A Community That Feels Like Home

Placemaking strategies are designed to celebrate the local features, community assets, and inherent potential of a location. These strategies amplify the unique character of the city of Norfolk. Norfolk’s placemaking strategy aims to reknit the existing communities’ current public assets and reimagine them to preserve and develop more resilient amenities and distinct neighborhood character.

The Tidewater Gardens Transformation plan will reknit its cultural assets with needed neighborhood amenities through placemaking a cultural trail. Before Tidewater Gardens was built in the 1950s, Church Street and the surrounding area was home to a thriving but segregated African American community bustling with commerce, energy, entertainment and life. The remarkable history, resilience and cultural contributions of the people who live there will be forever preserved through the “St. Paul’s Cultural Trail” – a story-filled walking trail of historical markers, public artwork, and educational exhibits that celebrate the people, places and culture that have shaped the St. Paul’s area for generations.

Preserving the past for future generations

The St. Paul’s Cultural Trail will celebrate the area’s historic, social and cultural achievements through a series of markers and exhibits throughout the community such as these:

Historic Church Street

In the 30s and 40s, Church Street was known as “Norfolk’s Harlem,” a vibrant residential, business and social hub for Norfolk’s 44,000 segregated African Americans.

Attucks Theater

Designed by African-American architect Harvey Johnson and opened in 1919, the now-beautifully restored Attucks Theater once drew a Who’s Who list of legendary performers, from Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald to Count Basie and Cab Calloway.

The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception is the oldest parish community in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and often referred to as “The Mother Church of Tidewater Virginia.”   The original church was built in 1842, but was destroyed by fire in 1856 rendering the building dysfunctional for use as a church. In 1858, the present church building was erected. It was dedicated to Mary of the Immaculate Conception.  African American Catholics began attending St. Mary in 1886 where a portion of the choir loft was reserved for them. Today St. Mary’s is a vibrant, predominately African-American worship community offering numerous ministries and outreach programs.

The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church

Meet the St. Paul’s Cultural and Public Art Master Planning Committee

The St. Paul’s Cultural Trail was conceived with active involvement of neighborhood organizations, universities, and residents. The St. Paul’s Cultural Trail and Public Art Master Planning Committee was established and met monthly over the course of a year and a half to provide input, conduct research and identify potential places and topics for the trail.  Committee members include:

Ramona Austin

Public Art Commission, Planning Commission

Natalie McCarthy

SGA consulting (Blue-Greenway design)

Zachary Robinson

Urban Designer & Architect

Raven Bland

Neighborhood Development

Solomon Isekeije

NSU Fine Arts

Karen Rudd

Norfolk Arts

Chalae Johnson

St. Paul’s Resident

Tara Saunders

ODU Real Estate, St. Paul’s Advisory Committee

Tara Johnson

St. Paul’s Resident

Will Speidel

Parks and Rec Landscape Architect

Shelly Mitchell

St. Paul’s resident, accountant with nearby business

Deirdre Love

Teens with a Purpose, St. Paul’s Advisory Committee

Narissa Bond


Katie White

Department of Housing and Community Development

Marcia McGill

Department of Housing and Community Development

Claudette Woodhouse

Former St. Paul’s resident, educator with Norfolk Public Schools

Barbara Hamm Lee


Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Chair 

NSU History & Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for African Diaspora Studies

Tracy Clark

Don’t Duck History

Rob Pappas

Norfolk Housing and Redevelopment Authority

Derek Eley

Public Art Commission

Dr. Susan Perry

Department of Housing and Community Development

Peter Eudenbach

ODU Fine Arts, Public Art Commission

Khalil Riddick

Local Artist

Hattie Green

St. Paul’s Resident