Year-in-review: Carver Circle hailed as `just a beginning’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

In July, residents on Suffolk’s east side marked the beginning of a new day intended to breathe new life into their declining community.The ribbon was cut on what will become the centerpiece of the $8 million Fairgrounds Revitalization Plan.

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 are the impetus for a rebirth that promises to end disparity.

Approximately 100 people attended the July 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;

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.