Harbour View almost ‘done’

Published 5:50 pm Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bob Williams, developer of Harbour View, shows off a map of the North Suffolk area he envisioned as a mini-city as early as the 1980s.

Bob Williams, developer of Harbour View, shows off a map of the North Suffolk area he envisioned as a mini-city as early as the 1980s.

Nearly all of the 3,000 acres in North Suffolk’s Harbour View community have been sold, according to developer Bob Williams.

“We’ve sold all but 11 acres,” said Williams, owner of Tri-City Developers and developer of Harbour View’s master plan. He has been approached by at least two parties interested in that last site, where Williams’ modest office sits near the corner of Bridge Road and Harbour View Boulevard.

As the former city manager of both Portsmouth and Newport News, Williams had a bird’s eye perspective of planned infrastructure — including the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel and Western Freeway — that began converging on the North Suffolk landscape.

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Recognizing the potential, Williams left city government in 1986. He went to work for a developer, designing the master plan that would ultimately turn farmland into the booming retail, medical and residential corridor that is Harbour View.

Today, development in and around Harbour View is thriving.

Three new stores — Michaels, Petco and Five Below — have opened in the past month in the area’s newest mixed-use development, Hampton Roads Crossing. New apartments and single-family houses are being built. Construction is under way on Bon Secours Health Center’s new $20 million, 58,000-square-foot medical center. Fewer than five residential lots remain available in Harbour View’s upscale Riverfront subdivision.

Although he declined to go into details, Williams said a couple of projects in the planning stages will ultimately bring more health care resources to North Suffolk. Another deal in the brokering will bring an occupant to the 80,000-square-foot Lakeview Technology Center building, Williams said.

Sitting in his basement conference room at Tri-City Developers recently, Williams is surrounded by maps, sketches and plans that show Harbour View’s progressive development since the 1990s. Williams, who is 79, said he counts Harbour View as a crowning achievement of his career.

“I think it has surpassed what I thought it could be, even as we got going and I began to fully realize its potential,” Williams said. “It’s been a good run.”

Mayor Linda Johnson, who is also a real estate agent, called Williams a visionary.

“I call him the godfather of Harbour View,” said Johnson. “This was truly his vision … and he has held true to what he wanted it to be.”

People didn’t always think about the plan that way, Williams recalled, chuckling.

Back in the late 1980s, when Harbour View was just a plan on paper, Williams used to go around to community groups — such as Rotary and Kiwanis clubs — to promote the project. Williams remembers a real estate agent who asked if he was going to “build himself a city” after he addressed a group in Portsmouth.

“I remember being a little taken aback at first,” Williams said. “Then I answered her.

“I said, ‘Yes, I think I will.’”