‘Come on over’

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mayor Linda T. Johnson announces a new downtown apartment project at the State of the City luncheon Tuesday.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson announces a new downtown apartment project at the State of the City luncheon Tuesday.

Mayor announces big new downtown project

Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson dropped in on a sold-out State of the City event to encourage folks to “come on over” and check out the good things happening in Suffolk.

“I would ask everyone to come on over,” she said. “Join me in the vision we have for our city.”

An introductory video featured the mayor waking up, brewing some coffee in a “Suffolk: Caffeine Capital of the World” mug and going for a walk to the beat of “Come on Over” by Streetcorner Symphony. In the video, she visits the new Library2Go vehicle, walks the Seaboard Coastline Trail, paddles a kayak, cuts a ribbon and hitches a ride on a trash truck and a fire truck.

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Finally, the fire truck drops her at Skydive Suffolk, which delivers her to the State of the City event in dramatic fashion.

Hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront, Tuesday’s luncheon was the fifth and last event in the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City series.

As it does every year, Johnson’s speech touted Suffolk’s quality of life, housing options, health care facilities, public safety, education, economic development, government services, high-achieving citizens and more.

In the housing arena, Johnson announced that the Monument Companies and Sensei Development — which have already contributed about $24 million in investment and 165,000 square feet of redeveloped commercial and residential space to downtown Suffolk — plan another big project.

The companies will invest more than $30 million transforming the former Golden Peanut Co. site at South Saratoga and Wellons streets into 290 renovated and newly constructed apartments.

The 10-acre site dates to the 1890s and includes a former peanut storage and processing facility, Johnson said. In the 1920s, the company employed as many as 300 people on the site, she added.

“Monument and Sensei will soon begin the formal process, with a goal of seeing its first residents in 2017,” Johnson said.

In the field of education, Johnson celebrated the two school construction projects currently under way in the northern area of the city.

“The strength of a school system is reflected in the ability to handle the demand placed by an ever-growing student population,” Johnson said. “The two facilities represent Suffolk City Council’s strong and ongoing commitment toward education and building a critical school infrastructure.”

Her one plea for support from the business owners on hand came on behalf of the educators.

“Business involvement is paramount to the future of our education system,” she said. “Your input and involvement mean the world to these educators and to the future of our community.”

Johnson also boasted of new and improved recreational opportunities, such as the Seaboard Coastline Trail and the new kayak launch at Sleepy Hole Park, both of which she was seen enjoying in the video. She added that Constant’s Wharf Park, located behind the hotel where Tuesday’s event was held, will soon get its own canoe and kayak launch.

Finally, she extolled the city’s economic development, which last year brought in 91 new and expanding businesses, 1,868 new jobs and $190 million in capital investment.

“Those numbers are to be applauded, and for those of you that are keeping count, that’s 1,420 more jobs than last year’s numbers,” she said.

“We’ll build on our dreams together, and we’ll leave no one behind,” she concluded. “This is the vision of community that Suffolk, at its best, has always been about.”