A few ideas for Obici

Published 9:47 pm Friday, August 14, 2015

As it turns out, folks in Suffolk have a great interest in what’s done with the former site of Louise Obici Memorial Hospital.

The property on North Main Street, located between Duke Automotive and the Virginia Department of Transportation compound, has languished for years, and casual observers easily could have concluded that nobody cared about it as weeds grew over the parking lot. But when the city, which has owned the property off and on since not long after the hospital moved to its current Godwin Boulevard location, began courting potential buyers, there was suddenly an explosion of interest in the fate of the property.

First, a group organized a grassroots effort to convince the city not to allow an apartment complex to be built on the property and to use the site instead for a new park. That effort ultimately failed, but it set the stage for a city-financed survey of citizens to determine what to do with the portion of the property that will not be used for apartments.

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Suffolk’s Economic Development Authority seeks a mix of commercial uses for the property, but the survey was developed to get residents’ input into just what sort of commercial use would be most desirable. Nearly 600 people responded.

Among the suggestions were a quality clothing store, a shoe store, restaurants, a grocery store, a sporting goods store, a book store, health and fitness businesses and a spa.

The responses will help economic development officials when they’re marketing the property by showing potential developers the demand that already exists for their products.

Even more, though, the survey should remind city officials that Suffolk residents have ideas about city projects, and it should reinforce the concept of seeking public input on those projects whenever possible.