As part of Downtown Norfolk Council's Vibrant Spaces℠ initiative, we award matching grants to the ideas that create the most new vibrancy Downtown. Selected applicants are awarded up to 50% of their project costs (up to $10,000 per business). Below are previous recipients of these grants.
For more information or to apply for the Vibrancy Grant program, please click here.
The General Public
147 Granby Street
The General Public used the Vibrancy Grant to establish a permanent space in Downtown Norfolk. After operating successfully in the Hampton Roads area for the past 10 years, the restaurant aimed to further enhance its presence with a new location in Norfolk. The customized sign that the General Public installed above the door entrance, bearing the name "The General Public," serves as a distinctive and recognizable branding for the restaurant. This unique sign helped establish a clear identity for the business, making it easily identifiable and memorable to both regular patrons and new customers.
300 Monticello Avenue, MacArthur Center
Brothers was established in 2020 on Plume Street in Downtown Norfolk by NBA Referee and Norfolk native Tony Brothers. Brothers’ restaurant relocated to MacArthur Center in 2023 and added a large outdoor dining area. Brothers’ Vibrancy Grant award funded quality patio furniture, new awnings, and custom signage. These improvements activate Monticello Avenue and add life to a major Downtown shopping corridor.
801 Boush Street, Suite 204
Larandon’s Homes received a Vibrancy Grant from DNC to improve the façade and landscaping surrounding the Ghent-Olney Building in the NEON District. Tree wells and flower beds around the building were cleaned up and filled with river stone to reduce overgrowth. The grant also funded exterior paint accents to the building’s façade to complement the colorful murals and artwork in the NEON District. In addition, the property owner also received a NEON Public Art Grant to add a new mural on the rear of the building, further contributing to the NEON District’s public art scene.
802 Granby Street
Downtown Norfolk Council awarded Plant Norfolk a Vibrancy Grant for a custom, hand-painted business sign on their small storefront. Local sign painter Restless Roots created a mellow coral and pink mural that mimics a vintage sign with a three-dimensional effect on the business name. The mural serves as a clear identifier and advertisement for the establishment, making it more noticeable and enticing to potential customers in the NEON District.
Roadstead Montessori High School
112 College Place
Roadstead Montessori High School, founded in 2014 by lifelong educators Anna Mirkova and Eran Livni, is a distinctive non-traditional private school housed in a historic building in Downtown Norfolk. In 2021, the school purchased an original Elk Lodge built in 1913 and invested heavily in renovation. The Vibrancy Grant provided by DNC played a vital role in funding outdoor lighting, native landscaping along the front facade, and signage inspired by the historic structure. The school is now visually appealing, functional, welcoming, and safe for students and faculty
740 Boush Steet
An anchor to Norfolk’s arts community, d'Art Center relocated to its forever home inside The Atlantic-Permanent Building in 2021. A mid-century architectural classic, the building provides d’Art Center working artist studios, a light-filled main gallery and event space. DNC’s Vibrancy Grant funded exterior signage for d’Art, making the center easily recognizable as a destination in the NEON District. The grant also funded transparent window filters which made the central gallery comfortable in any season to both artists and visitors. Both elements helped to re-establish d’Art’s central role as an art-making space in Norfolk’s arts district.
Capo Capo Italian Steak House
235 E. Main Street, Norfolk Waterside Marriott
Capo Capo Italian Steak House at Norfolk Waterside Marriott received a Vibrancy Grant to create a new patio space and entrance on Main Street. A classic Italian restaurant with a strong focus on family values, Capo Capo’s outdoor dining area creates a fun, yet fine dining experience on the street. The renovations include string lights, fire pits, comfortable lounge furniture and upscale dining areas. It is now a magnet for activity on Main Street, attracting passersby and encouraging them to explore and dine at the restaurant.
209 W. Freemason Street
Longtime Downtown restaurant Freemason Abbey refreshed their dining experience in 2021 with a new patio along the historic church’s east façade, made possible by DNC’s Vibrancy Grant program. The patio's location on the southeast side of the building was strategically chosen to attract foot traffic and encourage customers to dine at the restaurant. Preserving the historic character of the restaurant while seamlessly blending in with the existing church architecture was a top priority for the owner and management.
