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Posted on: May 16, 2020

City Corner Column: Helping downtown thrive through COVID-19 and beyond

Danielle Williams, Victoria Main Street Program director and interim director of Parks and Recreation 

It seems like more and more people nowadays are visiting Victoria’s historic downtown after hours, stopping by to go for a jog or walk their dogs in the cool evening weather.

I hope this is a habit that sticks after the pandemic ends. I’d love for more people to visit regularly and see everything downtown has to offer: not just as a beautiful place to go for a walk but as a home for unique and vibrant businesses and as a venue for fun family events. Unfortunately, in-person shopping and eating, downtown events, and some Main Street Program priorities have been put on hold because of the COVID-19 situation.

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been coordinating with downtown business owners to help them understand state and local orders and determine which services they can and can’t provide. I’ve also worked to keep our business owners updated about Small Business Administration loans and other funding sources that will help to keep them afloat during this uncertain time.

This has been a wholly new experience for me as well as for them, but despite the challenges, it is rewarding to see the camaraderie growing in the downtown community, and between business owners and the Main Street Program. I’m looking forward to meeting some of these business owners in person for the first time and working with them as we seek to build a better downtown for the whole community. The COVID-19 response continues to be an important part of my work, but now that some businesses are reopening and others are awaiting the outcome of their funding applications, the time is perfect to refocus on other initiatives that will help our downtown thrive in the long run.

One of the Main Street Program’s most important upcoming projects is the development of our Downtown Masterplan, which will establish a comprehensive vision for downtown that addresses our four core priorities: economic vitality, promotion, organization, and design. One goal I’ve been trying to tackle since February is getting the Main Street Program board more involved with the master plan. Although the pandemic has set us back, we’re now in the process of establishing subcommittees that will work on each area of our four-point approach as we craft the master plan.

After we’ve hired a consultant for the plan, the next step will be setting up town hall meetings to gather community input. We hope that by the time this phase begins, we’ll be able to host traditional, in-person town hall meetings; if not, residents will be able to provide feedback through alternate means.

As the city continues to reopen, we will begin the process of not only bringing life back to downtown but imagining new possibilities for this community treasure. As the community feedback phase begins later this year, we hope to hear from you about what you want downtown to be; in the meantime, feel free to contact me at dwilliams@victoriatx.org.

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