Editorials

Citizens can help plan next phase of downtown Arlington

With work now underway to craft a new plan for the next phase of downtown Arlington development, it’s time for citizens to provide guidance on what they would like to see happen in the years just ahead.

The city has recently announced a series of six public meetings that begin next month and extend through the summer where that opportunity will be available to anyone interested in the further resurgence of the central business district.

A good place to begin is to take a look at the last downtown plan that was completed in 2004 and see what results have been achieved during the past 14 years as a result of the vision imagined then.

That plan took all the best ideas of studies that had been produced in previous decades and introduced new ones that took into considerations changes in population, business development, public spaces, growth in University of Texas at Arlington enrollment and ways to imagine a future for the place where Arlington first began.

Now, with the significant changes that have occurred, it’s time to keep the momentum going to realize all the possibilities that were once thought to be out of reach for a downtown previously known only as a place to pass through.

With the successful new 101 Center residential project, the new central library, and transformation of Abram Street now underway, everything is changing.

The invitation for citizens to join the planning process explains its purpose as accounting for a wide range of existing and future uses to create a vibrant destination for residents and visitors.

Objectives include unifying current projects and stakeholder visions to define a strong sense of place while remaining responsive to the history and current needs of the area.

Ideas of realizing the long-discussed ways to connect downtown to growing entertainment, employment, and commercial centers within the city will expand the vision beyond the existing geographic boundaries.

The difference this time is there’s so much more to work with now that lends a true sense of reality to ideas that previously would have been dismissed as unrealistic.

In addition to reviewing the 2004 plan, citizens are asked to complete an on-line survey that will help guide the work ahead. It asks about how often you visit downtown, the reasons for going there, how far away you live, and how satisfied you are with downtown now as a destination and central gathering place.

Then you are asked to rate elements such as street and commercial property maintenance, law enforcement, city services, housing, shopping, dining and entertainment.

Next, you can select the kinds of dining and entertainment options you think are needed ranging from a variety of eateries, large scale bars, live music, and other venues.

What you think about shopping downtown is also explored. Do you like chain or independent retail stores, barber shops and salons, grocery stores, a farmers market, pharmacy and others?

Questions include lodging choices, types of open spaces, street scape features, and open ended queries where you can offer ideas of your own.

Getting in the action by participating in any of the three public meetings that will be held downtown may be the best engagement of all.

The master plan advisory committee made up of downtown business owners and stakeholders will meet on three other occasions during the summer and all are welcome to attend.

Instead of looking back in years to come and wonder how it happened, here’s a chance for residents to play an important role in making it happen.

All of the above described opportunities to get involved are fully discussed with details of when, where, and how on the city’s website devoted to the project. Just enter “Arlington downtown master plan” in your browser’s search box and it will take you there.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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