Developer speaks to DBA

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 30, 2003

Staff writer

The $4 million renovation of the Professional Building in downtown Suffolk should be completed by the end of the year, according to the developer on the project.

In fact, Frank &uot;Buddy&uot; Gaddams, president of Marathon Development Group, told a meeting of the Downtown Business Association on Wednesday that the only thing that could slow the work down is dealing with the federal, state and local historic commissions that have to sign off on the work.

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Gaddams said he hopes to complete the purchase of the building in February and begin work within in 30 days.

The Suffolk School Board has agreed to lease all but 4,000 square feet of the 27,000-square-foot building for 10 years. Gaddams said plans are for an upscale restaurant to occupy the remaining space, located on the main floor, and that he is involved in discussions with several interested parties.

Gaddams, who has been involved in the more than 200,000-square-feet of historic renovation, said he will be working closely with state Department of Historic Resources and Suffolk’s Historic Landmarks Commission to see to it that the character of the building is preserved.

&uot;The only thing that could slow down the work since most of its being done on the inside is the historic commissions,&uot; he said.&uot;

Gaddams devoted part of his presentation to praising Suffolk city officials for their commitment to revitalizing downtown and their plan for strategic growth.

&uot;This area is poised to grow and the city is going about it in a very logical way,&uot; he said, referring to the city’s efforts to steer development to certain areas. &uot;They’re not going to overload the system.&uot;

Gaddams said his firm is interested in restoring more buildings downtown.

Recently, the Industrial Development Authority agreed to reduce the sale price of the building to him from $200,000 to $100,000, when a survey found that the restoration work would cost about $1 million more than originally anticipated because of asbestos and lead paint abatement.

Interestingly, Gaddams recently completed eight months worth of renovation work on his home in the Ghent area of Norfolk. His home was built at the turn of the century by James Carpenter and John Peebles, the same people who built the Professional Building.

The question of downtown parking was primarily on the mind of businesspeople in attendance. Downtown Development Coordinator Elizabeth McCoury and Councilman Bobby Ralph noted that parking spaces are being made more accessible in the city parking lot behind the Suffolk News-Herald and behind Byrum Hardware. Discussions are also under way for long-term solutions to parking availability.

&uot;It’s a good problem to have,&uot; Gaddams said of the parking. &uot;The alternative is you have a ghost town.&uot;