Newport News clears upper Warwick land for $1 million

Theresa Clift
Land once housed problematic night club, tractor-trailer parking

Nearly 3 acres on upper Warwick Boulevard sit primed and ready for development now that the city has cleared the land of concrete and vacant structures — a $1,026,407 project.

In September, the city paid $928,775 for its Economic Development Authority to acquire three adjacent parcels at 15401, 15407 and 15411 Warwick Blvd., in front of the Stoneybrook Estates subdivision, at the northwest corner of Warwick and Snidow boulevards.

Earlier this summer, the city paid $97,632 to demolish two vacant buildings, remove concrete, put down grass seed and grade the land, said Florence Kingston, the city's development director.

No developers have yet expressed interest in the land, Kingston said.

In a memo he wrote to the City Council on Friday, City Manager Jim Bourey said the improvements "create an attractive developable parcel to attract private sector, neighborhood-friendly businesses to the area. The removal of the structures on the properties has significantly enhanced the aesthetics of this vital stretch of Warwick Boulevard."

One of the now-demolished buildings was the former home of the Fass Brothers seafood restaurant, which later became a nightclub where a man was shot and killed in 1998. It was set on fire in 2010. The other building housed a barber shop, while the third parcel was used for tractor-trailer parking.

At the time the EDA bought the land from the John B. Babbs Revocable Trust, the property was assessed at a total of $1,025,000 — about $96,225 less than the city paid. The vacant land is now assessed at $525,400.

Shirley Stevenson, who lives in Stoneybrook Estates, said the appearance of the property in front of the subdivision had remained unchanged since she moved into her home in 1992 — until now.

She was glad to finally see the vacant buildings go, which also posed a public safety concern, she said.

"I think they were eyesores," she said. "And a lot of people thought it was just a place to hang out. … I always saw a lot of people standing around."

She is hoping something productive and positive for the community opens at the property, she said.

"I would like to see a restaurant, something small but fun. Maybe even some shops. It's hard to picture," she said.

The project is part of a larger city effort to revitalize the upper Warwick corridor.

"I would like to see it move forward in more of a modern look, like City Center and Tech Center," Stevenson said. "Encouraging business and growth."

In recent years, Stevenson is pleased with the changes she's seen in the area, including crape myrtles planted in the median.

"It's slowly starting to look better," she said. "Less run-down looking."

The city has also installed new street lights and traffic lights along upper Warwick Boulevard.

Clift can be reached by phone at 757-247-7870.

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