Last year, the Texas based urban planning and committee organizers, Team Better Block, identified three Norfolk sites that would fit the Better Block vision. Norfolk’s first site, Granby Street, was a success last April and acted as the test site for future revitalization. Team Better Block is hoping to recreate that success with historic W. 35 St. this upcoming Nov. 8th and 9th.
Team Better Block is collaborating with a number of city officials, business owners and community leaders for this project, most notably is the Park Place Business Association. Park Place Business Association is a group composed of local business owners who have an interest in the betterment of not only W. 35 St., but Park Place as a whole.
President, Vernon Fareed has high hopes for the collaboration with Team Better Block.
“They contacted me and invited me to go with lunch with them. It’s really the fact that they reached out to us… It was a natural fit,” said Fareed. “They had an interest in this area and we had an interest in what they had to offer, so it was kind of a two way street.”
On Aug. 27, Better Block 35th St. held its first community walk. About 75 community leaders, residences and past Better Block volunteers walked through W. 35 Street and identified possible opportunities and constraints for upcoming revitalization. Since then the team has been actively working to narrow down their ideas and make them a reality.
Much like the goal of Better Block Granby Street, ultimately, Better Block W. 35 St. wants to bring travelers to Norfolk. Fareed feels as if this will be an easier task for W. 35 St. since there are already multitudes of active business in the area.
“I think we have a little bit more going for us in terms of [the] businesses that we already have active here. …I think that the activity that we already have here …is going to be, give us a little edge,” said Fareed.
The current businesses will be intermingled with the pop up shops and attractions on Nov. 8th and 9th. Currently, Better Block W. 35 St. hopes to have an herbal microbrewery, Kombuchick, and Halal Kosher Hotdog Shop as their pop up shops in addition to others. The Venue on 35th Street will also be participating on Nov. 8th and 9th. At the venue, there will be spoken word artists, musicians, and children’s activities. They also hope to have antique cars parked along the streets.
Unlike Better Block Granby St., W. 35St. will not be an arts driven project. This block will be geared towards family friendly businesses that appeal to all demographics and welcomes citizens of all ages. With that in mind, the team is considering “The Soul of Norfolk” as this block’s theme.
However, Fareed does not want ‘soul’ to be misinterpreted and used to exclude people.
“…We’re not using the word ‘soul’ in a sense of Blackness, we using ‘soul’ in a sense of the spirit of Norfolk, the essence of Norfolk, the core of Norfolk. Those are the adjectives I would use to describe what we mean by soul. We want to capture and be the spirit for Norfolk, and once people see the spirit emanating from us here [we hope] that they will be attracted to this area, but more importantly the city of Norfolk,” said Fareed.
Despite W. 35th Street being a street that is lined with family orientated business and residences, it is often the victim of negative stereotypes.
Fareed credits a lot of the misinformation about Park Place to the media. Stating that unlike other areas of the city, “Park Place is branded” when crimes happens.
“We have to overcome an image issue,” said Fareed.
But he is not discouraged. As a resident, Fareed knows firsthand that Park Place is no safer or any more dangerous than any other portion of the city. He, along with his colleagues, are fully dedicated to changing the perspective of this neighborhood and they believe it starts with Better Block.
Those that are looking to become involved with this project are encouraged to contact Vernon Fareed via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They also can follow the progress via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/188746124630429/.
Arts & Entertainment Editor