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An Urban Comparison

Norfolk, Virginia

Norfolk reminded me a lot of Richmond – kind of like the city that Richmond could aspire to in a way, and in other ways quite similar to Richmond.  Most of the buildings are in the modern style like Richmond, and a number of names that we saw before show up again in Norfolk.  However, in Norfolk, while there are Interstate highways, they’re not running directly through business districts, creating a slightly more intimate feeling at street level.  Additionally, there are a number of distinctive features in Norfolk, as you will see.  Norfolk is also quite the opposite of Richmond as far as skywalks go.  While in Richmond, I observed no skywalks (though I’m told I missed one).  However, Norfolk is crawling with them, and you could move significant distances around the business district via skywalk without ever going to street level, passing through office towers, parking garages, hotels, and other buildings.  So this is Norfolk…


Right off the bat, I noticed that 150 West Main Street was now complete.  At the time of my previous visit the year before, this building was under construction, with some of the sidewalk blocked off, etc.

Right off the bat, I noticed that 150 West Main Street was now complete.  At the time of my previous visit the year before, this building was under construction, with some of the sidewalk blocked off, etc.


Across Main Street from 150 West Main is the Norfolk World Trade Center, designed to resemble a cruise ship in its appearance.

Across Main Street from 150 West Main is the Norfolk World Trade Center, designed to resemble a cruise ship in its appearance.


One unfortunate thing with the street design here is that the buildings that have their front on Main Street have their less-elegant sides facing Waterside Drive.  This is not as bad with the World Trade Center, which is designed to take advantage of this, but not so for other buildings...

One unfortunate thing with the street design here is that the buildings that have their front on Main Street have their less-elegant sides facing Waterside Drive.  This is not as bad with the World Trade Center, which is designed to take advantage of this, but not so for other buildings…


One surprise next to the World Trade Center was to find an older low-rise building in the middle of the downtown business district.  This is the Owen B. Pickett United States Custom House.

One surprise next to the World Trade Center was to find an older low-rise building in the middle of the downtown business district.  This is the Owen B. Pickett United States Custom House.


Norfolk is full of high-rise buildings, each trying to make its own mark.  One that's particularly eye-catching is the Norfolk Southern Railway building, with its blue-green façade.

Norfolk is full of high-rise buildings, each trying to make its own mark.  One that’s particularly eye-catching is the Norfolk Southern Railway building, with its blue-green façade.


As accommodations go in Norfolk, the most noticeable and centrally-located hotel is the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, also the city's fourth-tallest building.  On this particular day, the building was missing the red cover for part of its sign.  How curious!

As accommodations go in Norfolk, the most noticeable and centrally-located hotel is the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, also the city’s fourth-tallest building.  On this particular day, the building was missing the red cover for part of its sign.  How curious!

As accommodations go in Norfolk, the most noticeable and centrally-located hotel is the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, also the city's fourth-tallest building.  On this particular day, the building was missing the red cover for part of its sign.  How curious!


Just like in Richmond, there's a Bank of America Building, and the two do bear a bit of a resemblance.  However, in Norfolk, the windows are sunken into the building somewhat, instead of at the edge of the building.  Additionally, if you look carefully at the top of this building, you can see the outline of "SOVRAN" etched in the building wall, left over from when it was called Sovran Center, after Sovran Bank, a predecessor company to Bank of America.

Just like in Richmond, there’s a Bank of America Building, and the two do bear a bit of a resemblance.  However, in Norfolk, the windows are sunken into the building somewhat, instead of at the edge of the building.  Additionally, if you look carefully at the top of this building, you can see the outline of “SOVRAN” etched in the building wall, left over from when it was called Sovran Center, after Sovran Bank, a predecessor company to Bank of America.

Just like in Richmond, there's a Bank of America Building, and the two do bear a bit of a resemblance.  However, in Norfolk, the windows are sunken into the building somewhat, instead of at the edge of the building.  Additionally, if you look carefully at the top of this building, you can see the outline of "SOVRAN" etched in the building wall, left over from when it was called Sovran Center, after Sovran Bank, a predecessor company to Bank of America.


The entrance to the Bank of America Building is similar to the Dominion Building in Richmond, as it's set back from the street, and contains a raised plaza around the building.

The entrance to the Bank of America Building is similar to the Dominion Building in Richmond, as it’s set back from the street, and contains a raised plaza around the building.

The entrance to the Bank of America Building is similar to the Dominion Building in Richmond, as it's set back from the street, and contains a raised plaza around the building.


On the subject of Dominion, the postmodern Dominion Tower is the tallest building around, and is separate from the other high-rises by virtue of being on the far side of Waterside Drive, right on the waterfront.  However, unlike the Dominion Building in Richmond where it was home to Dominion Resources, the Dominion Tower in Norfolk is home to offices for First Union.  On the subject of Dominion, the postmodern Dominion Tower is the tallest building around, and is separate from the other high-rises by virtue of being on the far side of Waterside Drive, right on the waterfront.  However, unlike the Dominion Building in Richmond where it was home to Dominion Resources, the Dominion Tower in Norfolk is home to offices for First Union.

