A multi-million dollar tour

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

I had a couple important visitors in the office Monday morning.

My visitors had been born here but left more than 35 years ago and have rarely returned since and then just for a couple brief visits.

They were important visitors, at least to me, being the majority stockholders in our company. I’d tell you their names, but sure as shoot if I did, people would be calling them trying to get me in trouble over this blog site.

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I drove them around town to show them how Suffolk was changing and growing. It was an interesting, educational exercise that I highly recommend anyone try to do.

They didn’t have a lot of time, so we did not visit north Suffolk, though I attempted to describe what was happening there with the modeling and simulation, at least as far as my feeble intellect could comprehend it. So we restricted our tour to the area around downtown.

We headed out from the office north on Saratoga Street. In two blocks we made our first stop at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

“This is a $20 million renovation of the old Suffolk High School,” I told them. A private group took on this project eight years ago or so. They raised several million and various grants and other government monies have mostly covered the remainder of the costs. It’s now a cultural arts center and just hosted its first event.”

They were impressed.

From there we headed to N. Main Street and turned South. I pointed out the Hilton Garden Inn (“A $23 million project.”)

Next was the old Obici Hospital site. I tried to describe the mixed-use development Tony Smith is supposed to be building there (“About a $50 million project, I think.”)

We headed out Godwin Boulevard to the new Obici site (“A $60+ million project, I believe”.)

I told them how the hospital had recently become a part of the Sentara Health System.

“What happened to the Obici Foundation?” my astute guest asked.

I told her I wasn’t really certain but I believed it would be helping the hospital offset the costs of indigent care and working on some community health initiatives of some sort.

On down Godwin Boulevard, we turned in to the Hillpoint Farm development just to show them the types of housing developments that have been coming into Suffolk. I told them these homes were selling for about $240,000 three years ago and at least until recently had been fetching between $350,000 and $450,000. I also drove them over to New Dominon Pictures and showed them the movie lot, which they thought was really cool.

Back on to Godwin headed east toward town I pointed out the Y (“One of the largest there is in terms of membership of units”) and the new commercial development at the 58 interchange.

I went ahead and took 58 West, exiting at Pitchkettle, to show them the development that is planned for there (“God knows how many millions?) and the site of the Homearama. They couldn’t believe that people would actually pay money to go into look at houses.

”Yeah,” I said. “It’s the damndest thing, but my wife will be first in line.”

Back on 58, we turned left on Holland Road to head back downtown. On West Washington I showed them where Center 800 is going.

“That’s supposed to be about a $35 million development with condos, office and retail space,” I said.

It was then that I finally noticed that I was saying the word “millions” a lot to them and began to feel a little uncomfortable that they might think I was BS’ing them.

Nonetheless, I forged on. As we headed east on Washington Street I pointed out all the old buildings that were being renovated, trying hard not to utter the word “millions,” but before we had gotten to the railroad tracks I was saying it again.

I pulled over to the right across from the Police Station at Washington and Pinner and showed them the area where The Fairgrounds project is underway.

”There will be something like 200 new homes out in this area. They are supposed to be affordable homes, if you consider $250,000+ affordable.” It was originally supposed to be a $10 million investment,” I think. “God knows what it is now.”

Heading on out East Washington I showed them where the utilities had been put underground (Why are there still wires up there, by they way, if everything was undergrounded?) and the Phoenix Bank Building. They were glad to see that all the “millions” in investment had not been limited to the traditionally white areas of town.”

We came back to Pinner n I couldn’t take them around downtown Suffolk without showing the view of the cultural arts center from the intersection of Pinner and Finney n and out to Constance Road. We pulled into the Hilton parking lot so I could show them Constance Wharf Park. They thought the concerts there were a great idea.

Back into the heart of downtown, we pulled over and walked to Java 149 for some of what Larry David described on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as those “Vanilla latte bull#%$& things.” They were delicious, by the way. I pointed out the construction work going on in those buildings on the west side of North Main, more condos, I think.

All in all, a nice little tour. I tried to figure out how many “millions” I had mentioned and lost count close to 200 and there were so many things I didn’t have time to show them. That’s a lot of jack and a lot of which to be proud.

Too bad it’s all going to come to a crashing halt now “those people” have been elected to city council. I jest, of course…but not really. Seriously, I’m kidding.

Barring a complete economic collapse (which, I hate to say, I think could be a real possibility with this bunch in Washington running things), there’s no reason Suffolk shouldn’t attract many, many more of those millions.