In order to help direct new energy that was growing in a blighted area just north of Norfolk’s Downtown, Work Program Architects collaborated on multiple community charrettes to guide development of the neighborhood.
The first charrette, with Urban Design Associates, in the Fall of 2013, produced a “kit-of-parts,” a list of ideas that could be employed over time to aid in the systematic revival of the district. The team focused on issues such as connections, responses to flooding, image and personality, public safety, parking, and resources currently available to the district. A tool kit was developed for individual property owners to begin short-term improvements. This generated enthusiasm among those who wanted to take immediate action. Parklets, planters, artistic crosswalks, temporary shading devices, murals, and sculptural bike racks were just a few items in the tool kit.
Due to the City’s thoughtful investment in a planning process, with a high level of community input, the district prospered quickly. All vacant buildings were purchased within one year of the 2013 charrette, and millions of dollars of private money was invested in the area, distinguished by large-scale murals and neon works of art. In early 2015, WPA led a follow-up charrette to review 2013 initiatives, progress and accomplishments, as well as to focus on investment priorities for the next two years.
WPA subsequently designed a custom wayfinding system for the new neighborhood and worked with local glass artists and metal fabricators on a project to connect the Chrysler Museum with the NEON District. A path of 200 glass “bread crumbs” were installed in sidewalks just in time for the international Glass Art Society meeting hosted by Norfolk in June 2017.
WPA continues to assist with the development of the area, applying what it is learning as it works with the National Disaster Resilience grant project to develop effective flood water management strategies for district.