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College living quarters eyed in new development next to Dan River

In 1970 a young man came to South Boston with $7,000 and a dream.  He started a business, Climate Control, in hopes it would fill a need for the citizens of Halifax County and the surrounding areas while also providing for his family.  

Over the next 28 years with the help of many dedicated team players and scores of loyal customers, the business far surpassed what this young man with a two year technical degree from DTI (now DCC) could have ever dreamed.

The buildings which house The Prizery and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center are the results of his admiration for the beauty of the old tobacco buildings. His hope was that they could be brought back to life someday. 

 A group of people saw the great need for continuing education in this community, as well as the arts and worked endless hours for many, many years to make it happen.  

John Cannon and the late Bob Harris and family bought two dilapidated buildings and restored them to useable structures, now known as The Prizery and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. This reality was the result of a partnership with folks that shared the same vision both for the arts and continuing education.

Now fast forward to 2014… “Commons at the Crossing.”

Picture this…four tri-level student living quarters with a commercial parking garage underneath ramped to the John Randolph Bridge. Historically faithful to the already beautiful structures that make up both the campus of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and The Prizery, these living quarters would significantly enhance the entry corridor to the Town of South Boston.  

Right now the current zoning ordinances for the Town of South Boston support this type of progressive construction. Fear is that future re-zoning plans would make this “vision” an impossibility. 

Cannon said he has worked hard in strategically and diligently obtaining six acres of land at the site of the former Victory Warehouse in Riverdale to house this heartfelt “dream.” Presently, it is his vision, but he is hoping, through public education, to make it the collective vision of the Town of South Boston. 

The iconic Southern Virginia Higher Education Center is growing every day, enrolling more and more students. At present there is a campus population of around 5,000 to 6,000 students, but no available housing. 

The envisioned “Commons at the Crossing” is only a quarter mile from the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and would provide welcomed housing, not to mention much needed housing. 

Just as the buildings for the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and The Prizery were donated by John Cannon and the late Bob Harris and family, the Harris family also donated the Innovation Center. So it is, the intention of John Cannon and Ward Burton, to donate the land for the “Commons at the Crossing.”

To that same end, such a collective presence of students, teachers and administrative faculty to the downtown of South Boston is an opportunity for growth of new businesses in downtown, as well as, support for the existing businesses.  

His sincere belief to the positive outcome of this proposed project can be seen in the time and resources put into this already. From the development of the renderings of the proposed structure, to the submission of the necessary FEMA regulatory applications and to the tireless hours working with the members of the town council, it is evident how much he believes in the future of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center to the overall economy of Halifax County. 

South Boston has a dynamic opportunity to not only enhance the visual aesthetics’ of our downtown, but also an opportunity to enable our SVHEC to grow beyond anyone’s greatest desires.  

The future of the Town of South Boston is grounded in the growth of our community. The workforce, both young and old, that are currently obtaining their degrees from the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center also are representative of this same growth. 

What better way to support the educational pursuits of our local community, as well as, the greater counties and communities that border Halifax County than providing student living quarters and commercial parking.  

The “Commons at the Crossing” is almost a once in a life chance to make such a bold impact to the economic growth of our town, our home. 

Call it crazy, but this old man continues to see the potential for Halifax County. You have to have a dream.