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Neighbors pushing for grocery store in Lee Hall area

Many people are asking what does the future hold for an old Newport News shopping center. The Lee Hall Plaza has been without a grocery store for several years.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — It's an old shopping center, and many said it's in need of a facelift.

The Lee Hall Plaza in Newport News has a Chinese restaurant and a church, but no grocery store. Ever since Food Lion packed up and left, it's been like a ghost town. 

John Smith said it can be a burden for some families.

“It was kind of devastating when it went because you have to drive 10 minutes to get to the next grocery store, Warwick or Jefferson,” Smith said. “When you needed something, you could almost walk there.”

Many people living in the area want to know if the city is going to do anything. The two closest grocery stores are both Food Lions, but they're both almost 10 minutes away.

“Makes some kind of use of that property, turn it into a strip mall, a bus hub, do something with it,” one Newport resident said.

The property, located at 6 Elmhurst Street, is located within the recently established Lee Hall Opportunity Zone.

Opportunity Zones are a new revitalization tool resulting from the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The Zones will allow investors to receive tax benefits on currently unrealized capital gains by investing those gains in census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones.

“All the other ones failed for some reason or another,” Brinkley said. “It might not be a wise investment for another grocery store.”

Smith said a grocery store is long overdue.

“A grocery store would be a good idea because you have to go so far, but they need to do something with it,” Smith said.

City representatives work with Thalhimer Cushman & Wakefield (which currently represents the property) and other commercial real estate brokers to actively market the site.

The property is located outside of the boundaries of the Denbigh-Warwick Area Plan and is in the Lee Hall Overlay District. A Design Review Committee already exists for the district. Importantly, the Lee Hall Area Plan is set to kick off within the next 90 days and will be an in-depth look at possible uses for the site.