At last night’s monthly membership meeting, local entrepreneur and developer Jeff Benson told the South Norfolk Civic League that he is excited to bring new life to downtown South Norfolk in Chesapeake, Virginia.
The mostly-vacant area where Overton’s Market served South Norfolk for about 100 years is still owned by the Overton Family, into which Benson married long ago.
Today Benson is vice president of Overton Enterprises, partner at Overton Family Partnership LP, and serves on the board of TowneBank, among other distinguished professional positions.
About 50 members and others discussed the area bound by Poindexter Street on the south, B Street on the west, 22nd Street on the north and A Street on the east.
Melissa Venable, principal and founder of Land Planning Solutions, described the concept plan as the start of a new “Town Village.” The anchor store will be a Family Dollar, but not just any Family Dollar. Because the Family Dollar headquarters is nearby, the store is expected to be the corporate “flagship store” with the latest in furnishings, flooring and lighting.
The development also includes three adjacent retail units that could include a sandwich shop, urgent care or other stores. The actual sizes of retail units will depend on the first tenants. For example, “more room might be given to an urgent care facility,” and the size of the other units would be adjusted accordingly, Benson said.
Venable explained that Zones B-5 and B-2 prohibit parking on B Street and Poindexter. The store front in the current concept plan faces east on B Street, and Family Dollar wants street parking on B Street.
The city’s plan calls for parking to be located on 22nd Street, with no changes to zoning. This is why developers are requesting zoning variances. Developers say Family Dollar will not approve parking on 22nd Street; it’s too far from the storefront.
Even though South Norfolk was once a pedestrian community, SNCL president Tim Buma, developers and others agreed that the new “Town Village” needs to have convenient storefront parking to accommodate today’s residents in the historic National Landmark Community of South Norfolk.
Some questioned the building façades and landscaping, and meeting leaders assured the group that the exteriors can change, but nothing in the plan can move forward without the zoning variances.
Benson noted that Fortune-500 companies “don’t come knocking every day,” and if developers cannot meet their tenants’ requests, South Norfolk could miss this opportunity that some estimate will spawn further commercial development and provide up to 30 new jobs in South Norfolk.
Benson said the Overtons and their companies are thrilled for the chance to build a place for this 10-year lessor in their hometown.
After their presentation, developers were dismissed and the SNCL membership voted to support the developers’ requests for variances on Zones B-5 and B-2.
The City Planning Staff recommends that the variance requests be denied at this time.
The next meeting of the Chesapeake Planning Commission will be Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chamber at City Hall, 306 Cedar Rd. An informational meeting is held at 6 p.m. in the fourth-floor Human Resources Training Room prior to the public hearing.