Center Point comes with offers

Published 9:25 pm Saturday, November 15, 2008

CenterPoint Properties has offered to pitch in to help with potential traffic problems it could cause along Route 58.

The company is offering to give the city of Suffolk $3.46 million to use on improvements to Holland Road in return for rezoning property to allow for a massive new warehousing and distribution facility.

The company has proposed a $325 million warehousing center off Route 58 to help handle the growing container traffic coming from the ports and through the region.

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The proffer represents the kind of thing the city has been waiting to hear from the company prior to giving the project its stamp of approval.

At a work session of the Planning Commission last month, a number of commissioners were concerned they would be doing the citizens of Suffolk a disservice by allowing such a massive center without knowing how to fund the improvements necessary to support it.

Commissioner Alvin Copeland said he was specifically worried that the project does not consider the residents living along Route 58.

“It’s going to take them two hours just to get to Wal-Mart,” Copeland said.

Traffic problems along Holland Road have been a city concern for some time.

Before CenterPoint announced its plans this summer, the city received the results of a Hampton Roads Planning District Commission study done on Route 58. The study showed that the growing traffic burdens on the road between the downtown bypass and Holland will soon make it unsafe if improvements are not made.

The study proposed either widening the road to six lanes (at a cost of $94 million) or building a bypass around Route 58 (at a cost of more than $250 million).

CenterPoint officials have repeatedly said they bring a lot to the table with their development, and suggest they should not single-handedly be held responsible for fixing Route 58.

CenterPoint executive Bob Harbour spoke at the Planning Commission and the City Council work sessions, saying that partnerships are necessary to make change happen with the road.

“We all have to get in the boat together to solve (Route 58),” he told the Planning Commission. He said the company is looking for state and federal partners to get Suffolk help with the funds it needs.

On Tuesday, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 2 p.m. in City Council chambers to get more input. If the Planning Commission agrees to recommend allowing the CenterPoint development, then the matter will go before City Council for a final decision.