Herbert: Fairgrounds on track

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Work is moving ahead on the Fairgrounds project, Suffolk’s major initiative to increase affordable housing options.

City Manager R. Steven Herbert told the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the city has signed a contract to begin putting overhead utility wiring underground along East Washington Street, from the railroad tracks to Factory Street.

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Work will begin soon after Christmas, once ongoing road work along East Constance Road is complete, Herbert said.

The city is also close to striking an agreement with Planters, which will allow the company to move ahead with its expansion and the city to begin infrastructure work at the Fairgrounds site

The only major affordable housing initiative in Hampton Roads right now, the Fairgrounds – which will provide about 150 homes and apartments – will change the face of downtown, Herbert said.

&uot;The Fairgrounds, to me, is the most important thing we are doing in the city,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s an opportunity for us to revitalize an important section of our community.&uot;

It will also bring return homeowners to the area, which is critical to a viable, healthy downtown, he said.

Herbert assured commissioners that the Suffolk City Council has committed to funding improvements in the city’s older communities through its village and neighborhood plan program.

The villages and neighborhoods, once formal plans are adopted, will receive annual allocations of $100,000 and $50,000 respectively for a decade to make capital improvements.

Commissioners praised Herbert for stepping in at Thanksgiving, when the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless evicted six families two days before the holiday. The city picked up the tab for the families to stay in a motel during the holiday weekend.

Daniel Forbes, the authority’s chairman, told Herbert that he would like a SRHA board member to serve on the homeless shelter’s board of directors.

&uot;I think it something that is close to our hearts,&uot; he said.