Old Obici building still on minds of many

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Editor, the News-Herald:

Regrettably, the demolition of the old Obici Hospital is a practical necessity. I understand the historical ties Suffolk citizens have to the building, but its functionality is outdated.

My suggestions have to do with the site’s future use. I’m hoping the Downtown Development Department realizes what the city now lacks – an entertainment complex.

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Envision this – a multi-plex movie theater on the existing site. Ground level, with a scaled-down faade duplicating the old hospital and some of the other historical buildings that were demolished decades ago. The parking spaces are already in place, and the entrance is highly accessible and attractive. The traffic lights would have to be reinstalled. Patrons leaving the theater would then bring extra business to our Main Street fast food establishments and restaurants, too.

To the right of the theater building could be a bowling alley, again with an older looking faade. Think of the city money we’re losing with leagues travelling to Chesapeake and Portsmouth. It would also be another interest and activity for our city’s youth to be safely involved in as well as appealing to clubs, church groups, etc.

What about a game arcade including pool tables and electronic game machines? These activities are popular with all ages. The bowling alley and game arcade could be on the site of the old medical office building. Again, there are existing parking spaces. I think both ventures would be profitable.

Surely Downtown Development could start approaching potential buyers and investors about these possibilities. The city doesn’t need yet another office building or car dealership, and we have enough strip malls.

On the site of the old nursing school we could erect a building that would house a miniature model display of the city during the Civil War era, showing encampments of the Confederate and Union armies and the Siege of Suffolk. It would be another boost to the tourism industry as well as an educational possibility of field trips for schoolchildren.

How about a farmer’s market, like the charming on in Virginia Beach? Constant’s Wharf would have made an ideal spot for one combined with a city park, but it’s too late now. I hope those new hotel rooms get rented.

Our family traveled cross-country last year and, in planning our trip, I poured over tour books and maps planning our route. Destination stops were decided by a town or city’s appeal – historical, visual, entertaining, cost, easily accessible of our main route.

Do you realize that in the AAA Tour Book for the Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes Virginia, Suffolk is not mentioned anywhere. There is a special section on the Hampton Roads area which includes details and information on: Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake, Fort Eustis, For Monroe, Gloucester, Portsmouth and Smithfield. Even Surrey has its own listing, and that’s only a paragraph.

Our city tourism department has worked hard to promote Suffolk. There are things of interest in this city that should be included in the AAA Tour Book – the peanut industry, historical buildings, the train depot, Riddick’s Folly, Dismal Swamp, Constant’s Wharf, Peanut Fest, Civil War connection, Nansemond Indians, the museum, our lakes, golf courses, river cruises, old churches, public parks, parades, tennis courts, Chuckatuck Creek raft faces, Fourth of July events, fishing, canoeing, hunting, the YMCA, the future cultural arts center and industry.

Suffolk should have its own listing to include all of the above, plus the communities of Buckhorn, Chuckatuck, Eclipse/Crittenden, Driver, Hobson, Holland, Myrtle and Whaleyville, suing the descriptions printed in the 2002 Sketchbook and Discover Suffolk magazines.

It’s time to entertain us and get us on the map.

S.M. Miller