Today was the first day of the 12 hours of initial planning on Town Center's Strategic Growth Area (SGA).
The morning session was well-attended and centered on background Presentations on the possibilities. They were on the proposed Transportation plan (including the crack-induced idea to ram Broad Street through Pembroke Mall, KMart, and Princess Anne High School), the Thalia Creek Greenway, mass transit options, Planning & Placemaking Principles, and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Jayne Whitney of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) arrived late for her segment, leading me to joke a Steering Committee member that she had tried taking the bus there.
We got through the morning's business ahead of schedule, leading to a long (96 minute) lunch break. After finishing the supplied lunch from the Westin, I used the time to go to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream.
In the afternoon, participants started by answering four pages of questions, then giving opinions on a number of land use photos. We were asked what the role of the Pembroke area should be in the city, and the character of the area. Following that, we used dot stickers and markers to code maps of the SGA for it's strengths (red), opportunities (green), and challenges (blue).
Of particular interest for me has been the issue of the two apartment complexes on Weaver Drive, just outside the SGA. Aden Park contains 10% of Virginia Beach's apartments in it's price range, while Ebbets Plaza is one of four directly-subsidized apartment complexes in our city. Given our acute shortage of low-income units, losing them out of redevelopment of the SGA would be a disaster. I spoke to Andy Friedman (Director of the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation) and Tom Pauls (the City's chief land planner) about it. In addition, I got the area marked for preservation on the map at my table.
The disappointment of the day was that more members of the general public weren't there for the afternoon session, but it was a weekday during the day. I hope we get a large crowd for the session on the evening of February 5.