Build downtown’s future

Published 10:13 pm Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Even after many decades of intermittent feast and famine, downtown Suffolk is still seeking an identity — and you can help create it.

Downtown Suffolk was once a happening place, as the late “Mr. Downtown,” former mayor Andy Damiani, used to tell anyone who would listen. There were multiple shops and businesses, and people patronized them with regularity.

At some point, as has happened with many downtowns around the country, a decline began. Depending on who you ask, efforts to revitalize downtown were either moderately successful or never truly existed in the first place. The city had a downtown coordinator more than a decade ago, and the position has not existed since she resigned. The city plans events to bring people downtown, and then some shop owners complain about the road being closed.

Email newsletter signup

Vacant storefronts are filled temporarily, but then that business closes and the space stays vacant for a little while until the cycle is repeated. A few notable exceptions have brought in some life.

Who, or what, is really to blame for all of this? The city? A lack of parking, or perceived lack of parking? Crime, or perceived crime? The dingy, unsafe sidewalks? Walmart and Amazon? Maybe a combination of all of that? Once again, it depends on who you ask. The blame really isn’t important insofar as simply playing the blame game, but it is important to know the root causes of downtown’s decline. However, simply knowing the causes and reversing them doesn’t necessarily bring about a solution — it will take more than that.

Downtown Suffolk needs an identity, and it needs to do more to help visitors find their way. That is the purpose of two upcoming meetings.

BrandFirst Creative Agency’s study team will be hosting informal meetings from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, 326 N. Main St., and from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 6 at Nansemond Brewing Station, 212 E. Washington St.

We hope all local residents and downtown property owners and business owners will find the time to make it to one of these meetings. The future of downtown is only as good as those who take an interest in it now.