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North or South — it’s still Suffolk

In a city with such a rich history as Suffolk, it is a shame the history we are writing right now is not one that we should be too proud of.

In Friday’s edition of the Suffolk News-Herald, managing editor Res Spears compiled a story about the number of upcoming new business openings throughout the city, primarily those located in the North Suffolk area.

The story talked of service industries, restaurants and new medical facilities moving into or expanding their operations within Suffolk’s city limits.

But the instant reaction by those online and in some emails to our staff has been apparently marked by rancid jealousy. It appears, by the tone and content of those responses, that both those who call North Suffolk home and those who call South — or rather historic — Suffolk home have a desperate need for some fence-mending.

During the past few years, the north Suffolk corridor, bracketed by I-664 to the east and containing the vibrant and expanding stretch of Route 17, has seen tremendous growth, not only in the amount of new businesses and new industry, but also in population.

Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes in Suffolk can easily feel that Suffolk is two cities within one set of borders. It feels like two communities that share little more than a similar line in the address.

For those who live in South Suffolk, it has appeared city leadership in recent years has invested too much in the growth of North Suffolk, while at the same time letting projects and development goals lay dormant in the south or rural portions of the city.

But, is that truly the case? Didn’t city leadership construct the new police headquarters in historic downtown? Didn’t the city recruit and help augment the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center that now stands in a prominent location in south Suffolk?

And for those in the north, where do you do your shopping? When was the last time you drove down Nansemond Parkway to historic downtown for a night out along North Main Street or East Washington Street? Have you checked out what downtown has to offer?

There is a saying that perception is reality. That may not be the case here.

The reality is that the city must continue to focus on where the growth is. If not, then we will all wake up to an overdeveloped and under-planned city that no one is proud of.

But, the city cannot afford to let those in the core business district and historic Suffolk feel like they are being left behind.

When we see growth and development in portions of our city, we should all celebrate. In this case, a rising tide truly does lift all ships.

The more tax revenue generated in the business corridors of North Suffolk, the more money the city has to invest in needed infrastructure in South Suffolk.

The more people who come to call Suffolk home — regardless of their location — the deeper and more vital will become the culture and history of our hometown.

There will be a day when you will be able to ask anyone anywhere in Suffolk the question, “where do you live” and the answer will come back — without qualification — “Suffolk.”

Now that will be a day that should be prominently written down in history.