What comes next?

Published 9:21 pm Monday, July 17, 2017

A continuing shift in retail and commercial power from the Chesapeake Square area to Suffolk’s Harbour View community becomes more evident with every new announcement of a store closing at the mall in Chesapeake and every new project that is launched or completed in North Suffolk.

For much of the past 20 years, the shift has been gaining momentum, and the inevitability of Harbour View’s status as the powerhouse of shopping and other commercial activity has only gathered strength.

When I-664 was built, much of the North Suffolk corridor through which it passed was still farmland and woods. Today, one would be hard pressed to find either such land type in that area, as restaurants, shopping centers, medical complexes, residential communities and office complexes have occupied nearly all the developable land in that area.


Email newsletter signup

With Harbour View nearly built out and the stretch of College Drive from I-664 to Bridge Road filling up fast, developers and the city are hurrying to prepare other nearby properties to meet the continuing demand for sites near the highway. A 55-acre site off College Drive near the entrance to the old Tidewater Community College campus is the city’s next great hope for development.

That site had been under consideration for a potential land swap with the Virginia Department of Transportation, which currently has a headquarters complex on a coveted site on North Main Street in central Suffolk. But officials say that deal is now off the table, and they are now working to make the North Suffolk location more attractive for developers who wish to locate in the fastest growing community in Hampton Roads.

The city’s Economic Development Authority voted recently to pursue a zoning change that would allow a mix of commercial uses for the 55-acre site, known as the Point at Harbour View. The existing zoning classification would allow only a commerce park.

But the city has a good inventory of commerce-park space, and neither a commerce park nor a VDOT complex would have been the highest and best use of the property. A development that capitalizes on the explosion of retail and commercial space nearby seems like just the right thing for the property.

Add in the latest announcement of bad news from Chesapeake Square Mall — the closure of the Gymboree store there in a retrenchment of that company that affected 350 of its stores nationwide — and the shift in retail power seems obvious.

Chesapeake will eventually figure out a way to repurpose and redevelop the mall and its environs, but North Suffolk — and especially Harbour View — have surely established themselves as the shopping destination of choice for those who wish to avoid the traffic and tolls of Greenbrier, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

It will be exciting to see what comes next.