Media Center
  • Saturday, June 03, 2017
    Main Street lists downtown 'priorities'

    Brenham’s Main Street program has an ambitious plan that includes helping recruit a new downtown hotel and making that area more pedestrian friendly.

    Those are two of the “strategic priorities” developed by the Main Street Advisory Board and its Economic Restructuring and Planning committees, said Wende Ragonis, the city’s director of Community Services.

    A third priority is improving relationships with “key downtown stakeholders.”

    A downtown hotel, a pedestrian-friendly environment and public investment in streetscapes and infrastructure have been “a recurring theme” when analyzing feedback from development industry experts about Brenham’s downtown, said Ragonis.

    Opening of the renovated Barnhill Center downtown, which was envisioned as being a convention destination, was a key element in the need for a downtown hotel, she said.

    “We’re still working through the economic development channels to bring a downtown hotel to the district,” said Ragonis.

    City staffers have also held discussions with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to assume responsibility for speed limits and signage in the downtown area, and solicited support from state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and state Rep. Leighton Schubert for what would be a “pedestrian retail zone,” she said.

    TxDOT, Ragonis said, has agreed to draft an addendum to its local maintenance agreement with the city that would give the it authority to regulate speed and signage downtown. The agency has also offered its resources to help assess pedestrian traffic there.

    City staffers and Main Street Board members have also made an effort to provide updates more frequently to downtown merchants, Main Street volunteers, city council members and county officials.

    Ragonis said there has been discussion to use hotel occupancy tax funds to help Washington County clean the courthouse exterior.

    A thriving downtown is seen as a catalyst for the city’s entire economy.

    “The downtown economy is essential to the strength of the overall economy of the area,” Ragonis said. “The objective of Main Street is to develop solutions that ensure preservation — and education — while stimulating growth and stability in the downtown historic district.”

    Funding was included in the city’s 2016-17 budget to design a website with fully integrated social media capabilities to bring more attention to the downtown area.

    It will promote the area as a year-round retail destination for tourists and conventions, and tout its activities and special events.

    Ragonis said a vendor is expected to be selected soon for that new marketing service.

    Source: Brenham Banner-Press