New development is a good sign

Published 10:35 pm Friday, July 8, 2016


For all those folks pining for good economic development news that comes from some other part of the city than North Suffolk, the appearance of heavy equipment on a site by the intersection of Godwin Boulevard and Kings Fork Road bodes well.

Planters Station LLC has begun work to develop a 222-home subdivision on a property there that is owned by Scott Overton and family. The first homes are expected to be built there beginning in 2017, Overton said this week.

Houses are usually not considered a bellwether of economic development. In fact, most evidence suggests that homes are a net drain on the finances of a city. They bring children, which creates a need for more classroom space and, eventually, more schools. They bring cars, which contributes to traffic problems and, eventually, the need for better roads. And they bring families, who wind up needing all sorts of city services that can be costly to taxpayers.

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But, to paraphrase a sentiment popular among economic development officials around the nation, rooftops attract retailers. And rooftops — or at least a large concentration of them — are primarily what has been lacking along the Godwin Boulevard corridor, at least from a commercial developer’s perspective.

The four-lane portion of Godwin Boulevard from its intersection with Pruden Boulevard to the Reid’s Ferry Bridge has existed for years as the place where if someone built more houses, the retailers would come. It’s a wide and well-traveled road, and a few shopping centers have taken advantage of their locations around several large communities near the Route 58 interchange in recent years. But that commercial development comes to an abrupt end at the new WaWa convenience store and the small shopping center next door.

Construction of more than 200 new homes to the northwest will serve to prime the pump for development of a couple of miles more frontage along the road.

Godwin Boulevard is one of two corridors that are ripe for such development in Suffolk right now. The other is along Nansemond Parkway, between Shoulders Hill Road and the Chesapeake city line. Nansemond Parkway’s potential development is hindered by the fact that it’s not yet a four-lane road there, though plans are in the works for that to happen.

Neither of the locations is in the downtown area, which will be a frustration for those wishing to see the resurgence of that community. But both can draw folks from downtown, folks who might choose to drive to Chesapeake Square or even Greenbrier Mall, rather than head over to Harbour View.

Changing those shopping patterns is a big deal to the city, which earns tax dollars every time someone shops within its borders instead of driving to another Hampton Roads city to do business.

Many of us will consider it a loss to see all that beautiful farmland along Godwin Boulevard built up someday. But the benefits of this targeted development will far outweigh the loss.