Please join this effort
Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Folks who spend much time in downtown Suffolk may have noticed that a few of restaurants on North Main Street have set up outdoor dining areas on the sidewalks in the 100 block of that road this week. Baron’s Pub, Harper’s Table and The Plaid Turnip each have had tables and chairs set up and surrounded by retractable dividers to mark off their temporary outdoor dining areas.
Of course, those who have not been downtown will not have noticed the efforts at encouraging al fresco dining, and that’s the point of this week’s Downtown Initiative Plan meetings, to which the restaurateurs were giving a nod when they launched their initiative.
Most folks would agree that the downtown area is a key part of a healthy Suffolk economy, and most would also agree that downtown hasn’t really lived up to its potential in recent years. Too many businesses have been unable to get the traction they needed to survive for the long term in the city’s central corridor.
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Whether the problem is a shortage of convenient parking — or as a consultant has said, simply the perception of that shortage — or concerns about safety or the lack of a supermarket or retail diversity or some combination of all of the above and other factors, the result is clear: Suffolk’s downtown is underutilized even by the people of Suffolk, much less by those from outside the city.
Suffolk has partnered with Benchmark Planning to develop a plan to address the problems and find solutions that will attract more people — and more commerce — into the downtown area, and folks in the city are being asked to work with the consultant and city officials to come up with some suggestions that will help turn this important area into a destination, a place where, for example, folks look forward to spending an hour or so dining along the sidewalks.
There’s little doubt that it’s time for some fresh ideas, and the al fresco dining is a great example of folks thinking outside the front door, as it were. But it seems likely that there are even more such good ideas waiting to be shared.
Citizens can visit 120 N. Main St. from 1 to 5 p.m. or 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. The evening session on Thursday will be a closing session.
A draft plan is expected to be available this fall. For more information on the process, visit downtownsuffolk.org.
Downtown Suffolk needs your ideas and your support. Please join this effort to make our city even better.