I have devoted a lot of space and effort on this blog praising Amarillo civic and business leaders’ efforts to revitalize that city’s downtown business district. I still applaud those efforts.
It’s time to turn my attention, though, on the efforts being launched in Princeton, where my wife and I now call home.
Princeton sits astride U.S. 380, which runs east-west through the city. Just a bit north of that highway — which is undergoing a major makeover at this moment — sits a downtown district that is now in the sights of the city’s political leadership.
The work has just begun. City Hall has developed a master plan. The goal is simple and straightforward, as it has been explained to me by City Manager Derek Borg: The city wants to make downtown a destination for those who live here and for those who are visiting.
Princeton is in serious growth mode. Its population is exploding. I am reasonably certain that the next census will reveal a population that virtually doubles the 6,800 residents listed on the 2010 census.
Borg has revealed plans to redevelop the city’s Veterans Memorial Park, to reroute a major street through downtown and to use property tax revenue collected within the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to improve public infrastructure.
Much of this mirrors part of the strategy that Amarillo has employed to help spruce up its downtown district and from what I have seen when we return to the Panhandle city, it is working.
It is my fervent hope that Princeton succeeds mightily with its own downtown revitalization effort.
I do not intend to douse the city’s downtown effort under a bucket load of icy water, but I do need to point something out that might work at counter-purposes with that effort.
The city wants to relocate City Hall to a location a good bit east of downtown along U.S. 380. It has purchased a significant bit of land where it intends to build a municipal complex. It will seek private business investment to add retail establishments and also plans to develop a magnificent park complex.
All of that will occur about three miles east of downtown.
Now, does that distract attention from downtown? Not necessarily. The city has access to marketing gurus who can assist it in its effort to sell downtown to more retail establishments while gussying up the downtown district.
To be candid, downtown Princeton, Texas has some distance to travel. Then again, so did Amarillo when my wife and I moved there in early 1995. That city is making great strides in its quest to revive its downtown district.
I do not see any impediment to Princeton doing just as well in its own effort to remake its central district.
We look forward to watching our new home town progress.