NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) -- The old Whittaker Memorial Hospital is a landmark in Newport News and after being vacant for years, new life is planned.
A development group, Whittaker Development II, bought the property recently. The structure has seen multiple owners, according to the Richmond-based group. The new owners want fill a need for affordable housing, a 62-unit apartment complex.
"I think over time, the East end has gotten a negative connotation," said John Biages, with the development group. “In a small way, we want to help."
At one point, the hospital was the only medical institution to service African-Americans in Newport News, Biages said.
"I've been here 42 years. Yeah, I want to see something done," said J.C. Higgs. Higgs has collected newspaper clippings over the years that track the history of every move.
"People got to have somewhere to stay," said Higgs.
While many who live near the building say it should be preserved, others have their opinions on how.
"If it has to happen, I will deal with it, but I'm not that happy about it,” said concerned resident, Arcelia Brown.
Brown said she’s concerned about safety.
“Because you don't know who’s coming to [the area]. Back in 2011, we had three home invasions and it was gang related here," Brown said.
Developers said security will be present during construction, which is expected in the first quarter of next year.
The workforce housing will cost close to $10 million to renovate, the group said. It was purchased for about $600,000, Biages said.
The building has seen many failed developers and alternative uses over the years. City officials say this time is different, though.
"The developers have a lot of experience with developing affordable housing and also particularly, the adaptive reuse of a historical building," said Karen Wilds with Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
The first drawings of the building are expected in the beginning of next year.