Vision on way to becoming reality

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 17, 2006

After a public hearing Wednesday night, Suffolk City Council approved a rezoning request that will allow a new development, the first of its kind in the city, to move forward.

Hampton Roads Crossing, a 132-acre project on the south side of Townpoint Road east of College Drive and north of the Western Freeway, will be the first to utilize the city’s new mixed use development ordinance, which was added to the Unified Development Code last year. A mixed use development is a pedestrian-friendly community that marries residential and commercial development, including offices, retail outlets and medical facilities.

In this case, that means a community with:


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n 600 new homes,

n Two hotels,

n 150,000 square feet of office space,

n 515,000 square feet of retail space, and

n 65,000 square feet of mini-storage units.

The housing portion, or Residential Village as it is being called, would include single-family homes, townhouses and multi-family units. The Corporate Campus portion will feature the new campus of Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, as well as the MAST Center, which is a cooperative effort between Suffolk and Portsmouth on a 32-acre research, technology and education campus.

The project is phased so that the development of commercial and office uses keeps pace with that of houses. The project should take about eight years to complete, said the developer’s attorney, Whitney Saunders. Ultimately, it would create 2,400 new jobs and pump $2.3 million in taxes into the local economy, he said.

The developer also made several proffers to the city, including making road improvements to Townpoint Road and giving the school system $844,305 to cover the costs of the additional students in city schools. They also asked to be included in the Route 17 Special Taxing District, which would enable the city to use extra taxes collected from the development to offset the need for additional services and infrastructure.

Students who would move into the development would attend Nansemond River High School, John Yeates and John F. Kennedy middle schools and one of nine different elementary schools. Based on the report from the Planning Department, all of the schools could handle the influx of students with the exception of the middle schools.

The city’s Capital Improvement Plan calls for a new 1,200-pupil middle school in 2013-14, and the developers of Hampton Roads Crossing have agreed to pay the cash proffer toward the construction of the new school.

The project was unanimously recommended by the Suffolk Planning Commission last month, but council members, during their work session, expressed concern over the number and types of homes. Mayor Linda Johnson noted that the housing market is slowing, and wondered who, if anyone, would be interested in living in townhomes. Councilman Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer went so far as to suggest a six-month moratorium on new construction.

After the public hearing, during which Saunders was the only speaker, most council members had mostly praise for the development. Councilman Charles Brown said this type of mixed use project is what officials need to look for in future proposals if they want to develop a quality city.

Even Milteer called Hampton Roads Crossing &uot;a showcase.&uot;

Johnson said the development has all the components of a mixed use development and fits in the city’s comprehensive plan. She also liked the fact that its positioning in the Route 17 Special Taxing District would take care of any infrastructure concerns.

&uot;This is progress,&uot; she said.

Council voted 5-2 to approve the rezoning request, with Councilmen Jeff Gardy and Leroy Bennett opposing because, while they thought it was a good plan,

they would rather see the city slow down on residential development.