June 18, 2014

Abram change a step forward for Arlington

Adding trees and sidewalks to a narrower, three-lane street is better for “walkable” downtown growth.

Once, Abram Street was part of the “Broadway of America,” the major transcontinental highway carrying motorists through Arlington.

Now, Abram Street will draw visitors and residents to stop, shop, dine and even live in downtown Arlington.

Of all the dramatic improvements completed or planned for Arlington’s central city, two of the most important came to light last week.

Settling a years-old debate, City Council members chose the final plan for narrowing and beautifying the Abram Street corridor, making it less of a concrete racetrack and more of a village avenue.

If a developer’s plan takes shape, the newly pedestrian-friendly and tree-lined Abram Street will instantly draw new downtown dwellers in a proposed $29 million retail-residential development on the site of the city’s obsolete George W. Hawkes Central Library.

Arlington’s neighbors both east and west have reaped rewards by narrowing business streets to make new mixed-use shopping-dining developments more inviting.

In Fort Worth, once-seedy Magnolia Avenue has blossomed as a restaurant row and lured new homeowners to the nearby Fairmount National Historic District.

West Berry Street also was narrowed to draw more attention to bordering retail shops and restaurants and improve the gateway to Texas Christian University.

The new mixed-use development replacing the library would round out a downtown Arlington that has been upgraded remarkably since 2009 with the Levitt Pavilion, new restaurants and the University of Texas at Arlington’s College Park District.

The development’s Atlanta- and Dallas-based partners will ask for $6.8 million to cover the library demolition and add a 604-space parking garage.

(They would pay to lease the property from the city, and that rental revenue would in turn help pay for a new, 80,000-square-foot library north of City Hall.)

That’s only a proposal at this point. But it’s easy to see why the City Council is optimistic about Arlington’s future, so much so that council members may add extra neighborhood roads, parks and recreation centers to a proposed November bond package.

Arlington is on its way to having a genuinely livable and walkable downtown.

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