Pinner St. building gets new use

Published 10:12 pm Wednesday, October 17, 2012

City Council voted to rezone this property and approved a conditional use permit request for a public assembly. Owner LeOtis Williams says he plans to hold small meetings and outreach events, as well as host a food bank and retail space.

A building formerly used by the Friends of the Suffolk Library for its book sales has been approved for public assembly use under new ownership.

Suffolk City Council approved the request at its Wednesday meeting. The new owner, LeOtis Williams, said he hopes to use the building to give back.

Located at 701 Old E. Pinner St., the three-suite building has been renovated since Williams bought it in 2009 from the Norfolk Southern Railroad, which had been leasing it to the Friends of the Suffolk Library. The nonprofit organization moved out in December 2010.

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Williams hopes to use two suites of the building as a retail space and a food bank for the community. The third space, which was the subject of Wednesday’s hearing, would be used for events such as workshops, conferences, training and speeches.

The facility’s hours of operation are restricted to 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. However, Williams said in his application the facility would probably be used mostly in daytime hours. Events will host less than 50 people, and most will last no more than four hours, he said.

After a September Planning Commission meeting, Williams said he is working on a nonprofit foundation that will focus on youth outreach. He also hopes to have after-school meetings at the site for that foundation, he said.

Planning Commissioner William Goodman praised the move during last month’s meeting.

“This facility is something that’s badly needed in our community,” Goodman said.

Likewise, in Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Charles Parr said the building would benefit the community.

“This is just a continuation of your outreach and giving back to the community for all you’ve been given?” he asked Williams, who answered in the affirmative.

Williams is known for his annual turkey giveaway on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, when he uses proceeds from his lawn care business to hand out turkeys and all the fixings to lower-income families.