A building under construction in downtown South Boston that will soon be a hub of innovation and technology combines the old with the new.
Once completed, the state-of-the-art, 15,000-square-foot structure at 715 Wilborn Ave. will be the home of the SOVA Innovation Hub, hearkening the entrance to downtown South Boston.
“It mixes a modern look with the older looks of South Boston,” said Dean Elliott, project manager for J.E. Burton Construction Company, the building contractor. “It’s all about the latest and greatest inside the building, but the outside design is going to blend in with the old tobacco warehouses.”
Construction on the SOVA Innovation Hub, a partnership between Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) and Microsoft, is slated for completion in November. Elliott pointed out on a Thursday afternoon tour of the Hub that what people looking at the building will see, whether the old or the new, depends on which way they cast their eye. To one side, they will glimpse sleek, curved wall glass panels. But if they look at the building from another angle, they will see the same alternating brick-window layout as the nearby, century-old New Brick Warehouse lofts.
The more modern architectural features will be visible from motorists traveling Wilborn Avenue headed downtown, while the older architectural features of the brick and sprawling windows are on the back side of the building, less visible to passersby.
“Maybe you’ve got the old backing up the new,” Elliott speculated.
In any case, the SOVA Innovation Hub is designed to capture attention and will forever change the landscape of downtown South Boston.
“The building is going to be a real eye-catcher for people coming through town,” said South Boston town manager Tom Raab. “I think the Hub is a real plus not only for South Boston but also for Halifax County. I think it raises us up a bar as far as being a magnet for high-speed Internet businesses, which I think are the businesses of the future.”
MBC and Microsoft are working together to bring multiple local and regional partners to the Hub to enable programming for digital skills training to benefit the workforce and economy of Southern Virginia.
“Our goal for the SOVA Innovation Hub is to use the space to encourage innovation and spur economic opportunities in the region, bringing together local nonprofit organizations from throughout Southern Virginia to offer impactful programming for digital skills education and workforce training,” said Jeremy Satterfield, manager of Microsoft TechSpark Virginia.
MBC will have its headquarters on the second floor of the Hub, while Microsoft TechSpark will use space on the first floor of the Hub. Currently headquartered in the Southern Virginia Technology Park in Halifax County, MBC has a mission of “promoting economic development by bridging the digital divide, reinvesting in Southern Virginia communities, and reducing the burden of government.”
“We’re glad that Tad Deriso, president and CEO of MBC, had the vision to come here,” Raab said. “That location – the Hub – will probably be the fastest free WiFi in Southern Virginia, and it will drive future development of broadband in the county.”
MBC’s second-floor headquarters is based on a modern design concept, with an open layout conference room, a large common area and individual offices flanking the common area.
“When you walk in the glass entryway on the second floor, it’s common space, and off to the sides you have offices stacked two deep – 28 total,” Elliott said. “Not only will you be able to see inside the common area as you walk in the entryway, but you’ll also be able to see inside the conference room to the right.”
The second-floor conference room will feature curved glass walls on the inside and the outside, giving those meeting in the room a birds-eye view of downtown South Boston.
“I think having a headquarters like this maybe will drive people to say, ‘Let’s do our retreat or our business conference in South Boston,’” Raab anticipated.
Along with the spacious, glass-walled conference room, Elliott painted a picture of the architectural details of the Hub as he walked through the building Thursday afternoon – an outdoor dining patio area on the second floor facing Wilborn Avenue, a covered walkway with landscaping on the ground floor, a modern staircase with stainless steel cables, and curved glass walls on the first and second floors on the front side of the building.
The ground floor also will include several offices for lease to start-up businesses in the technology field, bringing new jobs to South Boston, Raab explained. He added that the Hub would work with the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center to provide education and workforce training in the field of information technology and computer programming.
The South Boston town manager anticipates that the Hub not only will drive a sustainable, highly trained information technology workforce in Southside Virginia, but it also will spur business growth and revitalization in the downtown area.
“As the Hub gets started, I think people are going to start looking and asking questions,” Raab said. “I think we’ll see more apartments in the second floors of (nearby) buildings. It will drive future businesses in the downtown area.”
More information and updates on the SOVA Innovation Hub can be found at https://sovainnovationhub.com/.