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Virginia Beach, VA
Winthrope Avenue residence is a Southwestern style architecture remodel, built in Southeastern Virginia. The scope of work included adding living space on a portion of the second floor of a single-story house, providing views of the pool and waterfront site beyond as well as a prominent main entry to the house. The design was modeled in 3 D to demonstrate visual balance of the second story additions with the exiting structure that was to remain one-story.
The idea of diverting the LR route from the rail Right of Way to the service access roads at Hilltop came from a resident participant at the Strategic Growth Area public forum. That was only last month. The consultant has already offered alternate routes, how responsive is that? Bravo!
The best thing about the extension of light rail to the Virginia Beach resort area is the development patterns that will be anchored at the selected station stops. To quote an article regarding the settlement pattern improvements resulting from the introduction of the new Metro Light Rail in Phoenix: “…they (station stops) draw development around them and with it people, density, culture and business vibrancy …a place where local color develops and evolves at a greater speed and depth than sleeper communities.”
It seems to me that the benefits of improving neighborhood places (insert Hilltop) to become more “centralized, sustainable, and walkable” is accelerated by choosing it as a light rail station stop. If there is a flaw with the vision of The Tide in Norfolk it is that the choice of station stops outside of the CBD. They are “sleepers”. The neighborhood development opportunities at Newtown Road, for example, are enormous and there is nothing there yet.
I continue to be frustrated with the banter that gets published in the newspaper that reduces the discussion of the extension of light rail to Virginia Beach as a matter of public investment accounting. Pubic policy makers (federal, state and local) are currently accustomed to making decisions to subsidize highways almost exclusively. Those expenditure decisions benefit oil companies, automobile makers, and tunnel contractors, as we are painfully aware. What about us? the citizens of Hampton Roads. What do we want?
I am grateful that we will get our day in the voting booth to voice our choice for an alternative to the proliferation of everything associated with dependence on the private automobile as our only means of transportation. I believe that the citizen’s perspective of the best alternatives for transportation investment in the future is more far-sighted than the transportation establishment. The current policy makers view has resulted in funding a 2.1 billion dollar midtown tunnel project. A better choice would have been to extend a light rail tube into Portsmouth.
Budgeting our precious public funds to extend highways and enlarge tunnels results in more roadways that inevitably become clogged with ever greater numbers of automobiles (contributing to air pollution, traffic congestion, accidents and lost time commuting). These expenditures consume vast amounts of vacant land for more and wider roads, thereby creating the need for further expenditures of tax monies to handle storm water runoff, landscape maintenance and noise separation barriers.
The choice for highway investment promotes wasteful low-density residential developments of architectural monotony, encouraging “look alike” subdivisions of single-family units separated by individual driveways with cars parked in front yards.
The choice for highway investment promotes an automobile oriented shopping centers surrounded by acres and acres of pavement that require a car to reach. It is reported that the capital cost to the local government of a parking space at a shopping center is currently $8,000. What is the public value of that expense?
Light rail is the logical alternative to exclusive investment in providing for the private automobile. It is almost like a prophesy for the future of Hampton Roads that the citizens should be the voice of vision that gives it life.
This is a big step forward since there was a previous referendum in 1999 that was voted down. I was among the testifiers at the council hearing vote the night of April 24, 2012. There were speakers for and against at the hearing. A primary theme of the nay sayers was that they wanted to delay the referendum until after a feasibility study was completed toward the end of 2012. Some of my remarks follow:
All the while I have pursued my livelihood as an architect I have continued to see myself as something of a city planning thinker. The principle of NEW URBANISM is what I stand for and why I speak for what I believe is the single most important regional opportunity for the future of New Urbanism in Hampton Roads, extending the Tide Light Rail into Virginia Beach.
The opportunity is about what and where to spend public funds for transportation improvements: ROADS ONLY or LIGHT RAIL as well as ROADS
As I see it – We could continue to spend tax revenue exclusively on improving roads and highways….
