NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Mayor Kenny Alexander used his first State of the City since taking office last July to talk about more – more schools, more police, more jobs, more places to live downtown.
The mayor also announced a consulting agreement to explore possible renovations and expansion of Scope arena.
Alexander spoke to more than 1,200 in a packed ballroom at the Hilton in the new complex called The Main, symbolic of the urban revitalization he boasted about. It opened earlier this spring, and the new Waterside opened just this week.
The mayor says downtown Norfolk has also become one of the nation’s fastest growing residential destinations.
“New residential options have people moving back into the city, and 6,000 new jobs are coming back to Norfolk by the end of this year.”
Many of those jobs are heading to a prime location with a fading structure: Military Circle Mall.
Alexander says what was once JCPenney will now be Move-in Mortgage and Optima Health — combining for as many as 950 new jobs.
Regarding public safety, Alexander says this year’s budget will include funding for more equipment and more police cars.
“It is our hope that our police officers will be able to bring these cars home, increasing the police presence in our neighborhoods.”
Alexander says Norfolk’s commitment to education currently is unparalleled, with Norfolk Public Schools investing over $133 million to build five new schools.
“It would be hard to find any other municipality in the country that has followed through on five new schools at once.”
Alexander calls Scope, built in 1971, a “tired” facility. The city has hired nationally known consultant Oak View Group to see how Scope could be renovated and expanded.
Company representative Peter Luukka says he realizes Scope has an iconic roof and overall design, and sees value in preserving it.
“[The question becomes], ‘How do we renovate the existing structure and keep the historic element being the roof and the other elements?'”
However, design engineer Marcos Freeman of Norfolk-based McPherson Design Group says the plan would be to preserve little, if any, of the interior.
“The interior will be a complete demolition, so the superstructure would remain intact. We’ll demolish all the seating that you see right now.”
The agreement with Oak View is non-binding. It will cost about $100,000 for the feasibility study and take from three to six months to complete. Alexander says the money will come from funds already in the city’s budgeted partnership with Seven Venues.
“Scope is tired and it needs some upgrades,” Alexander said. “It’s a facility that we own and we’ve had it since 1971, so the timing is good.”
Alexander also announced a plan to address sea level rise with a grant of $120 million from HUD to mitigate flooding.
WATCH: Kenny Alexander delivers his first State of the City address as Norfolk’s mayor. App users can tune in here.