HOPEWELL, Va. -- A large fire will burn a shopping center Friday night in Hopewell.
The fire department has planned a controlled burn of Colonial Corner Shopping Center.
Fire crews have been using the abandoned shopping center, which is considered a community eyesore, for training.
“It being gone would look a little more inviting," Howie Howard said.
Howard and Cheryl Rose are regulars at Rosa's Italian Ristorante, which sits in front of Colonial Corner Shopping Center.
The blighted strip mall sits on a 9-acre site on the gateway to the city and became the focus of Hopewell City Council in late 2019.
“If you’re coming off the interstate, you probably say, 'Should we or shouldn’t we?'" Howard said.
For about a decade, most to all the stores have been empty.
“I think it’s kind of a disgrace to Hopewell, when you look at it, and you see the other businesses around," Rose said.
Johnny Ingargiola, who owns Rosa’s Italian Restaurant, thinks demolishing the site will draw more people to the area.
"When people come off the highway, people that don’t know the area, it’s kind of like they’re intimidated," he said. "Cause they look over there, it looks like it’s kinda scary, it’s all dark and everything. People always ask, 'What’s going on back there?'"
Ingargiola said razing the mall "will clean things up a lot" and make the entire gateway look better.
That’s exactly what’s going to happen Friday night when firefighter’s set fire to the mall.
Under the Spot Blight Ordinance, the city contacted the owner and in turn decided to let firefighters spend a few days training at the site before burning it to the ground.
“I’m glad the fire department got to use it for some kind of training," David Johnson said.
Ultimately the city will re-coup the cost of about $100,000 from the owner, who has 30 days to pay.
Rose is looking forward to when all the debris is cleared away.
“I think it will be great, I think it will lift the area up and hopefully they’ll bring something else in here," Rose said.
“It was nice, it was nice for several years"
With the shopping center's demise near, Ingargiola, whose father and uncle started the restaurant in the shopping center in July of 1976, reflected on better days.
“A lot of people have a lot of memories back in that shopping center back there," he said.
But times have changed and as Ingargiola has upgraded his restaurant, many believe it is time this area is upgraded as well.
The fire is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and burn throughout the night.
The Hopewell Fire Department will also have Prince George County Fire and Fort Lee Fire on site to make sure the controlled burn does not get out of hand.
Additionally, crews from Fort Lee and Colonial Heights will also be assisting Hopewell Fire on calls in the city, to make sure there is no lack of coverage.
The fire department has asked the community to avoid the area during the controlled burn.