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Land targeted for high-tech research

Doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com

If a plan by the city comes to fruition, North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park won’t be the only such area in this neck of the woods.

At Tuesday’s Suffolk City Council meeting, the members adopted a resolution that could mean the city would acquire 57 acres of land on which they could establish and develop a national center for modeling and simulation and high-tech research.

What the city wants to do, according to City Manager Steve Herbert, is to secure that acreage, bound by the James River and Interstate 664, which is currently surplus land under the ownership of the State Board of Community Colleges, and buy it at fair market value.

Herbert said he doesn’t know how much the land would cost, but that fair market value on similar real estate in that area is going for as much as $100,000 an acre.

The resolution stated that such a plan would benefit Suffolk in that “the northern part of the city … has experienced significant growth in modeling and simulation and other high-tech business, serving as the base for such high tech leaders as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and the U.S. Joint Forces Command.”

In a monthly media briefing held at the city manager’s office Thursday, Herbert said time is of the essence in this situation. He indicated that Tidewater Community College officials have expressed an interest in taking the entire 300-plus acres in that area and placing them in a Real Estate Foundation. That would then allow them to sell off land in the future and use the funds as necessary for the development and growth of the school.

“The city is working with (Gov. Mark Warner) to see if we can acquire that land before he approves any transfer to (any foundation),” said Herbert. “We think it is in the interest of the state to get involved.”

Herbert said the city has received indications from Richmond that Warner would like to make a decision on this before he leaves office early next year.

“We’d like to get this done (before Warner leaves),” said the city manager. “We’re politely and diplomatically ratcheting up our effort.”

Herbert said while land in the same area of the 57 acres is part of a Superfund Cleanup due to World War I and II munitions, the acreage the city has identified is “clean.” He also said that cleanup work would not cause any delay in striking a deal for the property.

While Herbert did not identify any specific companies that might have shown an interest in the project, he said they are out there.

“They’ve said they are willing to take the risk,” said Herbert. “One incentive is the comfort level that they won’t have to clean-up (the land).”