Just in time for the prestigious Glass Arts Society meeting June 1-3 2017 hosted by The Chrysler Museum of Art, two hundred 6-inch colored glass disks will light a path between the museum and the new NEON Arts District on Granby Street. The disks, conceived as “bread crumbs,” were created by artists at the Chrysler’s Perry Glass Studio, and lead people on a path of artistic discovery developed by WPA and Sway Creative Labs.
The “bread crumbs” are the most recent manifestation of the re-energized NEON area just north of Norfolk’s Downtown. In 2013, WPA collaborated with Urban Design Associates to facilitate a three-day public charrette to reinvigorate this formerly blighted area. The charrette provided a framework to help the City of Norfolk address both short-term and long-term goals for the district. It also 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. Five areas for initiatives were identified by all participants, and the team worked to illustrate these in a series of before and after renderings. On a smaller scale, a tool kit for individual property owners was developed to assist them with short-term improvements. 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 NEON Arts District has prospered quickly. All vacant buildings were purchased within one year of the 2013 charrette, and millions of dollars of private money has been invested in the area.
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. In the fall of 2015, the District celebrated the NEON: New Energy of Norfolk Festival, showcasing more than 30 large-scale building murals and neon works of art.
WPA will be applying what it is learning working with the National Disaster Resilience grant project to develop effective flood water management strategies for the NEON district.