New construction is solution to East Washington area

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In light of John F. Riddick speaking out on the conditions of the East Washington Street neighborhood, Bishop Wallace M. Johnson is also voicing his concerns with the neighborhood’s lack of resources while also presenting ideas to make the area better.

“My whole thing is about building places for people to live. We have people living in Boarding Houses. In 2023. People doing so bad… I have a friend of mine who’s dying, and he lives in a boarding house,” Johnson said. “This is a 430 square mile city and we don’t even have a homeless shelter in this city. The Salvation Army is right over there, but we don’t depend on the Salvation Army to do what the city should be doing. This is our city, this is our tax dollars.” 

Speaking of needed necessities in the area, Johnson spoke of having a doctors office, a cleaners, a pharmacy, a grocery store and a plan for a better restaurant. Johnson, who is the property manager for the White Marsh Plaza Shopping Center area on White Marsh Road since 1992, presented the idea of bringing a new food chain store to replace the Food Lion that used to be in that specific area.

Email newsletter signup

He also spoke of new apartments being built in the East Washington spots where the deteriorated buildings alongside Phoenix Bank currently stand instead of spending money to remodel them. Likewise, Johnson also spoke on those who want the past to be honored while still making way for the future.

“Can you imagine the money that they’re going to have to spend to remodel those buildings? So why do that compared to just tearing them down, let a developer come in here and develop it and build some more apartments,”  he said. “Take Phoenix Bank of Nansemond, what they could do is keep that name and name it ‘Phoenix Bank Apartments.’ So the name never goes away. The name will always be there for people to remember that used to be a bank for the black community.”

He also addressed the Norfolk Southern Train Station near the railroad tracks.

“When President [Lyndon B.] Johnson was campaigning for office, his wife rode the train through here and stopped right there and got out on the train and talked to so many black people,” said Johnson. “What me and Mr. [Donald] Goldberg’s been trying to get done is trying to see if we can get Amtrak to start stopping through here. We can get that train station remodeled and set back up so we can get people to leave here and catch the train here to Norfolk and Newport News rather than going all those other ways.”

Likewise, Johnson shared his hopes for city action in the area.

“I would like to see the city do the same thing they’re getting ready to do uptown. They tore down those buildings; come down here and do the same thing,” he said. “Tear these buildings down, put some new apartments here, just like they did down farther on West Washington Street — and they’re getting ready to build some more down there.”

Johnson said it’s time to start developing this area. 

“They put their heads together and work together, just like they put their heads together for the 2035 plan to put that park uptown there, they can do the same thing,” he said.

Johnson said he has a person in mind that he believes can things right for the area.

“The perfect person for that, to get that done would be former Vice Mayor Bennett,” he said. “I would like to see him take more leeway in getting this stuff done. It doesn’t matter whether I’m working with him or not, as long as he can just get it done.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he could get it done. If anybody could get it done, he could get it done.”


Editor’s note: Corrected Johnson’s middle initial and that the referred Food Lion was on the White Marsh Plaza Shopping Center at 4:53 p.m., Wednesday, March 8.