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MacArthur Center expected to fall under new ownership, what this means for Downtown Norfolk

Inside of the MacArthur Center. Tyrell Watkins/ Spartan Echo

In late January, the City of Norfolk Economic Development Authority was notified that MacArthur Center was officially for sale.

MacArthur Center was built in 1999. Since then it has been recognized as one of the main Downtown Norfolk attractions and contributed to development of the light rail, condominiums, hotels, apartment communities, and office towers.

It has led to a rise in arts, culture, dining, entertainment, employment, and other activities. MacArthur has brought in consumers from all communities in the region. However, since retail has dramatically changed since 1999, MacArthur Center now needs to be “re-conceived.”

Retail has changed is due to the global pandemic. When COVID-19 started, online shopping became more popular. Additionally, Director of Norfolk Economic Development Authority, Sean Washington states that there has been conversations on what the future of Downtown Norfolk will entail.

According to Washington, Norfolk plans on using the Downtown Plan 2030, Norfolk’s 50-year old tradition of using physical planning as the main tool for physical development, to help decide what will be best for downtown.

The key components for the plan as of now are coastal resilience, slow traffic to improve walkability, and new development.

“We need to start to envision what the next 30 years of downtown will be for our city, and if you go backwards, it’s like the same conversation that the leadership had at that time about bringing in MacArthur mall,” Washington said.

Though MacArthur Center will have a new owner, the other downtown shopping centers will remain under their original ownership. MacArthur Center’s Regal Cinemas also has no intention to close and Washington explained that two new businesses are opening up in the mall.

Since the pandemic however, there’s been a decline in in-person shopping. Washington spoke on the potential change in need for shopping centers.

“Do we actually build or look to see if the mall can be redeveloped into some sort of residential mix,” Washington said.

Washington continued stating that a residential mix would, “bring more individuals and families to downtown and it’d actually support the shopping centers that are already here,” Washington said.

Doing this would help complete the ‘new development’ focus point of the 2030 plan.

Washington highlights that his team and other stakeholders have been doing research to see what will be best for the future of Downtown Norfolk.

“We’re really trying to figure out what is going to be the best possible mix and end game for our community at large,” Washington said.