New foundation building under way

Published 10:37 pm Saturday, June 20, 2009

Motorists on Main Street in downtown Suffolk have noticed some activity near the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts in recent weeks.

The new construction isn’t another SCCA project, however. It is the new office for the Obici Health Care Foundation.

“Our current space is not adequate,” said George Birdsong, the chairman of the board of the foundation. The group currently rents space on Holland Road, but it’s not even large enough for the 12-member board to meet, Birdsong said.

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Therefore, the foundation began looking for a new space to conduct its business. The corner of Finney Avenue and Main Street was chosen from among several locations in the central business district, Birdsong said.

“We needed a key site to build an office that would be convenient for our charitable organizations that we help,” Birdsong said.

The Obici Health Care Foundation was founded in 2006 with assets established through the generosity of Planters founder Amedeo Obici and funds from the merger of Louise Obici Memorial Hospital and Sentara Healthcare. The foundation supports health care-related programs and projects in the Suffolk area.

The 7,000-square-foot, two-story building will mimic a Victorian house, in order to help fit in with the surrounding properties, Birdsong said. The site also will be designed so that the view of the cultural arts center is not obstructed from the street.

“We’re very excited about this building,” Birdsong said. “This is a tribute and honor to Mr. and Mrs. Obici, who are the source of our funding.”

Inside, the building will have offices for the foundation’s six staff members, plus three large meeting rooms. The foundation intends to make the space available to other nonprofits, Birdsong said.

“We’re trying to not only serve the needs of our foundation but hopefully be a community resource for others,” he said.

The foundation also will use the building to meet with grantees and collaborate on health care issues, Birdsong said.

The foundation also is helping the environment by incorporating “green” features into the building, such as a geothermal heat pump, a tankless water heater and using building supplies from nearby.

“We’re trying to make it very efficient and environmentally friendly,” he said.

Overall, the foundation hopes the building will act as a catalyst for charitable giving of all kinds in Suffolk.

“We hope this will serve as a tribute to the Obicis and will help encourage others to be philanthropic.”

The group hopes to be using its new office space by February.