On the subject of Dominion, the postmodern Dominion Tower is the tallest building around, and is separate from the other high-rises by virtue of being on the far side of Waterside Drive, right on the waterfront.  However, unlike the Dominion Building in Richmond where it was home to Dominion Resources, the Dominion Tower in Norfolk is home to offices for First Union.

On the subject of Dominion, the postmodern Dominion Tower is the tallest building around, and is separate from the other high-rises by virtue of being on the far side of Waterside Drive, right on the waterfront.  However, unlike the Dominion Building in Richmond where it was home to Dominion Resources, the Dominion Tower in Norfolk is home to offices for First Union.


The Dominion Tower's parking garage is perhaps even more notable than the building itself due to a large picture of whales along one side of the garage.  Many people from the area have referred to this as the "whale building".

The Dominion Tower’s parking garage is perhaps even more notable than the building itself due to a large picture of whales along one side of the garage.  Many people from the area have referred to this as the “whale building”.


Behind the Dominion Tower is a small area for pedestrians to walk and enjoy the waterside...

Behind the Dominion Tower is a small area for pedestrians to walk and enjoy the waterside…


The First Virginia Tower is a tower with another tower rising out of it.  The second through seventh floors are parking facilities, while the actual office tower is above.

The First Virginia Tower is a tower with another tower rising out of it.  The second through seventh floors are parking facilities, while the actual office tower is above.


The Main Street Tower, a postmodern building built in 1994 and home to SouthTrust Bank offices, has a unique look in Norfolk.  To me, it almost appears that the building is wearing a vest, with the two projections on either side of the main corners.  The Main Street Tower, a postmodern building built in 1994 and home to SouthTrust Bank offices, has a unique look in Norfolk.  To me, it almost appears that the building is wearing a vest, with the two projections on either side of the main corners.

The Main Street Tower, a postmodern building built in 1994 and home to SouthTrust Bank offices, has a unique look in Norfolk.  To me, it almost appears that the building is wearing a vest, with the two projections on either side of the main corners.

The Main Street Tower, a postmodern building built in 1994 and home to SouthTrust Bank offices, has a unique look in Norfolk.  To me, it almost appears that the building is wearing a vest, with the two projections on either side of the main corners.


This blue-roofed building is the Waterside, a festival marketplace, and the place to go for food and clubbing.  Inside the Waterside in March 2003 was Outback Steakhouse, Hooters, BAR Norfolk, Have a Nice Day Cafe, Dixie’s Tavern, The Comedy Zone, and more.


Selden Arcade is a small complex of shops and such.

Selden Arcade is a small complex of shops and such.


Now one thing that defines the business district in Norfolk is skywalks.  Like I said in the introduction, you can travel a considerable distance in the business district using skywalks.  This skywalk comes from across the entrance drive of the Dominion Tower and leads across Waterside Drive.

Now one thing that defines the business district in Norfolk is skywalks.  Like I said in the introduction, you can travel a considerable distance in the business district using skywalks.  This skywalk comes from across the entrance drive of the Dominion Tower and leads across Waterside Drive.

Now one thing that defines the business district in Norfolk is skywalks.  Like I said in the introduction, you can travel a considerable distance in the business district using skywalks.  This skywalk comes from across the entrance drive of the Dominion Tower and leads across Waterside Drive.


And more skywalks are found throughout Norfolk's business district...  And more skywalks are found throughout Norfolk's business district...

And more skywalks are found throughout Norfolk’s business district…

And more skywalks are found throughout Norfolk's business district...  And more skywalks are found throughout Norfolk's business district...

And more skywalks are found throughout Norfolk's business district...


The benefit to all the skywalks, however, is the fact that for photography purposes, it makes getting aerial views much easier as long as you can manage your reflections.  Above is a view up Main Street towards the Bank of America Building, with the Norfolk Southern Tower in the background, and below is a view of Waterside Drive, with the World Trade Center in the background.

The benefit to all the skywalks, however, is the fact that for photography purposes, it makes getting aerial views much easier as long as you can manage your reflections.  Above is a view up Main Street towards the Bank of America Building, with the Norfolk Southern Tower in the background, and below is a view of Waterside Drive, with the World Trade Center in the background.

The benefit to all the skywalks, however, is the fact that for photography purposes, it makes getting aerial views much easier as long as you can manage your reflections.  Above is a view up Main Street towards the Bank of America Building, with the Norfolk Southern Tower in the background, and below is a view of Waterside Drive, with the World Trade Center in the background.


The urban scene doesn't end with Norfolk, either, as it continues across the river in Portsmouth...

The urban scene doesn’t end with Norfolk, either, as it continues across the river in Portsmouth…

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Norfolk, Virginia