Friday, March 2, 2012

Indian River Shopping Center and Storm Ditches discussed at Norfolk Highlands Civic League

It was a lively meeting at the Norfolk Highlands Civic League last night.   There to answer community questions was a large contingent of the City's civil servants, including Deputy City Manager Dr. Wanda Barnard-Bailey.   Key topics discussed were storm water ditches and the Indian River Shopping Center.    The Public Works representative admitted that, with 2000 miles of storm water ditches in the city, maintenance crews are almost entirely focused on responding to citizen service calls and there is no routine maintenance schedule in place to pro-actively clear the storm ditches.   And with the massive backlog of engineering projects and further budget reductions pending, the probability of improvement did not sound good.   The Deputy City Manager did say that the City could come and do an assessment of flooding issues in Norfolk Highlands as a first step in prioritizing issues for the community.

For the Indian River Shopping Center, we first heard from the code enforcement group.   Based on citizen complaints, they have cited the property with several violations.    The property's broker, The Katsias Company, is in contact with the city and has until April 27th to correct the cited issues.   The bigger issue of actually getting new tenants into the complex was addressed by the City's Economic Development Director Steven Wright.   He reported that the city has approached several grocers and that Katsias is currently in negotiated with a - not named - mid-level grocer for the property; but the grocer is asking for significant improvements.   The City is not contributing any monetary incentives.

Mr. Wright elaborated that when retailers look at the shopping center, they look heavily at demographics.   The retailer’s preference is to put new stores in growing suburbs seeing future construction of more homes and with young families - families with growing shopping lists.   That puts built-out neighborhoods like ours at a disadvantage in the race for retailers since we're not seen as a growth area.   The challenging question - and one for which Mr. Wright and the other city representatives did not provide an answer - was what can we, the community, do to make our neighborhood more attractive to retailers.   That’s something we should all consider and discuss at upcoming meetings of the Friends of Indian River.

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