Downtowns, Main Streets, and city centers across the country possible_future_downtown_SCare witnessing a renaissance. As more Americans choose the convenience and connectivity of walkable neighborhoods and downtowns, cities are seeing new businesses, restaurants, and shops open in areas that were formerly vacant or economically distressed. This movement presents an economic opportunity for cities like Newport News. A design charrette was held in 2014 for a portion of the downtown area and produced a vision for short and longer term strategies to redevelop downtown into a Waterfront Village introducing significant new residential, commercial and public realm improvements. Now, a design consultant is building on that work to create a strategic design vision for a rich diversity of places and spaces that will attract and support people who want to live, work and play in greater downtown Newport News. Early next fall, expect to see some exciting ideas for what downtown Newport News can be.
The City of Newport News was a late 19th Century and early 20th Century boomtown. In a span of roughly 40 years of growth, brought on by the development of a railroad, a shipping port, a major shipyard and then activity associated with World War I, the core of Newport News was built. This core, framed by the port on the south, the James River to the west, the shipyard on the north and rail lines on the east, contained the leading commercial, financial and entertainment institutions that anchored downtown. As with many urban centers throughout the latter part of the last century, bustling commercial blocks gave way to new suburban development, pressure for increased automobile parking, urban renewal, and demolition.
Creating a vibrant, walkable downtown can help attract and retain talented people and the companies that want to hire them. It can transform downtown into a destination to shop, dine, visit, move to, or invest. It’s a chance to celebrate the city’s diverse history, create new opportunities for long-time residents, and to achieve a more equitable community and stronger economy.