In last month’s column, I explored what Chesapeake’s planning department does and how concerned citizens can get involved in its projects. In this month’s column, I wanted to look at some of the city’s current projects. Immediately, the Indian River Planning Area Study grabbed my attention.
This study highlights the importance of Indian River Road and Military Highway as gateways into Chesapeake. Those conducting the study examined current conditions in the area, reviewed previous plans, and engaged in community outreach. The end result is a vision for the area’s future that includes a wide range of transportation and connection options, from walking and cycling to driving.
The first step in bringing this vision to life would be to create a Main Street along Indian River Road, with improved pedestrian and bicycle paths beside major roadways. Strategic enhancements on Military Highway would be part of the effort, as would improved transit connections and recreational nature paths.
There would be two phases of development for the area of Indian River Road between MacDonald Road and Myrtle Avenue. Phase 1 would remove the outermost driving lane and reduce travel speeds to accommodate bike lanes. Phase 2 would introduce infrastructures such as a planting zone to serve as a buffer between the automotive and bike lanes, a landscaped median with pedestrian safety elements, and amenities like benches and planters.
The study also focuses on preserving and rehabilitating residential neighborhoods, preserving rather than tearing down homes, and maintaining existing affordable housing options. A manual with design guidelines would be provided to those developing vacant or underutilized neighborhood properties. Resiliency efforts would focus on stormwater management and new tree plantings.
It was also proposed that distinct nodes (activity hubs) and gateways be developed throughout the areas. These nodes would include centers for recreation and areas where residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or entertainment uses would be combined in one space.
One of these nodes would be centered at the Indian River Shopping Center. Currently, the shopping center sits at the rear of the property, away from the street. Working with the shopping center’s owner, the study team came up with a two-phase plan to redevelop the site into a revitalized node. Phase 1 would include enhancing entrances and improving the facades on the buildings. (Facade improvements are already in progress and moving along.) During phase 2, the commercial space would be reconfigured, the parking lot and streetscape would be enhanced, and community space and multifamily housing would be developed.
Finally, the study team envisioned the neighborhoods in the Indian River area being connected by a network of sidewalks, multi-use trails, and scenic greenways, with public access to the waterfront.
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