Our Opinion: A dream realized downtown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2005

It’s not difficult to imagine someone who left Suffolk five years ago having a difficult time recognizing downtown today.

Aside from the obvious changes-the construction of the hotel and conference center and the destruction of the Birdsong Recreation Center-there are many new, thriving small businesses lining Washington and Main streets that would have been difficult to imagine only a short time ago.

While the pace of change has been rapid, it’s about to become dizzying.

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Over the next five months, downtowners will see at least three new eateries, a fitness center, and several other buildings undergo renovations that will be occupied by professionals.

Add to that the announcement Tuesday of the Workforce Development Center that will occupy 5,000 feet on North Main Street and you are likely to see a downtown teeming with not only restaurants, but people, too.

While private developers are risking their money to accomplish the metamorphosis, it wouldn’t have been possible without a coherent strategy on the part of the city as well as actively partnering with developers to renovate buildings and fill space.

Sure, a lot of money has been sunk into downtown and compelling arguments could have been made for spreading the investment more equitably, but there’s no arguing with the results of the efforts and investment.

And if it can happen downtown, it can happen in other parts of our city that need a lift. We can’t put a $22 million hotel and conference center in every part of the city, but Suffolk officials have shown that we can dream big and with a good plan and hard work, those dreams can be realized.