Carver Circle hailed as ‘just a beginning’

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 23, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

For decades, as residents on the east side saw it, Suffolk has been a tale of two cities.

They normally point across the tracks where West Washington turns into East Washington Street to another side of Suffolk consisting of a large percentage of the city’s lower income families, substandard housing conditions, and pleas for the arrival of Suffolk’s renaissance in their neck of the woods.

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But now, the same railroad tracks that seemingly separated the haves and have-nots is the impetus for a rebirth that promises to end disparity.

For residents of the city’s urban core and the local government, Wednesday marked the beginning of a new day as the ribbon was cut on what will become the centerpiece of the $8 million Fairgrounds Revitalization Plan.

Approximately 100 people attended the dedication of the G.W. Carver Circle, which eliminates a long-standing dangerous traffic pattern revolving around the railroad tracks. The $200,000 traffic improvements are part of an overall plan calling for the infusion of economic development, new and improved housing stock, and enhanced infrastructure.

The new traffic design eliminates Hall and Culloden Streets merging with East Washington Street at the same point near the railroad tracks. &uot;People had to pull out in the middle of the intersection to see people coming,&uot; explained Jeryl Rose Phillips, plans and policy officer for Suffolk.

With the additional space created by the traffic pattern, a statue of George Washington Carver will be erected. For more than a year, a Fairgrounds committee has played an integral role in the plan. G.W. Carver was chosen because of his ties to the peanut industry and linkage to Suffolk’s international prominence as Peanut Capitol of the World.

By creating smoother traffic flow in the area, Mayor Bobby L. Ralph said that it opens the door to create equality on all levels in the city.

&uot;Both sides (of the tracks) will be comparable,&uot; stressed Ralph. &uot;Plans and pretty pictures are one thing, but seeing it is another.&uot;

Lula B. Holland, a former Suffolk school board member who serves on the Fairgrounds committee, said she remembers when parents didn’t want their children to attend schools &uot;across the tracks&uot; because of the negative image associated with the area.

But on Wednesday, Holland, who has lived in East Suffolk Gardens since the Sixties, was optimistic that a bright future is in store and that East Washington is entering a new day. She praised the creation of the G.W. Carver Circle, which will go to great lengths to make East Washington Street more inviting.

&uot;When you have the haves and have-nots, it doesn’t make for a good world,&uot; said Holland. &uot;This is a good day.&uot; Earlier during the ceremony, Holland remarked, &uot;This has been a journey but the journey is just beginning…There are other people who want to live in nice houses and have a place so their children can play. They want to say, `We own a home. This is our home.’&uot;

The city also announced at the ceremony that it received a $10,000 matching state grant to begin studying uses for the former Phoenix Bank on East Washington, formerly a prominent black-owned institution in the early 1900s.