By BRIAN SMITH
More than 100 people came out to give their opinion on what Weatherford’s downtown should look like during a meeting Tuesday night at the Cotten-Bratton Building.
The nearly three-hour vision meeting and planning session had three objectives: identifying important issues and opportunities, describing vision for downtown and taking steps to create the future. Planner Karen Walls, who has worked with Richardson, Denton and Fredericksburg downtown areas, said the only way to make an area better is to have people with several different backgrounds weigh in.
“One department or community member can’t do this,” Walls said. “We need shop owners, city and county officials and the general public to take part.”
City staff, along with members of the Historic Preservation Committee and the newly formed Downtown Weatherford subcommittee had met three weeks ago in a brainstorming session to come up with ideas for the community to weigh in on.
Director of Planning and Development Craig Farmer said the city has a great downtown, brought about by the revitalization of the city’s Main Street Program four years ago. Main Street and Special Events Manager Kim Thieme said bringing the downtown back from “ground zero” involved working with the Chamber of Commerce and hosting quarterly festivals to bring people into the downtown square.
A list of ideas to better downtown was provided to those that took part, who were encouraged to submit their own ideas as part of a team concept. Some of those included:
• Allowing upstairs living in downtown businesses.
• Having a clear definition of what a downtown should be.
• Having live entertainment and keeping businesses open after hours and on weekends.
• Creating a tourism position and offering a website strictly for city events.
• Offering tax incentives for downtown businesses and having the city become more business friendly.
After the team exercise, individuals were allowed to use electronic voting devices to give their opinions on what makes for a great downtown. Most of the people who attended said they were over the age of 40 and had lived and worked in the city for more than 20 years. Many of the ideas provided such as having a pedestrian friendly downtown, having parking and restrooms in the area and reducing the amount of truck traffic coming through the area was considered “very important” to those there.
Having people living downtown drew mixed reactions but the creation of a downtown association or convention and visitors bureau was also thought of highly.
After looking at several visions of downtown, participants were asked what things needed to be done right away. Those included creating an action plan, reducing the impact of truck traffic through downtown and developing financial incentives for businesses to come downtown.
What was perhaps a positive sign was that 86 percent of those voting said they would be willing to stay involved with the downtown project.
Walls said she will take the information provided and provide an analysis, which should be given to the city within the next two weeks. Copies of the analysis report will then be made available by the Planning Department, Farmer said.