Whither Virginia Beach?


Virginia Beach. The promised land.

It glistens in the sun, a shimmering mecca of backyards, beaches, prosperity and space. A wide open terrain where schools are good and crime is low, a destination, a place to start a life or fulfill one.

It still has that reputation to many, even as the city enters its 37th year and faces trend lines that dispute much of what I just said.

Greater Norfolk: Why Not?

By Alex Marshall
For Port Folio Magazine

Now I’ve just cut my own throat, Mayor Paul Fraim said sheepishly.

The Norfolk leader’s fearful verdict was a good example of the dangers and contradictions associated with endorsing what might be the biggest bugaboo of local political thought: regional government.

Whatever you choose to call it, Hampton Roads, Greater Norfolk, Norfolk-Virginia Beach, what would happen if we actually had an elected regional government? Is that something we could work toward, and if so how?

When I first raised the idea with Fraim, he was firm. Nothing doing, he said. The people weren’t behind it, and “the surest way to kill an idea was to wrap it into a plan for regional government.” No way.

No Place Called Home

Community at the Millennium

[Excerpt From Chapter Eight]

“Another question: what is a community at the end of the 20th century? A focus group, a concentration camp, a chat room on the Internet, an address book, a dance club, all those afflicted with a particular incurable disease, a gender, an age bracket, a waiting room, owners of silver BMW’s, organized crime, everyone who swears by a particular brand of painkiller and a two-block stretch of Manhattan on any weekday at lunch hour.”
–Herbert Muschamp, from “The Miracle in Bilbao,” New York Times Magazine, September 7, 1997.

Coming Home

Portland and Oregon

Taming the Forces That Create the Modern Metropolitan Area

[Excerpt From Chapter Seven ]

Let’s take a drive out of Portland, past the suburbs and the highways and the new homes, out past the growth boundary. You’ll find your journey a pleasant one. You’ll drive over rolling hills of farms and forests, until you come to small towns, sitting compactly in the countryside. These small towns, like Yamhill, Dundee, or Forest Grove, will be surrounded by new development that hugs the existing town. You will not be greeted by the usual display of scattered subdivisions, Pizza Huts, and strip centers that now rings most smaller towns in the country. Because of this, the downtowns of these smaller towns are more viable and alive than most.

DC Metro: A Record of Reinvigorating a City

(Taken from the February 2004 issue of Planning Magazine.)

Love (and Hate) That Metro

It’s a mess say some commuters — it’s too expensive and the stations are too far apart. But they ride it all the same.

By Alex Marshall

While he sips an imported beer at Aroma, the elegant bar on Connecticut Avenue near the National Zoo, Jamison Adcock is happy to offer his opinions on “Metro,” the popular name for the D.C. region’s 103-mile transit system, whose pinwheel map is as familiar to residents as the tall spire of the Washington Monument or other local landmarks.