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Plans shift for Harbour View site

City Council on Wednesday heard about shifting plans for a city-owned site in North Suffolk that reflect the need to be more flexible to changes in the market.

Kevin Hughes, director of economic development, presented the plans for the 55-acre site the city has dubbed “The Point at Harbour View.” The site is bordered by Armstead Road, College Drive and Interstate 664.

“As we’ve gone out and chased office, and we’ve seen that really shifting across Hampton Roads, across the nation and across Suffolk, we realized we need more flexibility,” Hughes said. “It has the opportunity to bring, maybe, some more life into some industries that are struggling a little bit that were doing very well a few years ago.”

In July, the Economic Development Authority amended its rezoning application for the area to allow the property to be classified as mixed-use. Hughes suggested the term “innovation district,” which is a new buzzword that is interchangeable with mixed-use.

The original agreement between Tidewater Community College, TCC Real Estate Foundation, the EDA, the city of Suffolk, the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges and the Commonwealth of Virginia stated the land in Harbour View would be available for development of commercial uses.

The resolution passed 7-0.

The Harbour View area has suffered an exodus of defense contractors and modeling and simulation businesses in recent years, after the disestablishment of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2011, Hughes told the City Council during Wednesday’s work session. The same office space in Bridgeway Technology Centers that in 2010 was occupied by tenants such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing is now occupied by health care and office furniture businesses, a church and a Social Services office, among others.

The EDA’s current plans for the property included commercial and residential uses. The new plans include retail, office space and multi-family residences. Hughes compared the new plan to Town Center in Virginia Beach.

“It’s something that’s practiced throughout the country — taking these suburban office parks and innovating them and having more life there,” Hughes said.

The Urban Land Institute made recommendations for the property in 2011, and Hughes believes the recommendation coincides with the direction the EDA is taking.

“I think it stays within the guidelines from the ULI. It really talked about a mix of uses, staying dynamic, being flexible,” Hughes said.

These mixed-use areas are becoming more popular and are being seen across the country and across Virginia, Hughes added.

GO Virginia also recommended innovation districts in its Hampton Roads Growth and Diversification Plan.

GO Virginia is an initiative that “supports programs to create more high-paying jobs through incentivized collaboration between business, education and government,” according to its website.

Councilman Donald Goldberg abstained from Wednesday’s vote due to his seat on the board of the TCC Real Estate Foundation.