Downtown vision could spur better businesses

Crafting a unified community vision that could boost downtown was a recommendation made Friday by assessors who took in what Kyle has to offer.

With differing opinions on just how Kyle could go about revitalizing Center Street, assessor Catherine Sak, executive director of the Texas Downtown Association, said stakeholders and residents must come together to find a happy medium.

Sak, along with four other assessors, discussed ways to fix downtown Kyle during a discussion at Kyle City Hall. The group met with stakeholders to hear their opinions on developing downtown, then took a tour of Center Street to offer their opinions Friday.

Kyle Cramm, an assessor who is also director of the Main Street program in Seguin, said he saw a “lot of good assets” in downtown Kyle and some quick fixes could help improve issues.

One problem that Cramm said must be addressed is walkability in the downtown sector, which was a concern brought up during the meeting. Several residents and assessors were concerned about the volume of traffic on Center Street and the danger it poses for residents trying to cross the street.

Cramm said stop signs on Center Street could be a quick fix. He also said plans for the Texas Department of Transportation’s FM 150 bypass could alleviate traffic issues as well as make walkability easier. But, he said, it could be a double-edged sword that reduces commuters to downtown.

“I would encourage businesses in downtown Kyle to create an alliance to help be the voice for downtown and create the vision for what’s wanted,” Cramm said.

Sak said finding ways to better utilize the Kyle Square could boost involvement in downtown. Currently, the Kyle Area Senior Zone uses the Pete Krug Center on the square, with the city of Kyle hosting several events and programs during the year.

However, Sak said getting programming onto the square shouldn’t just fall into the city’s purview.

“It’s a matter of encouraging other organizations to use downtown because it’s theirs as much as anyone else’s,” Sak said.

At the same time, Sak said communicating with residents who live in the downtown sector is necessary for crafting whatever vision stakeholders plan to take. Several residents said that one of Kyle’s unique traits is the high number of residents living in the downtown area.

Sak said better communication with downtown residents could help the city decide the next best step. Many longtime residents might be hesitant about development if they don’t know what the city’s current vision is, Sak said.

Getting businesses into downtown that can help draw crowds, such as boutiques and shops, is also needed. 

Eric Davis, an assessor who is a partner at an area real estate company, said offering co-working spaces could help draw millennials to downtown. It could allow other businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants, to flourish.

Extending hours of operation in the downtown sector is a component stakeholders felt was needed if downtown development is to occur. Julie Snyder, Kyle Chamber CEO, said shops and businesses closing early is the primary complaint the Chamber receives.

Area resident Angel Longoria said typical hours of operation for some Kyle businesses, which sometimes go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., caters only to retirees or unemployed. Hosting evening events at City Square Park in conjunction with local businesses could help that cause. Having businesses incorporate outdoor space in front of the business could also draw traffic as well.

“If they want to see a thriving downtown, they need to extend the business hours to later in the evening,” Longoria said. “Lots of parents want to be with their children picking up meals.”

However, residents continued to clash on whether developing downtown is appropriate.

Longtime resident Angie Chapa said she isn’t against development in downtown, but worried about the growing number of vacant commercial structures on Center Street. Chapa said she ultimately was confused about what the  vision is for downtown Kyle.

Kyle resident Lila Knight said problems arise when “loud businesses” are next door to residents who have lived in the area for decades. Knight said Kyle needs clarification of the boundaries of downtown and that development should be focused on the square.

However, resident and business owner Carol Whisenant, who supported downtown development, said Center Street has become a suburb of Plum Creek.

“When someone has a good idea to come in and bring a business, there is some force, it might be two people who vote on Center Street who control the force, but it kills the idea,” Whisenant said. 

Tim McHutchion said Kyle’s downtown area is stuck in a time capsule, but is also a diamond in the rough.

“Our downtown is a jewel in the rough and all it needs is some polish,” McHutchion said.

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