The Chamber’s annual State of the City luncheon was held in Portsmouth on April 2 at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel & Waterfront Conference Center. Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright highlighted key business development initiatives, provided municipal progress updates, addressed challenges and opportunities in the city, and provided a glimpse into the city’s future. A crowd of 500 of the region’s business, political, and community leaders attended.
According to Hampton Roads Real Estate Market Review, Portsmouth saw the largest percent increase in new construction permits in the region in 2013 increasing by 53.3% over 2012. In addition, the average sales price for a home in Portsmouth increased by 9.6%.
For 2013 the Department of Permits and Inspections has reported 4,193 permits issued with a total valuation of over $65 million. As of February 28, 2014, the city has issued 992 permits, up 56% over what was issued in 2013 during the same time period.
The Whitmore Company is assisting in bringing more resident’s downtown with the construction of a $7 million mixed use building at the southwest Corner of County and Court Streets. The company is also building The Quarters at Park View, a 140-unit complex on London Boulevard and the Kings Court Building on Washington Street.
The Breeden Company is moving forward with a 5-story building that will be approximately 123,000 square feet with 134 dwelling units on the former Desk Inc. site, across the street from City Hall.
Mymic, a modeling and simulation company in Portsmouth made Inc. Magazine’s ‘5,000 Fastest Growing Companies’ and was selected to participate in the State’s highly competitive Virginia Leadership Export Trade (VALET) program.
Construction has officially begun on the new Behavioral Health Services Building.
The Virginia Tourism Corporation reports that visitors to Portsmouth spend $77 million annually and support 775 jobs in hotels, attractions and restaurants.
Mayor Wright commended several of Portsmouth’s public school leaders and outstanding students.
Superintendent, Dr. David Stuchwisch, Portsmouth’s school division leader for the past 11 years announced his retirement in August. Wright boasted, “When he came to Portsmouth, only three of the schools had earned full state accreditation and estimated it would take 20 years for all the schools to follow suit. He and his staff did it in six.”
The women’s basketball team from Woodrow Wilson High School won the 2014 Eastern District Conference 17 Tournament Championship and the men’s basketball team from I.C. Norcom High School won the 2014 Group 4A State Title. The Track team at both I.C. Norcom had a great year becoming the Conference 17 Tournament Champions and the Churchland High School Boys Indoor Track team won the Indoor Championship in the Eastern District.
The three-story, 59,000 square foot Student Center at Tidewater Community College opened. The building includes a ground level plaza with outdoor gathering and dining areas along with a lounge, study areas, fitness and recreation spaces, dining option and licensed childcare for TCC students.
In 2009, the City of Portsmouth became the eighth city, and the only City in Hampton Roads, to be designated an official Coast Guard City. Mayor Wright added, “The honorary distinction is indicative of the productive, ongoing relationship between the Portsmouth community and local Coast Guard units, including the 5th District, Atlantic Area, Base Portsmouth and Sector Hampton Roads.”
Portsmouth was host this year to the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, America’s Tall Ship. More than 5,000 people came out from across the region to tour the tall ship.
For over 230 years, The Norfolk Naval Shipyard has called Portsmouth home. It is the oldest shipyard in the country and predates the Navy by 31 years. Mayor Wright commended the Norfolk Naval Shipyard stating, “It has assisted the nation in winning nine major wars, putting an end to piracy, sending the Great White Fleet around the world, scientifically exploring the Pacific, and opening Japan to American trade,” said Wright.
Wright confirmed we have financially stabilized the City Pension Pans. He stated, “The City sold Pension Obligations Bonds that will add over $168 million to its two closed pension plans in fiscal year 2014. The bond issue will accomplish two objectives; Increase the funded level of the PSRS and PFPRS plans from 28% and 32%, respectively to 76% and 77% and eliminate the Social Security Offset for retires of the City’s closed Portsmouth Supplemental Retirement System plan. City Council carefully considered these options; however, this action will continue to fund 100% of the actuarially determined Annual Required Contribution.”
The Portsmouth Police Department was recently recognized by the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program with a “bronze certification.” The agency also picked up third place in the Commonwealth for the Law Enforcement Challenge and recorded its lowest homicide number in 15 years.
Portsmouth Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services Department implanted wireless “hotspots” in all front line apparatus, giving them the ability to create a Wi-Fi bubble where they can connect to the City network while out in the field. This will allow for faster and more accurate documentation of incidents in real time.
City Manager, John Rowe reactivated the Department of Environmental Services, and renamed it the Department of Neighborhood Advancement (DNA). The department’s mission is headed up by Fred Brusso. Recently, DNA initiated the “10-10-10 Questionnaire”, a non-scientific way to gather citizen input to determine what the city’s’ residents consider an attribute of a good neighborhood, a bad neighborhood, and address specific concerns of their own neighborhood.
In June, The Elizabeth River Project, The City of Portsmouth and the Virginia Port Authority celebrated the Grand Opening of Phase I of Paradise Creek Nature Park.
After ten years in the making, the Portsmouth Colored Museum and Library opened its doors in December. The landmark building dates back to a segregated Portsmouth in 1945, and is now listed not only on the Virginia Landmark Register, but also on the National Register of Historic Places.
This year marks the 62nd Anniversary of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament or PIT. Wright said, “For those of you who are unfamiliar with the PIT, each year, 64 of the best college senior basketball players from across the nation are invited to participate in a four-day, twelve game tournament in front of the public and representatives from every NBA team. Each year the PIT contributes back to the community by awarding five $4,000 scholarships to student athletes from Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach.” The Mayor invited all to attend this event April 16 – 19.
Thank you to series sponsors: TowneBank (Presenting); Bon Secours Virginia Health System (Platinum); GEICO (gold); Cox (media); Farm Fresh; Sentara Optima Health Plan (Silver) and APM Terminals (Bronze). Join the Chamber for the remaining State of the City events taking place through May. For more information and to register, visit Events.HamptonRoadsChamber.com.