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Over the summer and early fall, thousands of Suffolk community members have engaged with Suffolk 2045—visiting the website, speaking with team members at public events, and sharing their insights online. Their enthusiasm for shaping the future of the City is clear and their vision for Suffolk will help to inform the next phases of work.

Many Voices and Viewpoints

Beginning in May, ten focus groups were convened to discuss topics of critical importance for the City focused on the following topics: Industrial and Logistics; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Housing; Commercial and Business Community; Transportation and Mobility; Environmental Resources; Community Services; Land Use Planning for Growth; Builders; and Agriculture.

An online engagement activity was available from mid-May through the end of October on the Suffolk2045 website in both Spanish and English. Hard copies of the engagement were also available at libraries and at City Hall. Over 4,200 unique comments were received online or through paper surveys, including responses to big picture questions about the future and a mapping activity asking participants to identify changes they have noticed and what they hope to see in the future (over 250 locations were identified).

During this time, in-person events allowed staff to interact with approximately 3,000 community members, with booths set up at festivals and events such as Stars and Stripes, Family Fridays, TGIF Concerts, and the Peanut Festival. A range of ways were used to spread the word—the city newsletter, press releases, printed flyers, social media and email—which has also resulted in over 4,000 people who have visited the website (10,400 views).

Key Takeaways

Every comment received from the public was themed and put in a database. Some key themes that have emerged include:

  • Suffolk’s rural / small town feel was identified as one of the City’s biggest strengths.
  • People see great opportunity in Downtown investment / revitalization.
  • Open space and parks are viewed as a significant asset.
  • There is a desire for residential and commercial development in the north that is well planned and coordinated.
  • The impacts of increased residential development need to be carefully managed.
  • Traffic congestion is a challenge that should be proactively addressed through careful planning.
  • There is a desire for more entertainment, restaurants, recreation and retail in the City.
  • Making sure that growth and development benefits not just some parts of the City—but the City as a whole—is essential.

In addition to these general themes, several geographic areas were identified as important to focus on for the next phase of the work, including:

  • Downtown Suffolk – Desire to see increased amenities and services (restaurants, retail, commercial development etc.) to attract people especially younger people and families.
  • Southern Suffolk – Interest in retaining rural feel while improving infrastructure.
  • Northern Suffolk – Potential to build off recent success through thoughtful approach to where and how new residential and commercial activity is located.
  • Waterfront – Opportunity to attract visitors with enhanced recreation and entertainment.
  • Villages – Chance to improve attractiveness by focusing on strategic investments and seeking opportunities to improve the quality of public spaces (streets, sidewalks, parks, etc.)
  • Corridors – Need to coordinate new development with mobility planning and manage change while capitalizing on economic opportunity.

A map of specific locations identified with comments on changes community members have seen or hope to see, can be viewed here. For more information on what was shared, a summary report can be viewed here.

Input Informs Next Steps

In the upcoming months, the Suffolk 2045 team will enter a new and exciting phase of work. They will be focused on using the insights gathered from the public and findings from the technical analysis to develop preliminary recommendations pertaining to community character and land use, economic development, housing, transportation, environmental resources, and community facilities and services. In winter 2023, the public will have an opportunity to review and share comments on potential direction for the plan, including preliminary concepts and recommendations. There will be multiple ways to engage: in-person workshops, an online survey, and paper-based activities that will be available in public locations, including at libraries and City Hall, as well as at community events. More information on these opportunities will be broadly promoted and publicized on the Suffolk 2045 website and through other channels.