We could continue
extending highways and enlarging tunnels that inevitably become clogged with ever greater numbers of automobiles (contributing to air pollution, traffic accidents and lost time commuting)
We could continue
consuming vast amounts of vacant land for more and wider roads, thereby creating the need for further expenditures of tax monies to handle storm water runoff, landscape maintenance and noise separation barriers
We could continue
promoting low-density residential developments of architectural monotony, encouraging “look alike” subdivisions of single-family units separated by individual driveways with cars parked in front yards
We can continue
developing automobile oriented shopping centers surrounded by acres and acres of pavement that require a car to reach
I believe the public knows better than many transportation planning administrators and industry stockholders that would have us spend all our transportation tax monies on subsidizing the future dependence on the automobile. I believe it is folly to imagine a future that can sustain ever greater numbers of automobiles and the availability of an unlimited supply of fossil fuels to operate them.
I believe the citizens of Virginia Beach are anxious to vote for a chance to have a choice in future for Light Rail as an alternative to automobileland.
The Virginian Pilot this week has been chock-a-block with significant stories that could foretell some remarkable physical transformations of Hampton Roads for years to come. The visions of the future urban planning opportunities are all around.
1. HRT has established a bus route to Norfolk International Airport, 1/27/12 (how long have our airline travelers been deprived of this simple service?) It starts on February 5 and will be in effect only until March 10 to test customer interest. I think everyone should drive over to the airport and take a bus ride someplace to rack up some passenger data that will establish the service permanently.
2. The editorial cartoon 1/29/12 for choosing a plan for the future of Waterside was worth a thousand words ….resounding the sentiments expressed by one of the Norfolk City council members at this week’s public display of the five plans under consideration: “Do we have to choose one of these?” Those of us in the audience of onlookers know the answer full well: “we want none of these plans if you please, they are all baloney.”
3. A really BIG item this week is the page one story 1/29/12 about a possible referendum in November for extending The Tide light rail into Virginia Beach. This is remarkable since it un-stalls the opportunity to get federal stimulus funds for the project before it’s too late.
4. Urban Outfitters is coming to 271 Granby Street. This news got a huge spread in the Sunday business section 1/22/12. It is actually is very good news, foretelling future prospects of re-establishing downtown Norfolk as retail shopping destination. Congratulations to developer Bobby Wright. This event brought out the editorial commentary of a staff writer, Michelle Washington, to emphasize the belief held by city and regional planners that this kind of development is the beginning of Norfolk’s reemergence as a pedestrian “happening” place, in her words: the city’s Cool Factor.
5. Then there was the story about the Kempsville Historic Master Plan, Beacon 1/29/12, where citizens are concerned about the crossroads acreage at Witchduck Road and Princess Anne. It is proposed to rezone the area to higher density residential use, namely apartments on the property surrounding the former Kemps Landing School structure. We hope that the fears of surrounding residents can be assuaged to allow for the opportunity to give this geographic confluence a sense of place that it lacks at the present time. Kempsville presently is hardly more than a zip code and a school district. Where is it really? How does someone know they are in Kempsville? The change of zoning will allow for a place-making opportunity that careful planning can shape into a desirable place to come, to walk, to mingle and to identify.
6. My last entry of the week’s recap of urban planning opportunities in the Virginian Pilot is kind of “tongue and cheek”, I admit. There was a story in the travel section about the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It struck me that cars belong in a museum and that maybe we will stop planning our cities and neighborhoods like life depends on the automobile. I visited Copenhagen this past year, where gasoline is the equivalent of $12 per gallon and the sales tax on purchasing a new car is 180%. In such an environment one learns quickly how to exist without depending on a car. The end result is walkable urban living patterns and some of the best shopping streets in the world.
A motto of the Lighthouse Center in Virginia Beach is that “we are homeless, not helpless.” As it turns out there could hardly be a more prophetic slogan. The current facility, located at 825 18th Street, has to go. It is slam in the middle of the Convention Center corridor that is slated for development as the “Central Beach District”, identified in the new Form-based code.
