A place to remember Damiani

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A couple of years before his death in August, former Suffolk mayor Andy Damiani began quietly lobbying for a new elementary school to be built in the downtown area.

Mr. Downtown’s thinking was that what would most help the part of this city that he loved so well was something that would increase foot traffic, encourage people to stay in the area to do their shopping and serve to attract other businesses to the business district.

Similar thinking was behind a group’s effort during the past year to try to attract a college or university to locate a campus along West Washington Street. The idea was that students attending classes on the campus would become customers of the new coffee shops and other stores the campus might lure to the area.

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While it remains to be seen whether a college will be interested in the latter idea, the former one has long been a nonstarter. Downtown Suffolk is not where the city’s growth is taking place, so there’s no real need for a new elementary school in that area within the foreseeable future.

In one sense, that’s unfortunate, because the recent death of Damiani occasions an opportunity for the city to honor him by naming some structure or place after him. A downtown school would have been the perfect answer.

Naming a street — West Washington comes to mind, since so much of Damiani’s life took place there — in his honor would be another possibility, but renaming streets — especially those that feature so many business addresses — can be a nightmare of unexpected consequences.

So it may be fitting, then, that Suffolk City Council is considering renaming “Character Corner,” the little park-like area at the corner of North Main Street and West Washington Street, after Damiani.

“Damiani Square,” as it would be called, now features a statue of Mr. Peanut, along with some benches and a landscaped area. It’s less than a block from the Washington Square Mall, where Damiani’s art gallery and loft apartment are located, and it’s in a part of downtown where the former mayor was often seen making his daily rounds.

With the right kind of on-site recognition, renaming the location could be a perfect way to honor this long-time Suffolk cheerleader. Anyone who knew Damiani knows he was surely a character. Character Corner makes good sense as the place to honor him.