SRHA given lead Fairgrounds role

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Despite seeking proposals from other Hampton Roads’ housing authorities earlier this year, the Suffolk City Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to give the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority a lead role in the city’s Fairgrounds revitalization project.

During its work session Wednesday, the council adopted a resolution directing the SRHA to prepare a redevelopment plan for the proposed Fairgrounds community. The SRHA plan will be ready to go before council within 90 days, said Jeryl Phillips, the city’s plans and policy officer.

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The SRHA plan will revolve around the Fairgrounds Revitalization Plan that council adopted and added to the city’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan last year, Phillips said.

The city’s plan, created using residents’ input garnered from several meetings, calls for giving the 35-acre site running off East Washington Street a new life by building new homes and apartments, rehabilitating older ones and bringing in new businesses, she said.

&uot;It will be the first new housing development in downtown Suffolk in over 50 years,&uot; Phillips said.

The SRHA is legally empowered to take actions that may be necessary to carry out the redevelopment plan, including slum clearance, acquiring property through eminent domain or purchase, and making that land available to private and public agencies working to move the redevelopment project forward.

The city has the power to obtain property through eminent domain, so long as it will be for public use, such as a street, Philips said. But the SRHA’s strength lies in that it can acquire property for both public and private use, she said.

The Fairgrounds initiative will mark the first time the city and the SRHA have worked together on a redevelopment project, Phillips said.

Meanwhile, work will begin on the first phase of the project – building a traffic loop around the intersection of Hall, Culloden and East Washington streets – this month, Phillips said. Thanks to input from a citizen advisory committee, the park inside the traffic circle will be called Carver Circle – a memorial to George Washington Carver, Phillips said.

In July, contracts will be awarded to companies handling the second phase of the project that along the East Washington corridor, from Culloden to County streets.

Plans call for the under grounding of utilities; widening the sidewalk from 6 to 10 feet along the north side of the street; installing historic-appearing decorative lighting; and setting out planters, trashcans and trees along the thoroughfare.

Efforts to refine the master plan will include the addition of a new Health Services Building near the new traffic loop, Phillips said.

&uot;We’re hoping that public investment and getting people on street will create a synergy (in the Fairgrounds area),&uot; Phillips said.