731 Granby Street
With a goal of retaining a street-level tenant for her property, landlord Stephanie Wadnola received a Vibrancy Grant to fund improvements to her property pre-leasing. The grant supported repainting the façade’s storefront mural and enhancing the entry with a new steel door frame and glass doors. The new entrance now creates a more welcoming and inviting environment for their patrons while keeping a creative façade in the NEON District.
Fish Pig Café
210 E. Main Street
Building on his long history of operating successful dining establishments in Downtown like the Dumbwaiter, restauranteur Sydney Meers created a wild and eclectic ambience at Fish Pig Café. His Vibrancy Grant funded a unique indoor/outdoor patio for the café in Selden Market, planters and hand-crafted signage at both entrances. The entrances act as a magnet, drawing shoppers from inside Selden Market and from the outside on Main Street. Neighboring businesses benefit from Syd’s elaborate décor, with everyone stopping by to take a peek at what’s in the windows.
245 Granby Street
Luce, a fine dining Italian restaurant in the heart of Downtown, has been a community favorite for more than ten years. After outgrowing its cozy footprint, Luce added outdoor dining on Granby Street and Tazewell Street. The historic façade of the former Tazewell Hotel building was preserved while incorporating a modern railing and trellis with lighting for the patio. By utilizing the Vibrancy Grant, Luce enhanced its already stellar dining experience, while also adding to the overall attractiveness and liveliness of Granby Street
223 E. City Hall Avenue
Pedego, an electric bike service and dealership, plays a key role in providing bicycle choice and connectivity to Norfolk’s cycling community. Open since 2019, the shop offers retail sales, rentals, guided tours and various accessories. The business signage, awning and garage door funded by the Vibrancy Grant plays a crucial role in communicating Pedego's offerings to pedestrians and cyclists and provides easy access for customers, making it that much easier to get out and ride.
258 Granby Street
Expanding into the Norfolk market, Circuit Social brought the bar-cade concept from Richmond, with drinks, food and more than 80 games. With everything from skeeball to classic video games, Circuit’s new exterior reflects the fun electronica to be found inside. The Vibrancy Grant funded a custom illuminated, double-faced round blade sign and a charcoal gray exterior paint with pin-striped teal accents. Both elements transformed the corner of Granby Street and Market Street, complementing nearby retail and restaurants.
The Stockpot Norfolk
215 E. Plume Street
The Stockpot Norfolk, located at one end of Selden Arcade, is a go-to spot for Downtown regulars and visitors for its emphasis on comfort food made from scratch in a fast and casual manner. In 2019, Downtown Norfolk Council’s Vibrancy Grant provided for new, hand-painted signage by local artist Igor on the glass and black-mirrored windows on the building’s façade facing Plume Street. Along with signage promoting house specialties, the restaurant's name, “The Stockpot Norfolk,” was painted in a hand-lettered typography associated with the historic building style of the Selden Arcade.
Hummingbird Dessert Boutique
809 Granby Street
Prior to Hummingbird’s relocation to the NEON District, the building received a facelift with bright teal paint, a new glass storefront and a glass garage door. Those improvements, funded in part by Downtown Norfolk Council, and the creative atmosphere of the NEON District, enticed owner Kisha Moore to bring her new headquarters and tearoom to 809 Granby Street. The now eye-catching exterior successfully enhanced Granby’s curb appeal and complemented neighboring business The Neon House.
Cardinal Skate Shop
733 Granby Street
NEON District staple Cardinal Skate Shop is a one-stop shop for skateboarding supplies, footwear and culture. With store features like an in-house skate park and deep library collection of skate zines, the exterior needed an iconic look to match. A local neon sign fabricator created a custom marquee for Cardinal, modeled after the historic neon signs that used to populate the NEON District when it was known as Auto Row. Made possible with support from a Vibrancy Grant, the glowing neon sign is a beacon for skaters up and down Granby Street.
The Neon House
813 Granby Street
Special event venue The Neon House used funding from a Vibrancy Grant to paint the building a more vibrant color and install a glass garage door in the façade on Granby Street. The investment overhauled a corner of the NEON District into a destination and also increased visibility and recognition for the business. Wedding parties regularly stage photo shoots outside the now iconic teal wall and neon signage, while the garage door allows celebrations to spill out onto the street.
