NEWPORT NEWS—Earlier this year, Newport News was awarded a $90,000 planning grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Industrial Revitalization Fund. City Council recently appropriated the funds, which will be used for a survey and feasibility study of an Economic Development Authority-owned property at 2591 West Ave. in Newport News.
Built in the 1940s, the site previously served as St. Constantine and St. Helen Greek Orthodox Church. Revitalization of the property is timely with recent redevelopment activity along 23rd Street and is bolstered by the Historic District nomination for the downtown area that will make available the use of federal and state historic tax credits for rehabilitation projects.
The activities funded by the grant will provide valuable information as to the physical condition of the building and potential options for adaptive reuse, and better position the property for developer solicitation and outreach.
According to Derek E. Perry, assistant director of the Newport News Department of Development, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what the church may be used for when repurposed.
“We’re open to see what folks’ interests are,” said Perry. “I think part of the work we’ll be doing will be some outreach to the community as far as what different types of uses people may want to see. It’s an older building and it has been vacant for a while, so there will be a lot of investment needed to get it back to active use.”
There has been some interest in the property already, but Perry stresses that the building assessment will help potential developers decide what makes financial sense, given the investment it will take to rehabilitate the structure.
“There isn’t a lot of information right now about the current structural condition of the building,” said Perry. “We know that created some barriers for the people who might have been interested in it previously, so part of this work will be to get some of those internal studies completed so when we’re soliciting interest or folks are expressing interest to us, we’ll have something in hand to give them, to provide them with a clearer picture of what’s going on with the building. That should give them what they need so they can do research into what it might take for them to redevelop it.”
Does that mean downtown Newport News could be potentially getting a new restaurant?
“I know it’s been mentioned by some in the past, so that’s certainly an option,” said Perry. “There are some old plants further back that people have talked about turning into public meeting spaces, so I think you really have the whole range of private use to public uses.”
The scope of the grant to determine the building’s structural integrity should be underway soon and is expected to be wrapped up by mid- to late-summer this year. Then the solicitation process can get underway.
“There’s a lot of momentum generating downtown right now,” said Perry. “We’re really excited about how this Greek church project fits into that, particularly with the Yard District, the investment on 23rd Street, and the investment into the James River Strand. I think there are a lot of exciting opportunities working that will pull everything together, add to the vibrancy, and keep the momentum going.”