by Mary Reid Barrow
Colorful murals and painted streets are not the only artistic expression in the ViBe Creative District. Mother Nature also has taken her paint brush to the ViBe to help transform the once messy street edges and parking lots into bright vibrant areas of color.
These days shoppers, diners and business people go about their day surrounded by the best Mother Nature has to offer, the likes of waving green grasses, yellow black-eyed Susans, pink coneflowers and buzzing insects.
The ViBe Creative District’s leadership and its businesses, the City of Virginia Beach and outsiders like LRNow, Orbis Landscape Architects, and many volunteers have all worked together in a variety of partnerships to welcome nature back to the ViBe.
LRNow joined forces with Croc’s 19th Street Bistro, a Pearl Business, to install its first conservation landscape. As the name implies, beautification was not the only goal. Plants and trees absorb rainwater which prevents excess pollutants and sediment from running into the city’s storm drains and into the city waterways, said Vince Bowhers, once LRNow’s Pearl Business Coordinator and now its restoration coordinator.
Run-off from the ViBe can affect not one but three watersheds in Virginia Beach. The ViBe just happens to be located where the Lynnhaven River, Owls Creek- Rudee Inlet and the Ocean Coastal watersheds all meet.
Plants also provide food and protection for birds and other urban wildlife as well as well as offer a pleasant place to go to work and to dine, shop and visit the outdoor Saturday morning markets.
When work started at Croc’s, there were two crepe myrtles and nothing else but weeds in the rocky beds at the edge of the property, Vince said.
“When it rained, muddy water and sediment ran all over the new sidewalks the city had installed (in the 19th Street renovation),” he added. “Volunteers had to crack the old tar and remove it and fill in two feet of new soil to build the beds.”
Now the beds look as if they were always, full of colorful plants such as black-eyed Susans, Joe Pye weed and yarrow. The beds stretch for almost half a block down 19th Street and around the corner down Cypress Avenue.
The new beds in combination with new filter strips along the edge of the street that were planted by the city in the street renovation, make you feel like you are walking down a garden path, not a city sidewalk.
The Pink Dinghy across the street, now one of seven Pearl Businesses in the Vibe, was LRNow’s second planting project. Its concrete paving was too much for volunteers to tackle so Vince, Orbis Landscaping Architects and owner Sephanie Dietz came up with the idea of tall planter boxes around the outside seating area. The boxes are filled with pink ice plants and a much larger, lower planter box holds a tree surrounded by pink coneflowers.
LRNow is currently working on a restoration project at the Chesapeake Bay Distillery, another Pearl Business in the ViBe. LRNow also has helped with other projects such as the Mediterranean Avenue Butterfly Garden in the alley between 19th and 18th streets.
LRNow does have some City funding for Pearl Business Landcape projects and also works through a variety of partnerships. Some businesses may qualify for the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, or VCAP funding as it is called, and LRNow can help with that process. LRNow also can offer restoration consultation and can provide volunteers to help clear the land and do the planting to lower labor costs.
Other ViBe businesses like Wave Riding Vehicles, Prosperity Kitchen. Esoteric and Three Ships Coffee did their own planting early on. Three Ships Coffee. owner Brad Ewing, also a Pearl Business owner, was one of the first. At the time, Ewing was encouraging other ViBe businesses to follow suit. When I interviewed him for a story for the Virginian-Pilot several years ago, he said he was hoping the ViBe would become an urban botanical garden.
Today, you can surely say Mother Nature is a partner in the ViBe.
Reach Mary Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org