There’s a lot of life left in downtown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2002

Elsewhere on this page today Nancy Howell Peace writes longingly in a letter to the editor about Suffolk’s downtown of yore: the City Market, Russell’s Drug Store, the Crystal Restaurant, Bill’s Luncheonette, department stores, 5&10s – a place to which everyone from surrounding communities flocked.

Everything changes in life and in recent decades few things have altered more in America than its downtowns.

The once teeming, clearly defined business districts are, for the most part, a thing of the past. And they will never return – at least in the form those of us old enough to remember them fondly recall.

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That’s not, however, to say that downtown is dead. Few things could be further from the truth. In Suffolk particularly, downtown is a place where things are happening.

One by one, decrepit, even abandoned old buildings are being returned to their former glory by developers and investors with foresight, along with a little courage.

The list seems like it’s growing daily: the train station, Prentis House, Gardner’s Store, the Professiware, Main Street Professional Center, Suffolk High School, and the Suffolk News-Herald – anchored by the Mills Godwin Courts Complex.

Initiatives undertaken by the city will likely also lead to a revitalized housing stock that will make people also want to live downtown.

As more and more buildings are restored and their owners take pride in their appearance and ever-increasing numbers of people come downtown to live and work, the infrastructure to support that crowd will also be reinvigorated. These folks will have to eat so restaurants will come and, most likely, small specialty shops will follow.

Even now, there are many small businesses downtown that if not thriving, are at least viable.

Their fortunes will only improve as their property values rise and more people are visiting downtown.

Here at the News-Herald, we could easily have moved to new quarters elsewhere in the city, likely at considerably less expense and certainly less hassle, than what we’ve chosen to do.

However, we’re confident that downtown is going to be the center of Suffolk life and we want to be in the thick of it.

With that being the case, we hope to help celebrate and encourage the continued revival through a new feature we hope to launch to soon called &uot;Restore Suffolk,&uot; an obvious rip off of the &uot;Restore America&uot; television program on cable.

In this monthly page, we will feature downtown buildings and homes that have been restored and businesses that provide services necessary to accomplishing the work. We’re excited about it and think it will be well-read addition to the News-Herald and Tidewater Shopper.

Anyone interested in participating can contact our advertising department.

Mrs. Howell refers to herself in her letter as an &uot;old dirtdauber.&uot;

Like downtown Suffolk, though, I’m sure there’s a lot of life left in her and I think she will be pleased with what becomes of downtown. It will happen, too, sooner than she and many others probably think.

It’s happening now.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald.