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13News Now Vault: The rise of Norfolk's Railroad District

If you go back a few years, you’ll learn that it's been a decades-long fight to revamp the industrial area of Norfolk.

NORFOLK, Va. — Today, we call it Norfolk’s Railroad District.

It’s a young and up-and-coming mix of restaurants, breweries and creative spaces near the historic Park Place neighborhood. But if you go back a few years, you’ll learn that the revamp has taken decades.

“The people who run and own businesses around here say 35th street might as well be in its own state,” said 13News Now Anchor Mike Lewis in 1990.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Norfolk’s attention was a few blocks away.

The Palace Shops ushered in a new era of shopping and dining in the city’s 21st corridor. 

It wasn't until about 10 years ago that we finally started seeing development in the industrial "Railroad" area. That’s when the whole neighborhood became a historic district, meaning developers qualified for significant tax credits.

Places like O’Connor Brewing Company and Handsome Biscuit took a chance and moved in, sparking the development we see today.

Nearby, Norfolk city leaders tapped Urban Design Associates to create a vision for Midtown Norfolk, an area between Granby and Church Streets close to the Virginia Zoo.

Union Taco has been in business for six months. It sits on West 25th Street on the edge of the area that’s set for a facelift.

“I love the direction the city’s taking with revitalization," Union Taco owner Kevin Dugan said. “Certainly since we signed a lease here, we’ve seen improvements in businesses coming in and expanding and it’s been great.”

While the Palace Shops and the 21st street corridor are still doing well today, it’s hard to ignore the contagious energy spreading on the other side of the tracks.

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