds for residences in Denby Park, Oakdale Farms and Monticello Village. NRHA’s Residential Rehabilitation Services department processed applications, oversaw construction and coordinated financing for the program. Within the first six months, the $1 million committed to 21 homeowners. The success of the program led to the approval of an addition $1 million for fiscal year 2010, which could be committed to as many as 38 homeowners.
In 2009, NRHA partnered with the Retirement Housing Foundation of Long Beach, Calif., to develop a 40-unit senior apartment complex in Lamberts Point. Expected to open in Autumn 2010, Village Point will be available to families with a head of household who is at least 62 years of age and makes 50% or less of the area median income. Plans also began for a new 24,000 square foot Lamberts Point Community Center that will feature a rock climbing wall, full service kitchen, computer lab, fitness and game rooms, and a gymnasium/basketball court.
Kirn Memorial Library was demolished in 2009 to make way for The Tide’s downtown Norfolk stop. The 7.4 miles light rail service will run from Eastern Virginia Medical School to Newtown Road.
- About NRHA
- Meet Our Team
- Statistical Summary
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Freedom of Information Act
- News and Events