Volunteers of America Chesapeake, operates the Lighthouse Center day services program for homeless adults in Virginia Beach, VA. It is one of 36 Volunteers of America national affiliates that originated in 1896. This 501-C3 non-profit organization has been in operation in Virginia Beach since 1997. They are causiously cooperating with the relocation plans, asking that the City provides a proper site on which it will be able to expand its operations to include shelter facilities and meals for the local homeless population.
In response to the Lighthouse Center’s proviso the City Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation has made it a matter of public deliberation that all constituencies be included in the relocation decisions as well as the expanded scope of operations of the new facility. A public “kick-off” meeting was conducted on December 5, 2011. The agenda was promoted as: What method/process should we use to develop the campus proposal. The campus model is exemplified by Norfolk’s Union Mission Ministries, also Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
It is understandable that the Lighthouse Center volunteers and managers are guarded about the involvement of other citizens in their future facility prospects. Some faces were familiar at the “kick off”, including the Judeo-Christian Outreach and the People in Need ministries. But there were over a hundred persons at the kickoff meeting. What were all these other people doing there? “At no time in the past have the City administrators taken more than a passing interest in the plight of the homeless,” commented one of the meeting attendees. The Lighthouse Center happens to be located where the City officials want to locate a 4-star hotel.
An architectural concept was displayed at the meeting by the DHNP staff, a brilliant shining campus facility located in Dallas, TX, The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center. It was suggested that there could be a design competition to generate ideas for the new campus of buildings, including low cost transition apartments, until opportunities for home ownership can be found for the residents. It was suggested that a competition solicitation proposal would be forthcoming during the month of January, derived from suggestions and comments gleaned from the audience comments and suggestions gathered on the DHNP website.
My observation about the website is that there is not opportunity to leave your comments and suggestions directly on the site. You must send an email to email@example.com or even better to Natalie Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org, the program coordination.
Questions about possible locations of the new homeless campus were deliberately avoided, although rumors were flying about where the City would like the location to be. It is obvious that the staff recommendation of a design competition must be associated with a specific site though none were mentioned at the meeting. There is always the possibility of an unsolicited RFP from a philantropic minded land owner.
The Resort Area Strategic Action Plan (RASAP) has been an established planning direction for a couple of years in Virginia Beach. It is already being implemented in the mixed-use project underway on the block where Jewish Mother and Heritage Natural Market used to be. A new code is going to make this type of development much easier to plan in the future. It is called a FORMED BASE CODE. The current draft is available on line. It will replace what is currently in place, the various Land Use Ordinances that govern the separate properties.
It is designed to affect the future development of Virginia Beach ocean front from 1st street to 40th Street on all the property, private and public, that lies along Atlantic and Pacific Avenues; it also will govern development in shopping areas from Baltic to the Beachfront between 28th to Laskin Road and the Convention Center corridor between 17th and 22nd to the Beachfront.
In some ways it is like an alien from outer space about to take over control of how development will be conducted in the future, on the prime real estate that supports the number one industry in Virginia Beach, tourism. The expectation is that the alien will turn out to be friendly one bearing gifts of tranquility and prosperity for us natives that inhabit the land. The alien is, after all, being created by our own hands.
Form-based codes have been incubated and hatched in other parts of the country, mostly within the last decade, in response to countering the problems of urban sprawl, deterioration of historic neighborhoods, neglect of pedestrian safety and improving the walk-ability and livability of concentrated population densities. How FTB accomplishes this can get a bit technical even though there are lots of illustrations and diagrams when compared to the existing Land Use Ordinance. A good learning video is by Bill Spikowski of Spikowski Planning Associates. He is speaking about the prospects for an FTB in Raleigh, NC.
The Beach Front FBC draft has some very positive features that will benefit the architectural and pedestrian/street character of the affected properties into the future. Building height and setbacks are regulated without respect to use and land uses can be mixed. That helps to regulate a consistently desirable form to the facades of buildings on these streets. Variety is achieved with dimensional illustrations provided in the code. Architects and landscape architects, rather than civil engineers, will be instrumental at the onset of a development design.
