Petersburg city leaders, Governor update on economic developments

One of the newest includes a park and ride service
Riding the bus just got a lot easier in and around Petersburg.
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 9:20 PM EDT
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - It’s getting easier to get around in Petersburg with the opening of the city’s new Park and Ride transit service, but the city and state leaders say it’s just the beginning of what’s planned for the Petersburg.

On Tuesday morning, Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham was thanked by Governor Glenn Youngkin and other state and local leaders as they unveiled the city’s multi-modal center on W. Washington Street and South Unions Street, which houses the $8 million, 75,000 sqft. Park and Ride Services.

“The new facility opening here today represents the future of public transportation in our city,” Parham said.

Mass transit director Charles Koonce says the Park and Ride facility will be the central hub for a brand new fleet of 28 vehicles, including trollies and 35-foot buses and a unique two-level parking deck capable of housing approximately 215 vehicles. He says it will vastly expand the city’s transit capability.

“We can go to McGuire Hospital, we just started a new route that goes to Emporia, Greenville and Stony Creek, and we just partnered with Richard Bland College,” Koonce said. “We want to encourage folks to ride the bus.”

Parking is free, and passengers won’t be charged to ride the buses either. Koonce says the plan is to keep the service free for as long as possible with the aid of state and local dollars.

“We’ll take a look at it down the road to see if this is something we can sustain or if we may have to go back to charging, but right now, we’re looking at about a year and a couple of months,” Koonce said. “We’re working on another grant through the Department of Rail and Public Transportation for about another year and a couple of months.”

“Because of the fact that we’re going into other jurisdictions and we’re growing, so the need for security for the people of Petersburg is also growing,” Koonce said.

Governor Glenn Youngkin also took the stage to discuss updates in partnership for Petersburg unceiled back in August. The governor says the state has secured $500,000 in funding for city businesses called the Petersburg Founder’s Fund.

“It’s a new competitive grant to support the launch and expansion of new and existing companies in Petersburg,” Youngkin said.

The governor says the money for that grant comes from the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, an extension of the Commerce and Trade Secretariat. Youngkin says the plan is to have local business leaders and economic developers oversee applications and make award recommendations.

“Along with this fund, the Innovation Partnership Corporation, in collaboration with Virginia State University, the small business development center, and other stakeholders, we’ll work to award up to $25,000 in individual competitive grants to startup businesses and fast-growing businesses in Petersburg,” Youngkin said.

According to the governor, the grant aims to target specific industries such as information technology, hospitality, tourism, professional services, food and beverage, and life and health sciences.

“Friends, this is awesome. Let’s go grow business in Petersburg,” Youngkin said.

An update was also given on the health initiatives funded through the Partnership for Petersburg. Since the program’s launch, Youngkin says Petersburg’s Medicaid health plan partners have collectively made over $3 million in investments in charge of a contribution and serving across the Petersburg community of more than 35 pop-up health clinics.

The health clinics focus on access to dental care for people with special needs, eye care, diabetes screening, and more. Before the year’s end, Youngkin says at least 14- more pop-up clinics are planned in Petersburg.

On the crime front, Youngkin also announced another $500,000 in grants to support youth drug prevention, childhood obesity, and new playgrounds.

“This is the most important goal we have, to get crime down so that Petersburg can flourish,” Youngkin said.

To address juvenile crime, Youngkin says additional funding will be dedicated to the Crater Criminal Justice Academy through the Petersburg Police Department’s law enforcement academy to bring in high-level training on the Virginia State University campus to specifically address methods of the state’s violent crime reduction initiative.

“Soon Virginia State University students will be able to graduate from college with their written police academy training and testing completed, and they can go right to work,” Youngkin said. “That is exciting.”

In addition to promises from the governor to invest in crime prevention., Koonce says the park-and-ride opening could lead to the creation of a transit police department in Petersburg.

The progress report also included plans to improve the city’s infrastructure in some of its most economically challenged areas. As such, the city was awarded $2.8 million in grants as part of the Community Flood Preparedness Plan.

“The grant will fund a flood prevention and protection project in the Lakemont area that results in the improvement of structural stormwater conveyance system that will provide community scale benefits, particularly to this underserve section in Petersburg,” Youngkin said. “The community is also working together on the water quality treatment measures consistent with our Chesapeake bay goals.”

In terms of education, the governor also announced that Virginia State University’s lab school proposal was submitted, starting in preschool and sixth grade and continuing to expand to serve additional grades with a focus on S.T.E.M. and computer science.

The governor said an additional $327,000 has been invested into Petersburg by the commonwealth to support the YMCA expanding its before-school services to all four Petersburg elementary schools. He also announced that the commonwealth had awarded the city nearly $400,000 to sustain onsite coordinators during after-school activities at Blanford Learning Academy and Petersburg High School.