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A drive through Norfolk, Virginia's Worst and Best Areas

by DrewLUD
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For this video, I took I-264 north into the city of Norfolk Virginia to explore one of our nation’s oldest communities. It was a partly cloudy autumn day with highs in the mid 60s, and as we crossed over the Chesapeake, the clouds were increasing. The day was Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 3 pm.

One this trio, we’re going to begin in one of Norfolk’s nicer communities, on the northwest side of town. Then, we’re going to drive into downtown Norfolk, and then wind up in the worst part of Norfolk. The goal is to give you some perspective on the good and bad areas of town, all in one nearly continuous shot – so you can see how the city is laid out.

We’ll begin up here in the Ghent neighborhood, and drive towards downtown. The Ghent neighborhood here is part of the city’s historic district. Homes here run anywhere from $250,000 to $600,000. This is kind of an arts community, and they hold festivals here throughout the year. Much of this neighborhood was laid out in the 1920s, and has remained mostly in tact ever since. In the 70s and 80s, parts of this neighborhood fell into disrepair. But much effort has been made to restore this community, and now, it’s considered one of the coolest neighborhoods in all of Hampton Roads. Here’s the rest of one of Norfolk’s finest neighborhoods, as we make our way towards downtown.

Now, we’re getting closer to downtown. Norfolk in a very old city, founded in 1682. That’s a long time ago.

In the 1970s, the population here in Norfolk reached more than 300,000 people. However, over the last 40 years, it’s gone down tremendously. Now, the population is 240,000 people, which is a 17% decline. It is still the third most populous city in the state of Virginia. Norfolk is part of the Hampton Roads region of the state, and it sits in a natural harbor at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s widely considered the historic, urban, financial, and cultural center of the region.

The city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point. The largest naval base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, is located in Norfolk along with one of NATO’s two Strategic Command headquarters.

Back in the day, Norfolk was major shipping port for British ships, and saw many battles during both the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Today, the population here has stabilized after a middle class white flight which happened in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. Most of the families who left wanted newer and nicer homes and more diverse shopping and dining options. The city spent a great deal of effort to renovate rundown and antiquated warehouses and piers, which has helped renew SOME interest in the downtown area.

Hampton Roads is a major military center, particularly for the United States Navy. The naval station here is the headquarters of the United States Fleet Forces Command, which compromises over 62,000 active duty personnel, 75 ships, and 132 aircraft. The base also serves as the headquarters to NATO’s Allied Command Transformation.This is also a very important region for shipping.

However, being so close to the Chesapeake means Norfolk has been battling the early signs of rising seawater. In addition, it can be hard to attract modern workers so a city that’s not new and innovative. This community can only rely on military personnel for so much.

Now, we’re going to head north of downtown into one of the worst neighborhoods in Norfolk, an area called Olde Huntersville. This part of town has some of the most rundown and crime ridden parts of Norfolk. It’s about an 8 minute drive from downtown proper. We’ll jump ahead to the action.

Homes in this part of town average about $140,000, which is about half of what an average home costs in the rest of Norfolk. Now, they’re slowly trying to gentrify this part of Norfolk, but it’s been really slow going. The housing stock here has suffered due to struggling economic and social conditions over the years along with the mindset that “narrow” homes like these were less desirable.

This led to the demolition or conversion of properties throughout the neighborhood, resulting in scattered vacant lots with minimal new construction. But the high crime and overall rundown feel has made this part of town a real eyesore.

Okay, so that’s Norfolk. A super old community with a lot of history, and a big military presence. Like many older cities, Norfolk is trying hard to remain modern and relevant, as it attempts to attract a new generation of home owners, workers and businesses.

#norfolk #virginia

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