Apartments will lose value, luster

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To the editor:

I made a decision to move my young family from Virginia Beach to Suffolk 19 years ago. My wife Denise and I wanted our two children raised in a community with a small-town charm. We found it in Suffolk.

My business stayed in Virginia Beach. What was an hour commute in 1997 in 2009 became two hours at morning rush hour. I made a decision to relocate the company to downtown Suffolk and purchased an at-risk building on Main Street.

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Kevin Hughes, newly appointed economic director, could not have been more helpful in getting me through the process of renovating the building and helping me to obtain both local and state tax credits for which the building qualified. Without his department’s assistance, I would not have made the investment and relocation.

He has been tasked with the difficult job of finding an investor for the Obici property. The city has owned it for 10 years and wants to wash its hands of it.

I don’t know if a park by itself is feasible. Maybe a park, combined with quality commercial and owner-occupied townhouses similar to Port Warwick in Newport News would be viable.

What I do know from the experience of being an active partner in apartment projects in both Virginia and Texas is that they will never look better than the day they are built. After that, they deteriorate both in appearance and value.

It’s not what they look like five or even 10 years from now that really matters, but what you will have after 20 to 25 years on Main Street.

You can demand and get $1,200 to $1,400 a month at the offset. But when occupancy starts to slip, rents are reduced, and the quality of the tenant decreases.

My partners and I owned 300 acres in Chesapeake and attempted to build townhouses on it. The problem was the property was fronted by Holly Cove Apartments, which when built in the ‘70s were advertised as luxury townhouse apartments. You need a gun to drive through there now. As a result of their appearance, we had to cancel our project.

I truly feel we have a mayor and City Council that go to work each day and try to do the best for the citizens of Suffolk. I would ask that they take a long, hard look at the decision that they are making on the property. I would ask them if this project is in the long-term, best interest of the city and if it is one they will be proud of in 25 years.

A City Council years ago voted in favor of putting a gas station and car wash on Main Street. They thought it was a good decision. To my knowledge, we are the only city on the East Coast that has a waterfront car wash.

Carl Farris