Doubling up

Published 10:30 pm Saturday, October 17, 2009

If you think traffic along certain corridors of Suffolk are already a bit crazy during the day, just wait another 10 or 20 years.

In the annual 2009 Hampton Roads Statistical Digest, a report by Virginia Business, Suffolk is projected to have one of the highest rates of population growth over the next 10 to 20 years.

According to the report, which uses information from the Virginia Employment Commission, Suffolk could see an increase of 30,000 over the next 10 years and an additional 60,000 people before the 2030 census.

“A lot of this growth will be market driven,” Suffolk deputy city manager Patrick Roberts said. “The real numbers will be driven by the economy at the time, but those are some exciting numbers.”

But those exciting numbers and lofty projections bring an intent need for planning, infrastructure development and focus on the part of city leaders and planners.

“We use our comprehensive plan, that is updated every five years, to help give us the guidelines for where we will need infrastructure and what areas of the city could see the most growth,” Roberts said.

Although a large part of the city’s growth has come in the north area, especially in the areas around Harborview, Roberts said the city has seen and will continue to see a large investment in redevelopment areas such as downtown.

“We have already seen a large investment in new multi-family structures in the downtown area and a number of big projects that are revitalizing buildings in downtown,” Roberts said. “The growth isn’t just in north Suffolk. We’re seeing it in a number of places.”

He added other corridors in the city, such as the area around Route 10, will see continued development.

While the growth is coming, and in some areas already here, the city must continue to find ways to pay for infrastructure improvements to meet growing demand.

“Anytime we can we look to ensure to pass off any tax burden away from the residents,” Roberts said, adding that growing the commercial, industrial and retail tax bases is as important as growing residential areas.

“There is a lot of talk about a slow economy, and that is true to some point, but we have seen millions of dollars invested in new retail developments over the past few years. That goes a long way in funding other infrastructure needs,” he said.

According to the report, Suffolk is projected to have a population close to 122,482 in 2020 and 151,427 by 2030. The 2030 figure represents a 200 percent increase compared to the city’s 2000 census total of 63,677. James City County and Chesapeake are the only other two localities in the report projected to double their size by 2030.