Norfolk, Va. - Soon Norfolk City Council will hear about a new business proposed for downtown Granby Street. It's a flea market that also wants to sell beer.
That's what it says in the permits, but Norfolk doesn't have a business category to describe the idea.
Volunteers are stripping away the layers in a vacant, century-old building, revealing what was once an auto business. Soon, it will be an artsy retail and entertainment space called "Alchemy Norfolk." But city permits call it something less flattering, a flea market.
“Unfortunately, the city does not have the designation to describe what we are trying to do, on many different levels,” says Carreyann Weinberg.
Earlier this year, a weekend event called “Better Block” transformed that part of Granby Street into a hip avenue of bohemian businesses. And it was enough to make Carreyann Weinberg think it could work year round.
The space will eventually fill with dozens of artists and merchants. Some might stay for only a day. That constant turnover is what Carreyann loves about the idea, but it's not something that fits cleanly into Norfolk's permit process.
“It will function more like a gym, in a way, but for artists. So you pay a membership and you can come and go and use all the resources,” says Weinberg.
So as it wings its way through the permit process, Alchemy is stuck with the designation of a flea-market that might sometimes sell beer. Some neighboring business owners say they're wary. And one right next door got into a shouting match today with Alchemy volunteers because some of their gray paint ended up on his green storefront.
Weinberg says the city has been supportive, even if no one quite knows what permits this thing needs.
“How many layers of bureaucracy have you navigate to get here today?” asked NewsChannel 3’s Mike Mather.
“I don`t even know. Too many. To the point that it makes me nauseous. Every time that I think that we`re finished and think we`re clear and good to go on something, there`s something else added that was forgotten,” says Weinberg.
Alchemy is scheduled to open next month.