‘Wonderfully good news for the region’

Published 6:36 am Monday, December 7, 2015

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A development company is planning to build eight apartments in Kenbridge.

Oh, it’s no joke. And while it might not register in the Richmond area, it does around here.

One of the developers said that economic developments in the region “would suggest there’s going to be opportunity for these types of ‘mingles’ units.”

The economic development he’s talking about is two projects that have locals more excited about the future than they’ve been in a long time.

First, the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System is adding South Hill’s Community Memorial Healthcenter to its operation — a project that means an $80 million investment of staff, facilities and equipment to the community.

Groundbreaking for the new 166,700-square-foot facility was held in late October.

The hospital will be renamed VCU Community Memorial Hospital, and will continue to draw from central and southern Virginia and parts of North Carolina.

Then, there’s Nottoway County’s Fort Pickett. The fort already houses the state’s National Guard, and now there are plans to also develop a new Foreign Affairs Security Training Center on the base. It would be used to train embassy security personnel.

When the project was initially announced last year, Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn was quoted as saying it “would be the biggest, positive thing to happen to Southside Virginia since Fort Pickett was built in 1942.”

Cuts to its scope have reduced his enthusiasm, but not overwhelmingly so as he points to 1,600 construction jobs and a weekly population of 600 at the facility. And, he said, because the cuts mean no dorms or dining hall … “They’re going to be sleeping in hotels and motels and they’re going to be dining on the local economy.”

The only drawback? Investors might be skittish about building new hotels, motels and restaurants for fear that the government might sooner-than-later actually get around to building dorms and a dining hall.

Still, Coleburn noted in a recent conversation, “I think for Southside Virginia and an economy that is still sluggish, both have tremendous upside.”

He said the hospital is more exciting, though, because it represents “a quality of life issue.”

It will mean an increased level of health care for the region and its residents, and that can never be taken for granted, he said.

Still, combined, he said, the projects mean good things.

“It’s wonderfully good news for the region — for a region that doesn’t get good news all the time,” Coleburn said.

Jamie Ruff is a reporter for The Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch. He can be reached at jamie.ruff@kvdispatch.com.