Fitness Houston Metro Pearland | Friendswood Pearland | Friendswood October 2018

Friendswood downtown vision takes shape as council approves plan

The Downtown Improvement Plan will serve as a framework to direct the efforts of the Friendswood Downtown Economic Development Corporation, officials said.

A revitalized metropolis core with branded banners and road indicators, landscaping, bike trails, and new lighting might come to Friendswood beneath its first Downtown Enchancment Plan, authorised by the Metropolis Council on Oct. 1.

The plan identifies round $10 million in potential tasks. Some might be grant-funded, however with the Friendswood Downtown Financial Improvement Company restricted to about $450,000 a yr in gross sales tax income, the plan might take a number of years to deliver to life, stated Karen Capps, Friendswood’s financial improvement coordinator.

“It really depends on funding and grants,” Capps stated. “There are some aspects, without any kind of grants, that would take up to 10 years.”

The 2018-19 finances for the FDEDC is $912,015, of which about $416,000 was carried over from the earlier yr. Capps stated it’s unlikely the finances can be totally spent as different funding sources are being sought out.

With the Metropolis Council’s approval, the FDEDC will probably start with tasks in what the plan considers the “heart of downtown” at Friendswood Drive and Spreading Oaks Avenue, officers stated. As these efforts take shape, a separate citizen-led effort to construct a carousel downtown has formally ended.

‘Work with what’s there’

The development plan, developed over the previous six months, is meant to serve as a framework for addressing wants and figuring out alternatives, stated Lauren Griffith, the marketing consultant employed by the town in March to create the plan.

Tasks might be prioritized based mostly on funding, she stated, however the preliminary format places the “heart” first, with an estimated $2.19 million price ticket to restore and add brick sidewalks, add new visitors sign arms and masts, and enhance lighting and landscaping.

“There’s more development coming there, a four-story office building, you’ve got the Friends church across the street, the library is there,” Capps stated. “That’s where you are going to see some things happening.”

One other undertaking would handle the entry factors at Edgewood Drive and Whispering Pines Avenue, the place the plan requires $1.33 million in enhancements and branding. Updating the intersections at Clearview Avenue and Castlewood Avenue is predicted to value round $828,000.

One other vital effort would handle sidewalks, curb ramps and lighting for pedestrians all through the district, estimated to value over $four.84 million.

“It’s going to take some years to have that money,” Griffith stated.

Nevertheless, the town is making use of for $three.5 million from the Houston-Galveston Space Council’s Transportation Enchancment Program, which might kick-start the general effort. If accredited, that quantity would cowl 80 % of the preliminary undertaking.

Griffith’s agency started the method by taking a listing of the district, learning the town’s insurance policies and infrastructure, after which it sought out public enter. A web-based survey in Might collected over 1,100 responses and located that residents’ prime priorities have been extra eating choices and extra walkable sidewalks and intersections.

Comply with-up conferences with stakeholders—enterprise house owners, group leaders and others with a vested curiosity in downtown—dug deeper into the expectations and concepts from the group, Griffith stated.

“People told us in the process that they didn’t want anything to take away from it being quaint and historic, and at first that puzzled us,” Griffith stated. “But as we listened more, we realized that what they are talking was the character, the warmth. Our challenge then was to manifest that.”

For Griffith, a panorama architect who has consulted on Houston’s Discovery Inexperienced as properly as dozens of different tasks all through the Houston-Galveston space, that meant, partially, to work with the “urban fabric”—streamlining brick sidewalks, making the lighting constant and alluring, and layering extra timber to make the world really feel smaller and nearer.

“We are trying to work with what’s there,” Capps stated.

A draft plan was proven at three public conferences for enter and was formally permitted by the FDEDC on Sept. 11.

Public-private course of

“This is the closest we’ve ever been to having a real downtown,” stated Brett Banfield, president of BMI Properties and the present president of the Associates of Friendswood Downtown Affiliation, a gaggle that organized in 2015 to advocate for the world.

Banfield stated he can vividly keep in mind an expertise when his firm introduced a banker from New York to refinance a property. After driving down Friendswood Drive to satisfy Banfield, he virtually modified his thoughts concerning the deal.

“He told me, ‘I didn’t realize this was a low-income area,’ because of how it looked,” he stated. “That was eye-opening. Downtown never represented Friendswood very well.”

In line with Adam Hill, president of Sterling Builders, which has constructed a number of tasks downtown, the turning level happened 10 years in the past, when the town established a downtown  neighborhood empowerment zone. That meant all improvement charges within the downtown district might be waived.

“I like the direction it is going in … a lot of this is a result of the city offering incentives and grants,” Hill stated. “It’s been a stimulus for development, and it has been extremely effective.”

When Stacy Parsons needed to construct a brand new constructing for Lary’s Florist, which she owns, that meant saving about $20,000 in charges, she stated.

“It was a good chunk,” Parsons stated. “And now that I have my building, people are really happy to see it, they’re thanking me for adding to downtown. They’re asking for my color scheme so they can maybe match it.”

The waivers, coupled with $three million in Galveston County Consolidated Drainage District enhancements in 2009 that took away the necessity for on-site detention, cleared most of the hurdles builders confronted, Capps stated.

Grants are one other means the town has supported downtown improvement. A metropolis report on financial incentives recognized about $200,000 going downtown, together with $100,000 for Louis Tannos’ four-story workplace constructing.

This can be a key position the federal government and the event company can play, Capps stated.

“There’s a responsibility of the city … to make it more desirable, more walkable and make the economic improvement possibility achievable,” she stated.

This new plan ought to proceed that development for the 150 property house owners within the district and for any future property proprietor or investor, Capps stated.

“It’s going to be a great investment. Being downtown is a big advantage,” she stated.

If property house owners select to not develop, there’s not a lot the town can do. For instance, Banfield stated, at one time, about 17 acres of downtown have been vacant or unused and generated about $20,000 for the town in taxes.

“That should be generating half a million a year, if it were developed properly,” he stated. “That’s what we want to see up and down Friendswood Drive: good development for the city, more property tax dollars.”

Assembly pushback

Because the FDEDC strikes ahead, an unrelated downtown effort led by the FDFA has ended. Renewed efforts to construct a $1.5 million carousel in Stevenson Park have been formally referred to as off by the Associates of Downtown Friendswood Affiliation on Oct. four.

“Unfortunately, the Carousel Park Project has become a far too divisive issue, which has undermined our mission and vision and placed undue burden on those who serve, work and volunteer in this great city,” Banfield wrote in a public assertion on Fb.

The venture had $700,000 in donations dedicated to seeing it by way of, however organizers confronted passionate opposition in the course of the Sept. 10 Metropolis Council assembly. A number of residents spoke out, questioning the carousel’s monetary feasibility and the appropriateness of discussing park facilities at a time when residents haven’t absolutely recovered from Hurricane Harvey.

To make the carousel potential, the FDFA was in search of a memorandum of understanding with the town to start negotiations over using a piece of Stevenson Park.

On the time, Mayor Mike Foreman informed Banfield to work on offering extra particulars and gathering extra public enter earlier than looking for an settlement with the town.

“We will answer every question we get,” Banfield stated.

Whatever the destiny of the carousel, Banfield stated in an earlier interview with Group Influence Newspaper the FDFA will proceed to search for methods to help downtown. It has already put $260,000 into downtown companies by way of its occasions, together with the Texas Music Fest, in its fourth yr, and its public artwork program has commissioned a second mural.

Ultimately, these efforts might create one other useful resource for enhancements, such as a grant program to assist companies with renovations, Banfield stated.

“If downtown becomes the economic engine it can be, it will help everyone,” he stated.

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