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Release Date: December 10,2015

Hampton residents pitch ideas for courthouse uses

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Arts center, café floated as possible uses for the soon-to-be vacant circuit court building in Downtown Hampto


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HAMPTON — Brew-pub. Homeless shelter. Cafe. Art studio and instructional space. Comedy club. Aquarium.

These are a few of the things local residents told Hampton City staff they wanted to see in the soon-to-be vacant circuit court building downtown on Kings Way on Thursday night.

Circuit Court operations are set move from the current 139-year-old building into a brand new courthouse at the corner of King Street and Pembroke Avenue early next year, when construction wraps on the $21.5 million facility.

Around two dozen people showed up to add their two cents to a discussion about the potential fate of the old courthouse building Thursday night at the city's Rupert Sargent Building.

Joel Malone, a downtown resident for the past two years, said he'd listed "co-working space" on the large paper easels set up around the meeting room — a kind of open shop where mobile workers could have a semi-permanent place to work.

"Downtown needs more. We've already got great restaurants, we need something else," Malone said.

He said he couldn't see why the city couldn't implement a few of the ideas at once in the 42,000 square foot building — for instance, that co-working space could work right alongside an art studio and cafe in the same building.

Amber Kennedy with the Peninsula Arts Collective, an ad-hoc citizen group, said depending on the use, the old courthouse could become a hub of activity, for the city and beyond.

"I just hate when beautiful old buildings sit empty until someone either takes pity on them or knocks it down," Kennedy said.

The plan from city staff isn't to let the building sit idle forever — the city council has made it clear that they want something in there, preferably something that would end up on the tax rolls.

"We're really starting from a wide net of ideas — anything is open for discussion," Community Development Director Terry O'Neill said. However, council has told staff to do their best to attract some private investment to the site that will mean tax revenues for the city and be able to attract people to Kings Way.

Thursday's was the first public input meeting on the old courthouse. The ideas developed there will be listed on the city's website and another public meeting will be scheduled, likely sometime in February, for the public to identify a preferred option from those submitted.

In the meantime, the city is looking for consultants who can look at the building and the surrounding area and help guide the project.

Residents who couldn't make it out to the meeting are encouraged to go online to to submit suggestions on uses and criteria for the city to consider moving forward.

Murphy can be reached by phone at 757-247-4760.

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