Development will remain top priority

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 14, 2002

The Suffolk City Council was updated the status of ongoing projects and future plans for the city during its retreat in Hampton Thursday.

The retreat, which continues today at the Radisson Hotel in Hampton’s historic downtown, is the second one the council has had in the past three months. In August, the board and several staff members went to the Tides Inn to meet with a facilitator.

Tom O’Grady, director of economic development, told council members that the city needs to continue investing in infrastructure – including roads and sewer and water – at two of the city’s newer industrial parks, Northgate Commerce Park and Suffolk Industrial Park.

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&uot;We need to continue looking forward. I want to be able to market sites that are readily available,&uot; O’Grady said.

&uot;We need to have sites available that we can turn around in 30 or 60 days.&uot;

O’Grady said he believes the city and the Industrial Development Authority should consider constructing a speculative multi-story building in north Suffolk. &uot;I believe that would jumpstart multi-story facilities in the I-664 corridor.&uot;

Also, the city needs to continue making funds available for the city’s closure fund, the pot of money that the IDA uses as incentives to entice new companies into town, O’Grady said. Last year, the IDA used $800,000 to win the Target distribution center.

Mayor E. Dana Dickens III and Councilman Charles Brown agreed that economic development should remain one of the city’s top funding priorities.

&uot;Economic development is the engine that shapes the future quality of life for our citizens,&uot; Brown said. &uot;We need to stay focused on that. Economic development will be high on my list of priorities.&uot;

Dickens agreed, adding that he believes council should consider four-laning parts of Nansemond Parkway in north Suffolk – even if the city has to absorb all or part of the cost from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Although the project is currently in VDOT’s six-year plan, it’s likely to be bumped back because of the state’s budget problems, added City Manager Myles E. Standish.

A private developer is also planning to construct a business office park – made up of five 12,000-square-foot office buildings – in front of Harbour Breeze Apartments on U.S. Route 17, O’Grady said.

&uot; It will be a great opportunity to for business and professional services that we currently don’t have in northern Suffolk, he said

Commercial and retail forecasts for downtown Suffolk are equally promising, said Elizabeth McCoury, the city’s downtown development coordinator.

McCoury said that the downtown’s newest restaurant, the Moose Caf, opened Thursday on North Main Street. She added that she expects to announce that a second restaurant will be opening at the intersection of North Main and Constance roads within the next two weeks.

Other developments are also coming on line within the next few months, including competition of the Prentis House restoration and the Professional Building and College Court renovations.

&uot;To have a bright and vibrant downtown, you need people living, working and playing in downtown,&uot; McCoury said. &uot;I think downtown Suffolk will look dramatically different within the next two years.&uot;

Thanks to prodding in Washington D.C. from Sen. Randy Forbes, plans to bring a new postal facility to Suffolk are slowly moving forward, Assistant City Manager Steve Herbert said.

&uot;He has moved Suffolk up on the ladder,&uot; said Herbert. Indications are that the matter could come up for a vote when the new session of Congress convenes this spring.

Meanwhile, the city will be making some changes that should make traveling that section of North Main Street safer, Herbert said.

The retreat continues through Saturday.