SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Two years after a tropical storm-spawned-tornado damaged several buildings in downtown Suffolk, the buildings will fall to make way for a new Festival Events Park.

Suffolk City Council gave final approval Wednesday night to the plan to develop the more than two-acre park at the intersection of West Washington Street and Saratoga Street.

The goal is to provide the downtown area was a space to use for concerts, farmer’s markets and other festivals.

An architecture firm hired by the city said the park, along with a new nearby library, will represent “a significant investment in the continued redevelopment of historic downtown Suffolk.”

Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes said the placement of the park is absolutely “fate.”

“Until the storm hit, we never even considered that space,” Hughes said in an interview Wednesday.

In the early morning of August 4, 2020, Tropical Storm Isaias spawned at least two tornados in the City of Suffolk. One building near the corner of Washington and Saratoga Streets was heavily damaged.

In the days following, Hughes said the city was focused on assisting the property owners.

“We tried to see what folks’ plans were. Rebuild, where are they in the chaos in what have you?,” Hughes said.

The damage to both the Knight Financial building and the Brandon House furniture store, both nearly century-old buildings, was significant.

“We started to go down this road of ‘maybe it would make more sense to take advantage of these structures and folks that may be are a little challenged to figure out how they piece it back together to shift the efforts towards that corner,'” Hughes said.

Hughes said City Council had already been looking to establish a place downtown to host smaller festivals. Mayor Mike Duman has put a significant focus on revitalizing the historic downtown area.

“Every great downtown has a great green space,” Hughes said.

A digital rendering of the planned Suffolk Festival Park coming to the corner of Washington and Saratoga Streets (Courtesy: City of Suffolk.)

Hughes said the city ended up reaching a deal with two property owners to buy the land for $733,000. City Council then put in $1.3 million in the Capital Improvement Plan budget for its development.

City staff then met with Norfolk officials at Town Point Park to get ideas.

The park will be lined with trees and low plantings and include a series of three grand entrances to welcome guests. Sidewalks in the park will connect the entrance, a food truck/eating area to the
northwest corner, temporary restrooms for events, and parking to the south.

“When we’re not activating the site with a festival or event. It’s nice green space and an amenity for those who have now moved into downtown Suffolk,” Hughes said.

Demolition on the remaining Brandon House Furniture building could start as early as Thursday.