Published 9:30 pm Monday, March 17, 2014
Big changes are afoot along West Washington Street, and city officials hope the results will help spur a revitalization of the entire downtown area.
Contractors are busy at work in the commercial buildings that line the south side of the 100 block of the road, converting abandoned storefronts and shuttered second-story space into loft apartments and renovated retail spaces. Monument Construction, which has completed several other similar conversions of old Suffolk buildings, is the developer. When the project is complete, there will be about 6,000 square feet of renovated retail, commercial and professional space available, along with 68 new loft apartments.
A couple of blocks away on West Washington, contractor Armada Hoffler continues its work on a new City Hall building and E911 call center, a project that altogether will account for a $35-million investment by taxpayers by the time it’s complete.
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The new facility will occupy the north side of West Washington from Henley Place to North Street and will encompass 115,000 square feet of space across two stories. It will completely replace the existing City Hall building, which is nearly 50 years old and suffers serious structural problems that have limited its usefulness during the past couple of years. When the new facility is complete, the old one will be torn down, and the property will be converted to a parking lot.
Suffolk officials hope the new City Hall and yet another project in the works in the vicinity will provide a further boost to that part of the West Washington corridor.
Property has been purchased and plans are being developed for construction of a new library on the south side of the road, between South and Lee streets.
The new library would replace Morgan Memorial Library a couple of blocks to the west. That facility is a converted furniture showroom, and it has outlived its usefulness, according to city officials. At an estimated cost of $20 million, some of which would be from the state, the new building could include such amenities as a café, a local history museum and a genealogy center.
And if the current planning continues to bear fruit, a partnership with Paul D. Camp Community College could result in the inclusion of college-level academic resources and opportunities in the new building. Such a facility could then be the cornerstone of a small downtown academic campus.