Wawa and the future of Godwin
Published 9:00 pm Monday, December 21, 2015
Can a convenience store be the catalyst for economic development in an area that has been growing more slowly than officials had expected? Suffolk officials hope the answer is yes in the case of the new Wawa convenience store and gas station on Godwin Boulevard.
For years, the area around Sentara Obici Hospital has seemed on the cusp of major commercial growth. With huge residential developments having sprung up on both sides of the road, along with a few small shopping centers and a handful of medical facilities supporting the hospital, the area has seemed for some time to be underserved by retail and commercial investors.
But things appear to be turning around in the four-lane portion of the corridor from Route 58 to the Reid’s Ferry Bridge. A new Goodwill thrift store has opened to brisk business, the Hampton Inn has opened its doors, nearly all existing commercial space is full, and bulldozers and backhoes are a common sight in recent months.
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Wawa could, indeed, be a catalyst for future growth. Situated at the end of the built-up section of Godwin Boulevard, the convenience store could serve as an anchor for new development to the north.
Investors look at rooftops — houses — in an area they are considering serving, and the communities around and near Obici Hospital and the Suffolk Family YMCA certainly provide plenty of them. But those same investors also pay attention to traffic patterns. For years, those traffic patterns have trended south, toward Route 58. But the addition of the popular Wawa store to the northern part of the corridor is likely to change those patterns a bit, bringing customers north — toward King’s Fork Road — for gas and sundries.
It’s surely an unusual situation for a city to rely so heavily on a convenience store to promote growth in an area targeted for retail and commercial development, but the coming of Wawa to Godwin Boulevard could prove to be an exceptional opportunity for economic development officials.
Congratulations to Suffolk for its work along Godwin Boulevard. And congratulations to the folks at Wawa for seeing the potential in that area. We can’t wait to see what follows.