Norfolk is a city so full of life that it’s easy to leave some parts overlooked. Better Block looks to bring attention to those overlooked parts. Themed the “Soul of Norfolk,” on Nov. 8 and 9, Better Block 35thStreet brought a variety of pop up eateries, performance venues and community staples to a two-block span between Colonial Avenue and Gosnold Avenue.
The point of the Better Block Project is to bring a community’s focus in on a specific block, the value of which needs to be underscored. The program uses four focal areas, including reinforcing an area’s safety, real or perceived. According to the Better Block website, “If an area looks unsafe then everything breaks down.”
Better Block also focuses on shared access to the area, including vehicles, bikes and pedestrians. Next the program tries to find appealing ways to attract people to the area and keep them coming back, and how to cater to children, seniors and dog owners, groups which are “indicators of a healthy environment.”
Successfully executing these four focal areas, Better Block 35th Street featured events for attendees of all ages. There were pop-up food stands and shops, and even a ride-in bike cafe. The hot item at this event was hula-hoops, with two unrelated vendors selling artisan-decorated versions of the toys, almost too beautiful to want to play with them. Steel drummers performed on the sidewalk, attendees enjoyed open mics and poetry readings, and children and adults alike gathered in a parking lot transformed into a chess zone, complete with a giant chess set.
While the purpose of Better Block is to bring attention to areas that need improvement, 35th Street was able to include businesses that are already residing there.
Currently, along with a church, mosque and dance studio, 35th Street boasts a variety of shops and places to eat, which celebrated the Better Block as well.
Norfolk had its first Better Block Project this past April, located in the arts district downtown. The city has been slowly attempting to revitalize the 35th Street area by repaving and putting in benches, but Better Block was a way to bring in a lot of people from all over Norfolk to see how the place is transforming. It is this – the reversal of the public’s opinion about this area – that will truly bring about change.
Better Block 35th Street or Better Block “The Soul of Norfolk” was a way for many people to discover interesting and valuable parts of their hometown that they never knew existed. Hopefully these 35th St. blocks With the memory of Better Block providing a positive outlook, revitalization will continue to be relevant and prevalent in the surrounding neighborhoods.
By Christina Kann