A good move on Obici House

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, June 4, 2009

Whether they always intended to protect the Obici House or they just heard and responded to the outraged cries of citizens who were concerned about rumors that the historic home of noted Suffolk philanthropists Amedeo and Louise Obici faced an uncertain fate, members of the Suffolk City Council made a wise decision Wednesday by choosing to look for potential uses for the building.

Before a group of about 50 people who were on hand to show their support for preserving the home — which once was the jewel of Obici’s Bay Point Dairy Farm estate — council members voted unanimously to have city staffers draft a request for proposals soliciting ideas from private entities about how to restore the building and about what purpose it should serve in the community.

Having withdrawn the house from a separate RFP that sought bids for operating the adjacent Sleepy Hole Golf Course, the council already had taken an important first step toward protecting it. Still, though, many in the community had sought a stronger show of commitment to ensuring that the Obici House would continue standing in its current location and serving the Suffolk community for generations to come.

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Years of neglect are glaringly evident from just about any vantage point at the golf course, and the fact that the city had allowed the further deterioration of the home since it was acquired from the city of Portsmouth — which once owned the course and the buildings located there — gave citizens no confidence in the city’s commitment to saving this historic resource.

Wednesday’s vote was a step in the right direction. Now, organizations such as the Citizens for the Preservation of Obici House can look for partners that share a desire to preserve the Obici legacy and provide a location that will be useful for all manner of community events.

There was a time when the home was used for everything from cocktail parties following golf tournaments to high school reunions. With its five-star location, nestled at the end of one of Hampton Roads’ most stunning golf holes along the Nansemond River, the building could once again become one of Suffolk’s most beautiful jewels. The City Council’s decision on Wednesday puts that goal within reach for those citizens and organizations willing to partner with each other to achieve it.