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* Hampton City News

Posted on: March 29, 2017

Students enliven vacant downtown building with colorful artwork

painting of tree

March 29, 2017 - Students from Kecoughtan High School’s art academy have brightened up a building slated for demolition and turned a potential eyesore into a colorful art exhibit.

The former Dixie Diggs, on the corner of Pembroke Avenue and King Street, was acquired by the Hampton Redevelopment and Housing Authority. It’s slated for demolition, but in the meantime, Hampton officials wanted to showcase it as an example of creative spirit in the downtown arts district.

Enter Hampton’s academy approach to learning. “The Academies are about making connections and getting students involved in their communities,” said Christina Kerby. A biology teacher, Kerby coordinates the Architecture & Applied Arts Governor’s STEM Academy at the school.

Yvonne Hodges is HRHA’s real estate manager. After completing the purchase of the property, she arranged for window-sized boards to be cut and delivered to the art classes at Kecoughtan. They were completed earlier this week and installed March 29. She hopes to take students to see their art installation, but it will have to wait until after spring break, as end-of-quarter academics come first.

City Manager Mary Bunting championed the project. “There is of necessity a lag between the purchase of a property and its demolition or renovation, and during that time we have to secure the property. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun place-making elements to make it more attractive,” she said. She hopes this will also stimulate private owners of vacant properties as well.

The art installation will be brief; the building will be torn down later this spring. However, Hodges plans to save the boards for use at other locations in the future. HRHA purchases properties to further the city’s goals of providing quality residences for homeowners of all incomes. They have recently focused on working with contractors on some “infill” lots in Olde Hampton, Old North Hampton and Wythe.

As for what will happen to the property in the future, Hampton’s Community Plan and the Downtown Master Plan show it as a commercial property. However, Public Works Director Lynn Allsbrook says the city is studying the traffic flow at the intersection, which offers only one lane heading north on King Street to determine if it should be widened. If so, that would only require a portion of the property.

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