Oceanfront creative district feels new ‘ViBe’

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Improving local art is a continuous project in the ViBe Creative District. This street mural at the corner of 19th and Cyprus is one of the newest to be unveiled. (Mariah Pohl/Southside Daily)
Improving local art is a continuous project in the ViBe Creative District. This street mural at the corner of 19th and Cyprus is one of the newest to be unveiled. (Mariah Pohl/Southside Daily)

The ViBe Creative District hasn’t been around for long, but it has already made a name for itself in Virginia Beach.

During an event held at a coworking space on Baltic Avenue Wednesday, executive director Kate Pittman presented what the ViBe Creative District is, and how it’s breathing new life into Virginia Beach.

“The ViBe district is a small, funky footprint made up of local businesses, from artisans and leather smiths to sign makers and culinary artists, many of whom grow their own vegetables,” she said. “As of now, there are about 50 creative businesses involved.”

These businesses, which make up the first facet of the district, pay a small membership fee that is used to fund the district’s advancement.

“Collectively, the businesses have a much larger voice when working together,” Pittman said. “The footprint we can make is so much bigger than ourselves.”

The second facet of the district is a nonprofit organization, called ViBe District Virginia Beach, which was created to support the area’s development. The nonprofit was founded in November 2015 by Andrew Fine, president of The Runnymede Corporation, and Laura Wood Habr, co-owner of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro.

Another Creative District leader Kevin Jamison, the president of ViBe and owner of Commune restaurant, shared what he’s most excited about as ViBe reaches its full potential.

“We have more than 50 businesses in our association that support each other and who saw the potential in this area,” he said. “Now that we’re established, we are looking at bringing other talent into the district and I can’t wait to see how the community will change and develop. This was something that was missing from Virginia Beach.”

Aside from its businesses owners, one thing that makes the district distinct is the lack of any large commercial entities in its territory between 17th and 22nd street.

“We are trying to keep out the large retail giants to keep the area unique and for the small, local business owners.” Pittman said.

According to Pittman, the lack of large retail giants has helped the district stand out as its own neighborhood.

“When you come walking up to the district after spending time on the beach by the big commercial businesses, it lends to a sense of discovery,” she said. “That’s part of the beauty of ViBe and we hope that catches people’s attention.”

Raymond White, a Virginia Beach business development manager, agreed with Pittman and explained how the ViBe Creative District will impact winter tourism.

“We are trying to make the Virginia Beach a place that can be experienced 365 days a year by tourists and locals,” he said. “The ViBe district is the perfect setting for a live, work, play community. We are building a place where you can live right down the street, ride your bike to work, and go see a show at one of the venues at night, all without getting in your car.”

Despite the area’s positive growth, there are some obstacles that the district is working to overcome, particularly the high traffic the Oceanfront experiences in the summer months.

“Traffic between Town Center and Oceanfront is huge, and we are in the middle of it,” said Pittman. “This makes parking in the district is difficult. It’s free, but in short supply.”

Another issue: infrastructure. However, the Virginia Beach city council recently approved the contribution of $4 million in funds to fix infrastructure problems in the district.

“Improved sidewalks and lighting are things we will be working on between now and 2018,” Pittman said. “It’s common for arts districts to move into areas that are undesirable real estate, and make the area more desirable again.”

The potential for an Oceanfront arena could help foster the growth and increase traffic to the ViBe district, according to Pittman.

“Regardless of where people are on the arena — good or bad — at least there’s progress” said Pittman. “It’s an exciting time for the whole resort area. And support for those larger entities will help support the arts district in turn.”

To find out more about the ViBe district or learn how you can bring your business there, visit http://vibecreativedistrict.org

Pohl may be reached at mariah@localvoicemedia.com