What’s the future for Waterside in Norfolk?

Public invited to weigh in on Norfolk’s landmark project

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Waterside, a longtime symbol of downtown Norfolk’s rebirth, faces a major overhaul. City leaders are seeking public input to determine whether the festival marketplace should be renovated, razed or transformed into something entirely different.

To gather opinions on the project’s future, the city has placed an online survey on its Web site and on Waterside’s Web sites. The survey also was mailed to civic organizations and churches, put in libraries and published in the media. The city plans to tabulate results from the survey and conduct open forums to gain additional input. Several focus groups also will be convened, and public meetings will be held to report survey results.  “It is a facility in transition,” Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim noted in his State of the City address this year.

The city wants to make Waterside more family friendly, but it also wants the community to be in agreement about its best use. A decision on Waterside’s future is expected early next year.

When it opened in June 1983, Waterside lit up the riverfront, attracting locals and tourists alike to its shops and restaurants. It expanded in 1990, adding more retail space. However, as redevelopment spread through Norfolk’s downtown, bringing an upscale mall and other restaurant and entertainment venues, traffic at the marketplace steadily dwindled.

Waterside’s original mix of retail space and fish markets changed through the years as the facility underwent several transformations. Most recently, it has been an entertainment complex. Last year, the city shut down two bars, citing code violations and contending that the clubs drew violent patrons. Also last year, a fatal shooting in the garage across from Waterside heightened safety concerns. Waterside now has four restaurants and 12 specialty retail shops. However, much of its first-floor food court sits vacant.

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