NORFOLK, Va. — Wednesday, advocates with New Virginia Majority expressed concerns about the planned redevelopment of the St. Paul’s community, as part of Norfolk's redevelopment overhaul.
The group protested at the intersection of Fenchurch and Wood streets, where demolition of the first six units took place. The space now sits vacant and will be the location of a new pump station to support new housing in the area.
“There is no promise to bring back enough affordable housing units," said New Virginia Majority organizer Monet Johnson. "Not one for everyone that they demolished. So we are letting the city know formally – as they’re familiar to sending people bills – that they have a bill to pay.”
That group says housing is an issue across Norfolk. It wants more assurances from the city that people will be relocated to new housing and can return to the redevelopment if they want. The group also wants better living conditions for people still residing in the community – and for every unit demolished, it wants a new one built before people are asked to leave.
Wilma Gray has lived in Tidewater Gardens for three years, but she’ll have a new place soon.
“Pretty much we have until June 25th to find somewhere to go,” she said.
Gray and her neighbors in the St. Paul's community are being asked to relocate, as the City of Norfolk makes way for the redevelopment project. The plan will transform public housing units into mixed-income communities.
Norfolk plans to relocate thousands of residents from Tidewater Gardens, Young Terrace and Calvert Square in the next several years as part of the St. Paul's Area Revitalization.
The city says the plan is to demolish low-income housing units in St. Paul’s Quadrant and replace them with mixed-income housing units. The newer apartments will feature modern amenities, retail space, and public outdoor space, like a rooftop plaza.
“Kind of sad because I really like it out here," said Gray. "But at the same time, I understand why they are doing it.”
Gray says she was given a choice to relocate to another housing authority property or take a voucher to live in privately-owned housing. She chose the latter and is working with city collaborative, People First, on her relocation. She says the city has been helpful in the process.
A city spokesperson reiterated City Council passed an ordinance in November that people who live in Tidewater Gardens and want to live in the redeveloped community will be able to do so and will receive financial assistance. There are 541 units in and around the redevelopment for current Tidewater residents to choose from, according to spokesperson Lori Crouch.
Last year, New Virginia Majority, along with St. Paul's residents, filed a lawsuit against the city for the St. Paul's Quadrant Redevelopment Project.
The city of Norfolk received a $30 million federal grant for the project.