116 Granby Street
For Café Stella’s second Norfolk location, the owners hand-selected every detail for the local coffee shop. The Vibrancy Grant enabled the café to refresh the historic street-level wood storefront with new paint, lighting and signage. The handsome blade sign drew visitors from down the block and built on Stella’s recognized brand in Norfolk. By remodeling the exterior of the building, Café Stella fit snugly into a row of Granby Street’s most historic and prized retail shops.
Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub and Restaurant
211-213 Granby Street
Grace O'Malley's Irish Pub and Restaurant provides Downtown Norfolk with an authentic Irish pub experience with a focus on quality atmosphere, music, and food. The Vibrancy Grant provided funding to illuminate the exterior of the building with goose neck-style lamps and a custom sign. The resulting ambiance along Granby Street is just as friendly as the staff and patrons of Grace O’Malley’s.
Work | Release
759 Granby Street
Equal parts restaurant and art gallery, Work | Release set the standard of a vibrant space when it opened in the NEON District in 2014. In addition to outdoor dining along Granby Street, their Vibrancy Grant also helped fund custom metal signage for the business, still on view at its former home in the historic Texaco Building.
449 Granby Street
A casual family-owned fixture for classic Italian fare, Leone's restaurant is located in a prime area close to Scope and Chrysler Hall, making it a destination for theater-goers. The Vibrancy Grant was utilized to improve the restaurant's outdoor signage and build an Italian-themed window display in the side bar. The corner of the building features outdoor signage hand painted with a black border and bold graphic letters spelling the name of the restaurant. The outdoor and rooftop dining options, combined with the improved signage and window display, create a memorable experience for visitors and diners.
108 E. Tazewell Street
Built in 1912, the Wells Theatre is known for its architectural significance but also for its place in Downtown Norfolk’s history of entertainment. When upgrading the façade, theatre managers took great care to honor its history while bringing productions into the future. A Vibrancy Grant made possible a new video marquee and illuminated blade sign for “The Wells”. By incorporating technology into the theatre’s Beaux Arts façade, the signage ensures clear visibility from Monticello Avenue and Granby Street, drawing in patrons and visitors to the professional performing arts showcased at The Wells Theater.
Bearded Bird Brewing
727 Granby Street
Downtown Norfolk’s first brewery, Bearded Bird Brewing, paved the way for the now-buzzing beer and restaurant scene. Founded in 2016, it was a start-up brewing operation in a former pawn shop storage facility built by a group of home brewing friends. The renovations funded by DNC through the Vibrancy Grant and the partnerships with homebrewers were instrumental in building a do-it-your-self and laidback vibe at the brewery. Grant funds were used to improve the NEON District building with custom signage, planters and a new beer garden in the forming loading dock.
Hugh R. Copeland Center
112 W. Wilson Avenue
Since their founding in 1984, The Hurrah Players have had an outsized impact on Norfolk’s performing arts community. Their commitment to educating and enriching all aspects of theater operation is evident through the various classes and performances they offer to the public. When expanding to the NEON District in 2015, founder Hugh Copeland envisioned a performing arts center with a theater and scene shop that could fully support their mission. DNC’s Vibrancy Grant helped realize that goal by supporting work on the historic façade and a new marquee for the Hugh R. Copeland Center, now a fixture in the NEON District.
Partners in Dance
325 Granby Street
A former department store in the heart of Granby Street offered the community a place to take classes in contemporary dance and pilates classes for all ages. The Vibrancy Grant enhanced the studio's exterior, with LED lighting at the top and bottom of the curved glass façade, fresh paint and a unique wrap-around sculpture around the entrance.
Brick Anchor Brew-House
241 Granby Street
The Brick Anchor Brew-House is a steampunk style bar and restaurant with 60 craft beers on tap. The Downtown Norfolk Council's Vibrancy Grant further supported this locally-owned spot by funding outdoor improvements to enhance its appeal, including the addition of a non-illuminated aluminum panel “brick anchor” sign with raised letters which added a distinctive and eye-catching point of interest. The large accordion-style doors opening to the street created an inviting and dynamic space.
The Barrel Room
Not long after opening in 2015, The Barrel Room restaurant and bar became a neighborhood favorite, contributing to a fun and active nightlife in Downtown Norfolk. The Vibrancy Grant was used for improvements to the windows and doors facing Granby Street, creating a welcoming and inviting entrance for customers. Wooden windows and doors were updated to modern coated metal and other exterior finishes were refreshed.
For more information or to apply for the Vibrancy Grant program, please click here.