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KINGSVILLE, Texas – The revitalization of any city is a monumental task and the City of Kingsville has its eye on the future with a proposed downtown vision plan.

The city and community had an opportunity to hear a presentation of a proposed downtown vision plan Monday evening during a workshop held before the regular City Commission Meeting. The plan aims to enhance the quality of life for its residents, improve existing infrastructure, help guide future investments and develop strategies to reinvigorate economic development for the city.

The Downtown Vision Plan has been in the works for quite some time, said Kingsville City Manager Jesus Garza.

“We have been working on this project for about nine months,” said Bert Moyer, III, research scientist at UT-San Antonio’s College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, in the Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research.

At a meeting last September, the group preparing the plan, The University of Texas Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research, gathered input from Community stakeholders which was incorporated into this Plan. Information such as demographics and history, background assessment, existing economic conditions, housing, hotel-motel tax as well as other information was gathered.

A SWOT analysis was also made last year in an effort to listen to community concerns and wants for the city. Some of the things that were identified in the surveys were workforce concerns, not enough restaurants, not enough things to do and housing.

“We hear what the community-wide challenges are but we propose addressing those in the downtown area,” Garza said.

Kingsville has a historic downtown area, which provides an opportunity for increased tourism. The plan proposes establishing a museum cluster. With the Train Depot, the King Ranch Museum and the Mother Julia Museum all being within walking distance of downtown, having a museum cluster would help improve tourism for Kingsville. In addition, a children’s museum is proposed as a way to enhance tourism in the downtown area.

With these proposed changes, infrastructure redesign is essential. Creating a walkway that would be safer for tourists to walk on while exploring the downtown area of Kingsville is another opportunity to address community concerns while enhancing tourism.

Restoration of historic buildings downtown is also something that is proposed. The downtown area is already part of the Historic District in Kingsville, so there are some requirements that must be met through meetings with the Historic Development Board for the City of Kingsville for any type of renovation of structures within that area. Kingsville is part of the Texas Main Street Program, which in itself is an extension of the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Probably the biggest item in the proposed plan that will lead to the biggest change downtown is the need for wider sidewalks to improve pedestrian traffic and better bulb outs at intersections, Garza said.

Wider sidewalks would improve the downtown area by the addition of more trees, canopies, benches, better lighting fixtures and even the opportunity to have outdoor eating spaces for restaurants. Currently, sidewalks are narrow and parking downtown is vertical. In order to widen the sidewalks, parking would have to change to parallel spots. With this change, additional parking structures would have to be developed in order to accomodate the loss of spaces.

“This is an important factor for us as a city because we have about million dollars that the city has already allocated for infrastructure improvements downtown, which we would be putting towards sidewalks and streets downtown,” Garza said.

Approval of these infrastructure changes would allow the city to apply for a grant in order to maximize those dollars.

“So we can turn that million and turn it into about 2.4 million dollars and use that million as a match to get a grant,” Garza said.

This is the first project the city would address first since the money has already been allocated. It’s just a matter of deciding what infrastructure changes will be made.

“A revitalized downtown, can really help create opportunities that will address a lot of city-wide issues”, Garza said.

A proposed events center is also being looked at in downtown Kingsville. The events center would be used to hold conferences, events, workshops and even weddings. The envisioned center would play a major role in the revitalization of the downtown area. Professional organizations would have the opportunity to hold conferences and in turn, bring more people to visit downtown.

The events center would also open the door to having Bed & Breakfast facilities,hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and more businesses that would enable downtown Kingsville to flourish. The center, however, would not be run by the city, Garza said, but rather the city would be willing to work with a developer to create a boutique hotel with an events center attached to it. This would allow attendees to stay in the downtown area and enjoy the amenities that are available.

“Planning is an ongoing process that will evolve and change over time,” Moyer said.

Among other proposed items in the vision plan is a bicycle lane connecting the Texas A&M University-Kingsville and an enhanced Pavilion area where the Kingsville Farmers Market is currently held.

Kingsville is located on the I-69-E corridor and offers strategic location for businesses. According to the Kingsville Economic Development Council, Kingsville offers easy rail access, and can accommodate growth for nearby communities.

Manny Salazar, executive director of the Greater Kingsville Economic Development Council, said he is excited about the new project.

“From an economic development perspective, a city’s downtown is a measure of its success. The current state of our downtown does not accurately illustrate all of the great things that are happening around Kingsville,” Salazar said.

“I think that efforts that the city are taking to improve the downtown district will benefit the entire community, help create jobs and get more businesses in to downtown Kingsville.”

The plan will be formally considered by the City Commission at an upcoming regular meeting, at which time the city can formally submit a grant application to potentially bring in additional federal funds to assist with the improvements.

The city hopes to approve the downtown vision plan within the next month.