An exciting time in Suffolk

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

For years, the major retail and residential growth in Suffolk has taken place in and around Harbour View. That community, which many folks in the city can still remember as farmland, now hosts the city’s primary retail corridor, and it continues to grow.

Just this weekend, a new Petco opened its doors, that coming on the heels of the recent opening of a Michael’s Arts and Crafts store and in advance of several other retail and restaurant openings expected in coming months.

With the continuing construction of apartments, townhouses and detached homes in that part of North Suffolk, the growth in that area will likely continue unabated for some time to come.

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But there’s another part of North Suffolk that is arguably even more well placed for growth: the stretch of Nansemond Parkway from Northgate Commerce Park to the Chesapeake city line. Along that route, Nansemond Parkway turns into Portsmouth Boulevard, where it passes a Lowe’s shopping center and becomes Chesapeake’s busy Western Branch area.

But even as Western Branch has grown, benefiting from the location of Chesapeake Square Mall within the Portsmouth Boulevard corridor, Suffolk has been largely unable to capitalize on the growth because of the fact that Nansemond Parkway is only two lanes for most of its route.

That limitation is set to go away, however, as the city begins this month on a project to widen that road to four lanes from Northgate to the Chesapeake line. A similar project planned in Chesapeake will give travelers four driving lanes from the railroad tracks near Northgate all the way through Portsmouth.

When the project is complete, people in Suffolk should expect an explosion of growth along the corridor, one that could make the Harbour View development pale in comparison. Those things about North Suffolk that have been so attractive to Petco, Kroger and the many other retailers who helped transform a formerly rural area — easy access from major thoroughfares and lots of residents eager to be local consumers — eventually will do the same along Nansemond Parkway.

The development of that corridor will be positive for all parts of Suffolk. North Suffolk will be able to accommodate more homes and businesses. Folks in the downtown and southern portions of the city will have new shopping alternatives a bit closer to home. And the city as a whole will see its tax base rise significantly, which will give Suffolk the opportunity to build new parks, new libraries and other new community facilities to serve both current and new residents.

It’s an exciting time to be in Suffolk.