A reassuring section of the draft document is toward the end of the Instruction, entitled: How to Use the Code. Here an overview of the three principal regulations and the corresponding maps are presented: Frontages and Building Types, Street Setbacks, and Building Heights. There are just six land use designations. The color coded organization of the document is very understandable. The chapter on site development explains requirements for such critical features as street access, parking, signs, and servicing. The final chapter is about city administration of the code, including provisions for alternative compliance.
Skeptics of Formed Base Codes frequently express concern about density and traffic that could result. The simplest answer to this question is that without the FBC there is a greater risk that the street and surrounding structures would not be integrated into the total environment. The objective is to urbanize the regulated properties into a cohesive whole. FBC should prevent the isolated oversized structure from happening. Developers will be required to include features at the streets to provide for pedestrian safety and landscaped sidewalks.
All indications are FBC will be a friendly alien in Virginia Beach. At the regular Planning Commission meeting on December 14, 2011 the current draft of the Form Based will be officially received and commented upon. The draft has been prepared by Urban Design Associates, Code Studio, and Landmark Design Group.
Tags: Code Studio, Formed Base Code, Land Use Ordinances, Landmark Design Group, mixed-use, Oceanfront, Planning Commission, Resort Area Strategic Action Plan, Spikowski Planning Associates, Urban Design Associates, virginia beach
A recent report has been disseminated by the City of Virginia Beach, Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation, entitled Comparative Analysis of Homeless Facilities and Programs in Selected U.S. Cities and Counties. The study was written in response to citizen advocates for the homeless, that Virginia Beach is not doing enough for its homeless population. The report documents that Virginia Beach has less of a “problem” than the other resort cities studied. It also acknowledges that its Lighthouse Center “day service only” facility is slated to be relocated in the near future.
The homeless advocates in Virginia Beach have been meeting with city officials over the past two months to push for a new facility that will include a full spectrum of services (meals, case management, counseling, healthcare, training, etc.) and overnight shelter for the homeless in the same location. This “campus style” operations center should be located convenient to main transportation routes although there is not special requirement for a particular land use setting or proximity to the resort area.
The opportunity to convert existing building(s) to initiate the new facility is a financially attractive place to start. That is how Norfolk’s Union Mission landed its current location in the former Virginia Natural Gas property near Military Circle in 2009. (Earlier this month there was a ground breaking event for the new men’s shelter.) Finding the property for a new facility in Virginia Beach will be a controversial undertaking. There is currently $4.3 million budgeted for moving the Lighthouse Center.
I want to say that there is a facilities model that did not show up in the Virginia Beach Comparative Study report. I have named this idea the “campsite campus” model and compare it to the way temporary classroom buildings are set up when some of our public schools become overcrowded, until a capital improvement project is undertaken.
Adjacent to Virginia Beach are the ports of Hampton Roads and a significant shipping terminal industry with an abundance of shipping containers that can be converted into housing units for meeting homeless shelter needs in the near term. This is not a new idea but it would be new to Hampton Roads. It should be thoroughly investigated.
Shown here is a Dutch Salvation Army facility. The ground floor of the building is made of traditional materials and is used for office and social space; the second and third floors are made of shipping containers and are used as individual housing units for tenants.
In Danish, the term “skaeve huse” means something like “special houses for special people.” This project, shown on the right was built in 2006. It provides housing for people who are unable to procure traditional housing due to mental illness and other special needs.
Roger Chesney reported in his Virginian Pilot column last week that the Virginia Beach Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation will need 18 months to open a new facility. That sounds very reasonable to me although it would certainly help accelerate the process if there was an opportunity to use campsite style shelters.
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA
The alterations and additions to this historical farmhouse transformed it into a bed and breakfast inn with ten guest rooms, several out buildings and a premier restaurant. GMF+ designed this project in 1994. Upon its completion Virginia Beach City Planning recognized it with an award for outstanding historical redevelopment. In 2008 it was featured on the cover of a publication of the 50 Most Historically Significant Houses and Structures in Virginia Beach.