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City starts downtown master plan

The city has wasted no time implementing the Downtown Master Plan that was approved less than five months ago.

Assistant City Manager Scott Mills provided an update to City Council during their Wednesday afternoon work session. City Council approved the Downtown Master Plan during its June 20 regular meeting.

Smaller projects are already under way, and the city has begun planning and looking to allocate funding for the projects it wants to complete in the first year of the 10-year proposed plan.

The city has begun small projects that don’t require much funding, or any funding, to help with downtown improvements.

Suffolk’s Police Department recently completed a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design study. The study allowed the police department to look at landscaping, lighting and urban design to see where improvements can be made for the safety of citizens.

Other improvements included amending the Unified Development Ordinance to allow food trucks on property outside public right of way, and that includes the downtown area.

Small improvements have also been made like pruning trees, replacing dead trees, adding decorative lighting and small sidewalk repairs.

Other small projects can begin right away, but the city must secure funding to begin. Mills presented projects and financial costs to the City Council during the work session, and the council voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

The first proposed project included with the master plan would improve the signage in the downtown area, including parking and street signs.

The hope for the project is to create a branding image for the city to use on all of the signs as well as create better wayfinding signs for downtown.

“It is important to have the proper location and verbiage on the signs to correctly guide people downtown to strategic locations,” Mills said.

The request includes $190,000 to fund a design consultant to assist with branding, a wayfinding system and an off-street parking signage plan.

The city wants to expand parking for the proposed outdoor festival and market hall behind the courthouse.

To expand parking, the city would demolish the old assessor’s building to expand the parking lot on Commerce Street.

“It won’t be a huge parking lot. It’ll be compact, but it will provide additional parking,” Mills said.

The other proposal for the area behind the courthouse would include design for the festival and market hall area.

Both projects together are proposed at $460,000.

The Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design study has provided an idea of what improvements can be made to promote a safer downtown, and the city requested $85,000 to prepare a map of all the street and private lighting downtown. The funds would also replace damaged and low-performing lights or add lights where needed.

The city currently has $500,000 budgeted in the Village and Neighborhoods Capital Improvements Plan for property acquisition in the Phoenix Bank block, but the city has requested that $175,000 be diverted to make improvements to Carver Circle, including better landscaping and pedestrian design.