Suffolk, IW look forward to home show

Published 10:53 pm Friday, April 16, 2010

With the Tidewater Builders Association’s first springtime Homearama just three weeks away, builders, landscapers, interior designers and other subcontractors are busy putting the finishing touches on the eight Founders Pointe homes that will be featured in the event.

In anticipation of having tens of thousands of people visiting the Isle of Wight neighborhood during the two-week festival of homes, organizers and others involved in putting the event together are feeling electrified.

The same factors have got officials in Isle of Wight and Suffolk pretty charged up, as well.

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“It’s definitely a good thing,” said Christine Sutphin, a project manager with the Isle of Wight Department of Economic Development. “It’s a positive note in a somewhat down economy. We see it as a fun, positive thing.”

Sutphin has been an unofficial point of contact between the TBA and the county since the builders’ group first showed interest in launching the new spring event in Isle of Wight.

When TBA officials made their original pitch to the county, they brought along some impressive statistics about attendance and economic impact.

The event is expected to draw between 80,000 and 100,000 visitors to the upscale neighborhood on the western shore of Batten Bay, just across the water from Suffolk’s northwestern border.

A large proportion of those attendees are expected to visit from South Hampton Roads, meaning they’re likely to drive right through Suffolk on Route 17 to get to the event, Suffolk Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said.

“You get people coming into the city and stopping at restaurants … and just stopping to explore,” he said.

But even more important in the long run, he added, could be the fact that folks who come to visit Founders Pointe will get a feeling for Western Tidewater’s integration into the greater Hampton Roads area.

“The biggest thing is the branding effort of Western Hampton Roads,” Hughes said. The event will help “show [visitors] that we’re strategically located in the middle of Hampton Roads.”

While TBA and its builders, subcontractors and vendors will be selling windows, landscaping, appliances and other items targeted toward homeowners and homebuyers, county officials will be on hand to market Isle of Wight, Sutphin said.

Since the event is taking place in a neighboring community, Suffolk will not have a similar marketing effort in play this year. But Hughes pointed out that the city has had opportunities at past Homearama events to get out the word about its highlights.

The TBA event was held at Riverfront in 2001 and at Pitchkettle Farms in 2006. The Riverfront show, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors, still stands as one of the top two Homearama events since the first one in 1982, according to TBA Vice President Mary Prier.

With the potential for so many folks to visit the community, her organization is confident that the event will be a winner for Western Tidewater.

“Hopefully, we will stimulate some [real estate] sales for the host community,” President Bill Halprin said Thursday. “I would think it would be a great opportunity.”

Each potential sale, he explained, represents work for attorneys, title companies, real estate agents, insurance agents, pest control companies and more. And people who move into the community will stimulate the local economy through furniture purchases, landscaping, restaurant and grocery store visits and all the other things that people spend their money on near home.

“This is going to be categorically a great opportunity,” he said.