Building opportunities

Published 10:02 pm Saturday, October 8, 2011

Less than a week before opening night at the Tidewater Builders Association’s Fall 2011 Homearama, builders, landscapers, interior designers and TBA and city officials are all scurrying around, working out the last-minute details to assure the homes and community in which they are located are ready for as many as 100,000 visitors.

This will be the third time that Suffolk has hosted a Homearama event, and the second time that one has been held at The Riverfront, the North Suffolk golf-course community that is the residential gem of the Harbour View development. City officials can only hope that, despite the soft housing market, this edition of the semi-annual home tour will be at least as successful as the first Riverfront version, held 10 years ago.

Homearama is a good catch for Suffolk. Nine new homes valued at a half-million dollars and up have been added to the tax rolls. People from all over Hampton Roads will get a chance to see one of the premier neighborhoods in the area and experience a little bit of the charm that Suffolk has to offer. Businesses, especially those located near that community, will benefit from an influx of customers during Homearama’s two-week run.

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And all these benefits accrue without substantial risk to the city or its taxpayers; the risk is primarily on the shoulders of TBA, which presents the event, and the builders, who construct the houses on spec, working on faith that Homearama will generate buying interest. To be sure, things don’t always work out so neatly for the builders, and the housing bust caught many builders and developers off guard, whether they were involved with Homearama or not. But the continued interest in the event by longtime Homearama builders, even in the face of continued housing-market pressures, seems evidence in and of itself that they consider the risk to be worthwhile.

For those involved in Suffolk’s economic development efforts, the simple opportunity to tell the city’s story to a new group of people is too good to pass up. There are sure to be potential new families and taxpayers among the crowds of people touring The Riverfront, and there’s a good chance that some of those folks with their eyes on half-million-dollar homes will have influence on the decisions their companies make to build, relocate or expand facilities. Suffolk officials want to be sure to put the city’s best foot forward in either case.

For the rest of the people of Suffolk, Homearama serves at least two good purposes. Everybody gets a chance to tour some very nice new homes and look for ideas for improving their own spaces. And everyone has an opportunity for a couple of weeks to step into the role of warm and gracious host.

So if you see a stranger during the next few weeks, make an extra effort to smile and say hello. Your friendly demeanor could help land the city’s next big employer.