Edinburg now has a figurative roadmap to guide it through a much-anticipated revitalization of downtown. Now all it needs is the fuel to push innovative ideas currently on paper into fruition.
Broaddus and Associates, which is the firm tapped last year to do the job, has finalized the plan they say can be used to attract business to the downtown area. Plans are also in place to update the city’s architectural standards, as well as add physical enhancements to the small strip located between the University of Texas-Pan American and the county courthouse.
The city has been pushing early designs to start moving forward on revitalization efforts, as well as organizing budgets for some of the streetscape designs. Plans are currently in place for street improvements to start moving into the capital improvements plan.
As the city’s consultant for the masterplan, Broaddus has also outlined the creation of numerous “catalyst projects” they say can be implemented across the city to attract business.
Since the masterplan’s inception last fall, Broaddus garnered more than 450 responses from the community and local businesses, which in unison have called for something that helps make downtown a destination beyond the 8 to 5 timeframe, representatives say.
“I think what we really saw at the end was a cohesion of really great ideas that were the product of this community, the city, UTPA and ECISD. It was very participatory process,” said Stephen Coulston, vice president for Broaddus planning following his presentation to the City Council on July 7.
“This is a plan with legs. It’s not one of those plans that is going to sit on a shelf,” Coulston said. “In fact, before this meeting I was in the planning office, and they were showing me a lot of the early designs to start moving forward, and put budgets together for some of the streetscape designs and street improvements to start moving into the capital improvements plan. That is so they can start making some of the incredible investments on those catalyst projects.”
Details in the masterplan include the development of at least 10 catalyst projects, ranked in order of importance. At the top of list is the start of a new hotel/bookstore project, to be tentatively located at the corner of N. 5th Avenue and W. University Drive.
Broaddus has outlined the creation of a “Palm Tree Corridor” leading to the Courthouse on East University. The firm is also looking at the development of a South 13th Street District beginning where Palomarez Pool Hall (the old Garza Pharmacy) currently stands and going south. The district would be similar to McAllen’s 17th Street, which would include entertainment venues and restaurants.
Broaddus is also looking at options for a Courthouse Plaza Implementation Strategy, which would tentatively add a shaded promenade and more green space to the location. Other options for Edinburg include the implementation of a Firehouse District revolving around an improved Sam Houston facility located on Mcintyre Street. The district would include coffeeshops and cafes to cater to young professionals, according to Broaddus.
“One of the things as we went through this project and we started learning more about this community and the growth of this incredible asset that we have in the University, and speaking with folks in the community, is that the campus is on a trajectory for continued growth,” Coulston said. “The McAllen-Edinburg MSA is on an extraordinary growth trajectory in terms of demographic increase. I think the timing to put a plan in place is really right. I think the opportunity to leverage the growth that is coming down the road is really right. There is really low hanging fruit that can be done, that can be a very simple springboard for some extraordinary development.”
In the current plan, Broaddus is considering a two-year window for development of the downtown. Year one would tentatively include drainage and street design, the modification of zoning for projects outlined in the plan, as well as the creation of a Public Improvement District. Broaddus has also spoken about the feasibility of closing Closner Blvd. on the north and south ends, an area already wracked with daily traffic from the Courthouse.
Year two of the project would include the completion of the streetscape, as well as the implementation of EB-5 visas for foreign nationals who can then “buy citizenship” for the purpose of developing commercial business. EB-5 is a permanent residence option that enables a foreign national to “obtain permanent residence but requires an investment of $1 million (or $500,000 in a high unemployment or rural area) in a commercial enterprise that will employ 10 full-time US workers”, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.