Downtown projects

Norfolk begins building library and considers the fate of Waterside

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Norfolk officials are moving ahead with major downtown projects, including a new library and the redevelopment of Waterside, a longtime restaurant and entertainment venue.

Construction began this spring on the $64 million Col. Samuel L. Slover Memorial Library, which is scheduled to open in 2014. The facility is expected to be one of the most technologically enhanced libraries in the country. “We expect it to be a regional resource,” says Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim. “It has been well received by the community and is going to be a cutting edge library for the next century.”

The late Frank Batten Sr. and his wife, Jane Batten, donated $20 million for the library in 2008. Jane Batten later offered a $20 million “challenge grant” from the Batten Foundation to help cover costs and establish an endowment for the facility. The city raised an additional $5 million from community groups and individuals to meet the challenge.

Meanwhile, City Manager Marcus Jones is mulling two proposals for Waterside, which was opened as a “festival marketplace” similar to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in the early 1980s.

Under a plan submitted by the The Cordish Cos., Waterside would be operated as Waterside Live and would include 13 restaurants, a marketplace and entertainment venue.

The Harvey Lindsay Development Group has offered a more extensive plan that would raze Waterside and connect the waterfront to downtown Norfolk. The $200 million project would include a 190,000-square-foot convention center, an expanded Towne Bank Building, an office tower that would be the headquarters for architecture and engineering firm Clark Nexsen, an updated marina and a waterfront seafood restaurant.

“We have a couple of good proposals,” Fraim says. “The community has a lot of affection for Waterside, and it needs to be a very open and public place.”

While these public projects are under way, Norfolk’s Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk is moving forward with a major expansion and renovation. Its board has approved plans for the project and expects to solicit construction bids this spring. Construction, expected to cost about $24 million, will begin in July, with completion scheduled for early 2014.

The expansion project will add an additional 8,000 square feet of new gallery space in two new wings that will flank the museum’s entrance. It also will relocate and modernize the museum’s café and catering facilities.  

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