Mixed-use, not parks, good for blacks

Published 11:21 pm Thursday, May 21, 2015

To the editor:

I am asking for every elected official to take the time to educate the citizens of Suffolk on how the use of the old Obici site will affect all of us as citizens. I’m asking that the same energy they used in campaigning be used in educating the very people who elected them to office.

Supporters of the Community Obici Park wrote on their Change website:

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“The City of Suffolk now owns the land, and the Economic Development Authority wants to turn it into a ‘mixed use development.’ They have contracted half of the site for 224 apartment units, but it is subject to City Council approval. Main Street is already heavily developed with big box stores, fast food restaurants, car dealers and other retail. The street is choked with traffic, because it wasn’t designed to carry the volume.”

Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes has projected the real estate and sales taxes from the mixed-use development could generate more than $465,000 annually. That is essentially what we need in Suffolk.

So, yes, I am for the mixed-use development. I am for it, because it will attract and mix together all of the citizens of Suffolk and not just a select few, like the dog park and the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts — neither of which have yet marketed to and gained the support of African-Americans.

Statistics show that both uses of the 27 acres could generate a great amount of revenue, as tourism is a big business generating billions of dollars, but studies also have revealed that African-Americans are the minorities in visits to national parks.

“Studies and surveys show that visitors to the nation’s 393 national parks — there were 285.5 million of them in 2009 — are overwhelmingly non-Hispanic whites, with blacks the least likely group to visit,” The New York Times reported.

The argument that the street was not designed to carry the volume of traffic that would be created by the apartments leads me to question the motives of the park supporters. Suffolk today is not the old Suffolk. We are not as “country” as we used to be.

Our population is continuing to grow at an astounding pace, and yes we are becoming a little more city-like. I like the idea of the park, and Falls Park in Greensville, S.C. is a good park to model after, but location, location, location is always key.

Domenick Epps