NORFOLK, Va. - The St. Paul’s Redevelopment Project is underway, but right now there are only plans for one of the area's three neighborhoods.
The News 3 I-Team has been following this controversial project for years and has been pushing for clarity from the city about where this revitalization process stands today.
The St. Paul’s area is home to the region’s highest concentration of public housing, according to the City of Norfolk. It spans over 200 acres, and 98 percent of the people who live there are minorities.
Of about 4,500 residents, about half are children.
St. Paul's is made up of three neighborhoods, including Calvert Square, Young Terrace, and Tidewater Gardens. The city has been vocal over the years about a plan to revitalize the area, turning it into a mixed-income, desirable place to live with new housing, parks and retail.
Tidewater Gardens was slated for demolition first.
News 3 was there back in April for the groundbreaking.
After the story aired, News 3 got an email from the city asking us to clarify that “this redevelopment project does not include Young Terrace and Calvert Square.”
So News 3 started asking questions about whether the grand plan to revitalize all three neighborhoods had changed.
The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority issued the following statement:
While Young Terrace and Calvert Square are part of the St. Paul's area, neither of those communities has had a master planning process or a public engagement process in the same way that was done for Tidewater Gardens. No relocation of residents of Young Terrace or Calvert Square has occurred. Only Tidewater Gardens redevelopment is underway at this time - which includes 618 families. If Young Terrace and Calvert Square are redeveloped, the City and NRHA will conduct the same extensive outreach, planning and services with the families of those communities that was done in Tidewater Gardens.
The current redevelopment work involves only the Tidewater Gardens community. In Tidewater Gardens alone there is currently relocation, demolition and rebuilding of housing occurring. The Tidewater Gardens transformation plan seeks to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by providing dedicated case management services for Tidewater Gardens public housing residents and creating a sustainable mixed-income community, with vibrant neighborhoods where families and residents of all income levels, races, ages and cultures can live, learn, work, play and thrive. This is the first phase in the transformation of the expanded St. Paul’s Area.
The City of Norfolk and NRHA have not yet master planned or conducted the extensive community engagement and outreach for Young Terrace and Calvert Square in the same way it did for Tidewater Gardens. As a result, there is no set timeline or schedule for when redevelopment will occur. Residents of those communities should not be concerned about relocation or demolition at this time.
NRHA will continue to work with the Young Terrace and Calvert Square communities to address issues each community faces. In the future, NRHA will coordinate with the City of Norfolk and the residents of Young Terrace and Calvert Square in planning of the future for these communities and work with those residents through the People First initiative. Considerable planning and community engagement will proceed any decision on redevelopment, and that work will be done in a collaborative and transparent process.
Steven Morales is the neighborhood projects director with the NRHA.
“With the Tidewater project alone, we’re probably going to spend over $300 million in the redevelopment of that single community. Young and Calvert will be similar. It takes time a lot of planning and a lot of effort in order to put that together,” Morales said.
Right now the city says there’s no master plan or timeline to make that happen at Young Terrace and Calvert Square.
Susan Perry is the director of the Norfolk Department of Housing and Community Development. She said COVID-19 caused delays in the process, which was a little longer and more intensive than they originally thought.
Perry also said initial talks about Tidewater Gardens started in 2005, but the recession and then the pandemic caused delays in the project. Tidewater Gardens is scheduled to be completed by 2025.
Perry said that’s key to moving forward and that’s the focus at this point.
“There’s not a secondary effort right now in starting the efforts with Young and Calvert yet, because again that’s a lot of planning, and we’re just not there yet,” Morales said.
News 3 asked why there has been confusion about the project.
“I think part of that, no offense to the media, is that the media keeps saying Young and Calvert, Young and Calvert, and the focus should be on Tidewater,” Morales said.
But city leaders also admit problems with how they have communicated, along with information on their websites that lump the neighborhoods together.
“I think part of that is the message that’s gone out. Some of that is our fault with the Authority (NRHA) in the city and our communications of everything,” Morales said.
He said they certainly have aspirations to develop the other two neighborhoods eventually.
“What we want residents to know, please don’t be nervous that tomorrow you’re going to receive a notice that says you have to move from Young or Calvert. They’ll be lots of communication, lots of community meetings in the same way we do for Tidewater Gardens,” Perry said.
The project will likely need more money, grants and funding to be able to move forward for the other two neighborhoods.
The City says they’re excited to move away from concentrated poverty.
“What is so exciting about it all is that it really is developing something, this entirely new feeling, new community. It’s getting away from concentrated poverty where people are put in barracks and actually developing a new apartment community which isn’t managed by the authority, it’s not public housing, it’s private housing," Morales said. "Someone who has a voucher or needs assisted housing, they’re no longer having to go live in the park public housing community. They get to live in a place of their choice. I think that’s the story, is that you’re really giving the real opportunity for these families that they don’t have to live in Young or Calvert.”
But for the folks who live in Young and Calvert, there’s no telling when that will happen.