NN's Applied Research Center Readying For Tenants

The carpets are being laid, the lab equipment's on the way and most of the space is spoken for.

The Applied Research Center building, the cornerstone of the city's new research and development park, is nearly ready to roll. Motorists driving along Jefferson Avenue have seen the building steadily grow from a steelbeam skeleton into a seven-story brick structure next to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

It's been a year and a half since the groundbreaking, when officials from Newport News, TJNAF, the Energy Department and area colleges carved their initials into a wet slab of concrete.

Now, city officials are preparing for the first scientists and students to walk through the doors and get to work, they say. The tenants could start using the building around the end of the year.

Already, 89 percent of the building's available space is leased. TJNAF is taking nearly half of the building. Four area colleges - Old Dominion University, William and Mary, Christopher Newport University - are taking another 29 percent.

Newport News officials want the $13.7 million ARC building to set the tone for development of the Jefferson Center Research and Development Park. They plan to turn 200 acres next to TJNAF into an R&D park for companies and colleges that want to work with the federal lab.

They're trying to interest more companies in leasing space. Fred Paris, the city's marketing manager, expects to see that happen as the Free Electron Laser at the Jefferson Lab becomes more popular with firms.

ODU graduate students and faculty members already work with the Jefferson Lab on physics projects, said David Harnage, ODU vice president.

The ARC building offers a way to pull together all of the ODU faculty, students and operations related to the Jefferson Lab in one place, Harnage said. "Plus they have labs that are specifically designed to match their research needs."

There are locker rooms on each of the floors that have labs. On the first floor, the building will have a conference room that tenants can rent and a library that will run along the glass-enclosed front of the building.

At full use, the R&D park could create 4,200 jobs and attract investments of $160 million. The ARC building and its 122,000 square feet are supposed to spur that, by giving companies and colleges a place to begin working with TJNAF on a smaller scale.

The Newport News Industrial Development Authority owns the building, which sits on 11 acres of state land. At full capacity, city officials hope, it will become self-sufficient.

Then and now...

25 YEARS AGO. According to the Advisory Committee to the Newport News Social Services Department, the city was in desperate need of protective services to curb child abuse cases in 1972. The committee recommended the department institute protective services as soon as feasible - and before 1974, when such services would be required by law.

Glenna Hundley, current supervisor for Newport News Child Protective Services, said the agency was established in 1973. "We started with two or three social workers," she said. Prior to that the Police Department was responsible for investigating suspected cases of abuse.

Now, new regulations proposed by the General Assembly may go into effect in 1998. "Whether people are abusing or neglecting children is always a very sensitive area," said Hundley, "and that certainly needs to be reviewed to make sure everyone's rights are covered."

10 YEARS AGO. In a move described as the first effort to form a regioal health care network that spanned Hampton Roads, Hampton General Hospital merged with the Norfolk-based Sentara Health System in 1987. Hampton General's staff was told by administrators that the merger would bring such advantages as cutting the hospitals purchasing costs and providing increased expertise and greater access to capital.

Formed in 1888, Sentara's other significant holdings currently include Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Bayside Hospital, Sentara Leigh Hospital and Sentara Careplex. The system recently acquired an affiliation with Williamsburg Community Hospital.

FIVE YEARS AGO. In November 1992, National Ppark Service officials decided to close about 70 miles of the scenic Skyline Drive in Luray for six months because of lack of funds and concern over polution in the Shenandoah National Park. Officials said the park would save $200,000 by closing part of the 100-mile highway.

The plan was short-lived. Seven Virginia lawmakers signed a letter to the National Park Service urging it to reverse the decision and the tourism industry argued that closing the park would cause businesses to suffer and defeat local and state tourism initiatives. The park service backed down, and the stretch remained open.

The following year, because of budget constraints, visitors of the park encountered closed campgrounds, canceled lectures and trails allowed to grow wild.

Now it costs visitors $10 - $5 more than in 1992 - to visit the park and travel on Skyline Drive. The entry fee to many national parks doubled after Congress approved the higher fees, earmarking much of the money for park repairs and improvements.