Group sets downtown meeting

Published 6:31 pm Saturday, December 5, 2015

A group of Suffolk citizens and business people has set a meeting for this Wednesday to discuss economic revitalization in the downtown area.

Friends of Suffolk, as the group calls itself, wants to get some momentum behind plans for a community college and library center in downtown, said Ralph Nahra, a businessman and property owner in the downtown area.

“There’s a strong feeling that if you try to bring a college downtown, it will help become an economic engine just like in happened in Norfolk when they brought Tidewater Community College downtown,” Nahra said. “If we merge this with the library plan, this could become a real economic engine.”

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Nahra said developing incentives for technology-based companies and incubators, getting rid of blight and other initiatives are concerns for the group, which he said includes previous council representatives and previous leaders, whom he declined to name.

“We want to get together and kind of discuss this issue,” Nahra said. “The key is to bring people downtown. What can we do as individuals to help the city and authorities to accomplish this?”

Nahra said the discussions have been ongoing for a couple of months. He acknowledged that a Nov. 18 City Council vote to move $1.1 million from the library project to renovate the Market Street fire station had something to do with the meeting being scheduled at this time. The library project was delayed to free up funds in the current fiscal year’s budget, so the money was available to be moved to the fire station.

Plans for the library have included enticing an educational component, such as Paul D. Camp Community College, to locate within the building. However, no agreement with any educational institution has taken place.

“The capital improvements plan (process) is coming soon, and we would like to see if we can influence some of that,” Nahra said. “I just want to gauge the interest. This is like a brainstorming session. It will help the entire community.”

The meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 100 E. Constance Road. RSVPs are requested to