City rejects Obici proposals

Published 11:23 pm Friday, November 6, 2009

The city of Suffolk has rejected all of the proposals it received for the renovation and reuse of the historic Obici House, officials announced Friday evening.

“Based on the evaluation criteria, all of the proposals failed to meet one or more of the specific purpose requirements listed in the Request for Proposals,” Suffolk spokesperson Debbie George stated in a brief press release announcing the city’s decision.

“The city will continue to evaluate its options.”

Among the proposals presented to the city was one from Citizens for the Preservation of Obici House, which suggested restoring the Italianate house that once was home to Amedeo and Louise Obici and turning it into a fine-dining restaurant.

Susan Blair, who is president of the organization, said Friday that she had just received a fax from the city notifying CPOH that its proposal had been rejected.

“I have no idea what this is about,” she said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen.”

In an emailed response to a series of questions about the announcement, George stated that respondents had been “notified of the status of their proposals,” but she did not answer whether they had been briefed on their particular shortcomings or if they would be given a chance to amend the proposals.

Asked whether Suffolk officials intend to leave the home to sit unused and unrepaired, or if there were some other possible plan in the works for the structure and its adjacent Carriage House, she restated the original statement from the press release: “The City will continue to evaluate options.”

In May, Preservation Virginia — formerly the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities — held a press conference at the home and announced its inclusion on the group’s 2009 list of “most endangered places, buildings and archeological sites.”

The structure, which is located adjacent to the 18th green at Sleepy Hole Golf Course, has fallen into disrepair in recent years and now sports “No Trespassing” signs along with the rotting wood and crumbling brick mortar that can be seen on its exterior.

The citizens group that organized to help save it estimates that it would require about $1.77 million to restore the home to its former grandeur. The group had proposed putting another million dollars into the restaurant conversion and Carriage House transformation into a Grill Room and office space for the golf course.

Funding for the work would have come from tax credits, private and corporate donations, grants and loans, according to the proposal, which also explicitly stated that Suffolk taxpayers would not be asked to pay for any of the work.