By Jan White
CROCKETT – At the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Lunch and Learn” event, held at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 2, attendees learned about proposals for revitalizing historic Downtown Crockett.
The first speaker was Kerriann Grounds, a member of the Downtown Crockett Association (DCA). She explained that while the group initially was engaged in minor beautification efforts for the downtown area, their role has expanded to work with Houston County and the City of Crockett to further improvements and upgrades to the area. The DCA was instrumental in obtaining funding for the Christmas lights installed on the Crockett Square buildings and creating city banners that highlight areas of interest in Crockett.
Planning and Zoning member Wade Thomas began his presentation by displaying a couple of the city banners. One features a portrayal of Davy Crockett, and the other says “Welcome to Historic Downtown Crockett” and is accented with pine trees. Plans are in the works to create more banners that represent different points of interest in the community, like Camp Street and Crockett’s historic homes. Thomas indicated that these banners will be available for purchase by individuals and businesses based on location and ability to display. More information about the banners will be shared as it becomes available.
Thomas then spoke about the proposal, initiated by local business owners, to make changes to the zoning of downtown Crockett to help revitalize the local economy. As it stands, the downtown area is not zoned for single-family residences. Due to interest by current business and property owners, the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Committee was asked to revisit the zoning law.
The idea is that unoccupied buildings would be more attractive to new business owners, especially those from out of town, if they could use the extra space as their residence. One caveat regarding utilizing a portion of the building as a residence would be that the owner maintain a business frontage.
The P&Z Committee met with Planning Concepts, a planning, design, and land-use solutions firm out of Tyler. The company specializes in developing creative solutions to help towns make the most of their buildings and real estate. Thomas provided a map created by Planning Concepts that presents some of the proposed changes.
The map shows a grid of occupied and unoccupied buildings, as well as potential residences and parking. Besides rezoning the area for residential use, other ideas include purchasing additional property for parking. At this time, if all the downtown buildings were occupied, Planning Concepts estimates the area would be 300 parking spaces short. Consequently, much interest has been placed on downtown parking issues.
Pedestrian traffic and the number of heavy equipment trucks and 18-wheelers that use the streets around Crockett Square are another major concern. One possible solution would be to designate main thoroughfares that converge on the square as Business 287, Business 19, Business 21, and Business 7 in an effort to redirect heavy-duty vehicles. Also explored was the idea of making Goliad and Houston Avenue one-way streets.
It should be noted that all proposals must be approved by their respective overseers. The Planning & Zoning Committee, the Crockett City Council, and TxDOT would hold public hearings and meetings to discuss the proposed changes before acting on them.
From a timeline aspect, Thomas said that some of the improvements will only take a few months. Other projects might take up to ten years to complete.
Thomas also reported on the influx of new businesses to the downtown area. Small Town Treasures, an antique and gift boutique, occupies the old Thames Jewelry Shop building.
An eating and entertainment venue, Bear Hall, has indicated a possible February opening. The Grind coffee shop is under new management and will open soon. Robinson’s Dry Cleaning property has been sold with plans to reopen as a custom T-shirt store. Filthy Gringos is a metal fabricator that builds choppers and motorcycle equipment. The Tchoupitoulas Restaurant building will be the new home for a men’s beard-care supply store, Maestros Classic.
In closing, Thomas reminded the group that since Crockett is in direct competition with Palestine, Lufkin and Nacogdoches, every facet of what we have needs to match up favorably with those towns if we hope to bring in new businesses.