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Old Posted Oct 23, 2003, 2:01 PM
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Portsmouth Is A Real Mystery


Hundreds of visitors tour luxury homes on display along Estates Lane in the River Pointe section of Portsmouth on Wednesday. PHOTO BY MARTIN SMITH-RODDEN / THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT.

By MEGHAN HOYER AND DEIRDRE FERNANDES, The Virginian-Pilot
© October 23, 2003

PORTSMOUTH — Real estate agent Bob Schaefer and three co-workers needed a map Wednesday to get from their Virginia Beach office to Homearama.

Schaefer, former president of the Tidewater Association of Realtors, had never been to the area where River Pointe’s million-dollar homes are on display. And in his 20 years in business, he has never sold a home here.

“Portsmouth is a real mystery,” he said.

City officials are using Homearama this fall to counter thinking like that — and even worse perceptions — about Portsmouth.

For years, real estate agents have been accused of steering potential buyers away from Portsmouth, citing the struggling public schools and lack of high-end neighborhoods. The city also suffers from a poor reputation across Hampton Roads.

So city and school leaders have seized on the luxury home show as a rare opportunity to sell a different Portsmouth to business leaders and prospective middle- and upper-class home buyers who don’t often visit.

On the back porch of a million-dollar-plus house overlooking the Elizabeth River, one was overheard to say: “Would you believe this is Portsmouth?”

That’s a far cry from years past, when a handful of residents organized tours for potential home buyers after hearing that real estate agents and military housing officials were not referring newcomers to Portsmouth.

Before seeing the houses, each visitor to Homearama walks through the city’s tent, where Portsmouth employees give out bottled municipal water, pamphlets on Churchland schools and a magazine touting downtown shops and historic districts.

Four flat-screen monitors flash photos of students, teachers and administrators.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to show that we’re more than what they read in the paper,” said Linda D. Ridenour, a member of the School Board. “Hopefully, people will see there’s something worth respecting in Portsmouth.”

The city mostly has been maligned for its school system, which has struggled to maintain qualified teachers and seen many schools fail to get full state accreditation.

Superintendent David C. Stuckwisch doesn’t expect multimillionaires to flood the city because of Homearama. But the division’s message to upper- and middle-class home buyers is that Portsmouth has schools to support their needs.

Stuckwisch spent most of Sunday at Homearama, mingling with crowds and fielding questions. He was back at the site Wednesday.

“You can get an excellent education if you go to those homes; you don’t have to go to private school,” Stuckwisch said. “You have an option.”

Still, few expect the sales pitch to overcome the city’s problems.

Chesapeake real estate agent Ed Hazard said Wednesday troubles exist with the schools, traffic tie-ups at the tunnels and the small tax base.

His co-worker, Cindy Mansfield, said Portsmouth needs a larger stock of new middle-class neighborhoods to really make a mark. Nine $1-million-range houses won’t offset concerns about the city, she said. “It doesn’t overcome all the issues,” she said.

Pittman said the city and state must spend more to improve schools. Homearama is two weeks out of the year, she said. “It’s not a 12- or 13-year experience that our kids have with the school system.”

But she added that the event will leave people with a more positive view of Portsmouth.

“If it serves nothing more than an atta-boy pat for the city, it gives a good message that things are going well and that the turn-around is actually in place,” she said. “It’s important for the citizens of Portsmouth, and it’s equally important for the citizens of the region.”
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Old Posted Oct 23, 2003, 3:33 PM
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Hey spark, did you here about the highrise court complex they are going to build in downtown Norfolk?
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Old Posted Oct 23, 2003, 4:58 PM
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I thought downtown Portsmouth was pretty nice. Seemed busy even though the weather wasn't too good when I was there. The harbor area (with the hi-rises) was in nice shape too. There were some nice residential areas near downtown too:





However, there were many blocks of iffy areas I drove by while cruising around the city. Thanks for the article.
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Old Posted Oct 23, 2003, 7:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willy
Hey spark, did you here about the highrise court complex they are going to build in downtown Norfolk?
here is a good editorial about it

http://home.hamptonroads.com/stories...372&ran=156776
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Old Posted Oct 23, 2003, 7:40 PM
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Various photos from various sources

Portsmouth on the left, taken from the USS Wisconsin


Norfolk Naval Shipyard, actually located in Portsmouth


City Hall


Portsmouth Naval Hospital






Street scene


Portsmouth Marine Terminal




Lighted Boat Parade


Commodore Theatre


PortCentre Commerce Park


nTelos Pavilion at Harbor Center - 7500 seat amphitheater


Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center


Harbor activity


Harbor Tower


Virginia Sports Hall of Fame (rendering of new building - opens Summer 2004)
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Old Posted Oct 23, 2003, 8:02 PM
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Homearama 2003 Models, River Pointe, Portsmouth VA

Serendipity


Charity's Jewel


The Sonoma


The Holley House


The Catherine Virginia


Positively Portsmouth


St. Moritz


Palm Springs: A Wedding In Paradise


The Hutchinson
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Old Posted Oct 23, 2003, 9:12 PM
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Neat thread. I always thought Portsmouth was cool.
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Old Posted Oct 31, 2003, 6:29 PM
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I never had any problems with Portsmouth but it is the butt of all jokes in that area. The Homerama area is actually in the far west end of Portsmouth near Suffolk and that is just a rural area near the water. So technically it isnt even in Portsmouth.

I do see good things for Portsmouth as long as Norfolk stays productive because that city feeds off Norfolk majorly.
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Old Posted Nov 3, 2003, 4:16 PM
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Quote:
The Homerama area is actually in the far west end of Portsmouth near Suffolk and that is just a rural area near the water. So technically it isnt even in Portsmouth.
Homearama 2003 is located on River Pointe Parkway, which is just across the Western Freeway Bridge in the area generally known as "West Norfolk." The subdivision is at the "intersection" of Carney Creek, Lily Creek, and the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River and is definately within the city limits of Portsmouth. It is about four miles east of the Suffolk city limits.


Quote:
I do see good things for Portsmouth as long as Norfolk stays productive because that city feeds off Norfolk majorly.
Agree!
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Old Posted Nov 4, 2003, 8:21 AM
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well thats cool Spark I did not know Portsmouth got another Homerama especially over in the West Norfolk area. Well now that is just good news for the city, my bad.
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Old Posted Dec 3, 2003, 8:33 AM
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A side note: Though Portsmouth economy is tied into Norfolk's it does have a rather extensive history of being a neighbor. In fact both cities had populations of greater than 10,000 at the turn of the century. Considering the two are in such close proximity to each other I think that is rather unique!
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