NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Earnest Thompson is a lifelong resident of the Southeast Community. He's been here for the good times and the tougher times.
"Hopefully those next generations will experience what I experienced as a boy growing up," said Thompson.
Thompson, a former chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, has been involved with efforts to revitalize the area for years. On Tuesday morning, city leaders broke ground on phase one of a project meant to transform the area.
"This is exciting. When I say exciting, I have to pinch myself to make sure it's real," said Thompson.
Phase one will include apartments and retail on current vacant lots around 28th Street and Jefferson Avenue. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the city a $30 million grant in 2019 to assist in the revitalization efforts.
"This is the start of a transformation we've been dreaming about ever since we got the award, so it's just so wonderful," said Mayor McKinley Price.
Construction of phase one of the project will begin soon and is expected to be completed in fall 2022.
"We're creating a community where our children can wake up and not think that poverty is normal," said City Council member Tina Vick.
Full plans for the area will take years and include tearing down the Ridley Place public housing units, which are about ten blocks down the road. The hope is the area will see a revitalization.
"This will be a real living, vibrant community that is going to be diverse and shared by everyone," said LaMonte Williams, the current head of the Citizens Advisory Committee. "It's a wonderful day. This is what I envisioned when my wife and I moved here in 1994."