With a revitalized Main Street Program board in place, the city’s downtown district “stands on the precipice of a revival,” the program board chair told city council members recently.
Sarah West Sigmon, owner of Mesquite Creek Outfitters and chair of the city’s Main Street Program advisory board of directors, gave an update on the Del Rio Main Street Program during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Del Rio City Council.
“I want to talk to you about our achievements and the future of our Main Street district,” Sigmon told the council.
“There is a rural revival happening all across the country. In the last 15 years, we have seen a significant increase in tourism in small communities across Texas. The local Main Street Program, which is an arm of the Texas Historical Commission, is primarily responsible for the revitalization in those districts, and it’s the reason for all the success,” Sigmon said.
“It has proven methods to revitalize downtowns in communities both small and large. I feel that downtown Del Rio is on the precipice of a revival, and we appreciate your support in those efforts,” she added.
Sigmon said the Main Street Program Advisory Board was “completely overhauled” in early 2019. Six new board members were added, and the city’s economic development director, Oriana Fernandez, served as the group’s advisor.
Councilman Alfredo “Fred” Carranza Jr. is the group’s ex-officio member.
One of the new board’s first activities was a training called “Main Street 101,” from the Debra Drescher, state coordinator of the Texas Historical Commission’s Main Street Program.
“She invited two of her proteges from Eagle Pass’ city staff, who head up the Main Street Program there, to speak to us and shared some best practices to get our board up and running,” Sigmon said.
The Del Rio Main Street board also has reviewed and revised the organization’s by-laws, she said.
“The remainder of the year, the board focused on creating a vision for our downtown district. Those efforts have included drafting an ordinance to preserve the historic nature of our downtown district, the collaboration of various organizations that host downtown events and finally, we had to fight to maintain our Main Street accreditation,” she said.
Sigmon said the Main Street Board met on Jan. 23 and approved its 2020 goals.
Those goals include achieving a cultural district designation, presenting council with a downtown ordinance, creating a downtown presence on social media and acquiring funds for downtown initiatives.
“Those include, number one, achieving a cultural and heritage designation,” Sigmon said.
She noted Megan Tackett, membership and outreach coordinator for the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, late last year met with the chamber and presented this vision of a program comprised of chamber staff, community members and business leaders.
“We’re looking for a cultural, arts and heritage designation for south Del Rio. We are right now in the process of ‘re-booting’ the First Friday Art Walk, and we hope to see you all Friday, Feb. 7, our first attempt at a new and revitalized First Friday Art Walk,” she said.
She said a portion of Main Street will be closed to traffic, and there will be live music and food vendors.
She said the second goal for the Main Street Program in 2020 is the creation of a “downtown ordinance.”
“We approved the draft last week, and are eager to present it to you all at a future council meeting and have you pass that ordinance to protect our district,” Sigmon said.
The group’s third goal for 2020, she said, is to create a downtown entity, establish a social media presence, rebrand the Main Street logo, and “enhance visibility to our downtown community.”
“We need to see a significant increase in the utilization of the Paul Poag Theatre, which I think is the crown jewel of Main Street,” Sigmon said.
The organization’s fourth goal is the acquisition of funds for downtown initiatives.
“Some suggestions include a sales tax designation change from Type A to Type B. We are actively seeking grants, donations and private investments in our community. These funds would support public art projects, façade improvement grants, public live music events and some creative transportation options for the folks that are visiting First Friday Art Walk,” she said.
Sigmon said she would especially like to look for transportation options for some of the district’s most important “tourists”: members of the Laughlin Air Force Base community.
“They are vital to the success of the downtown district, and I’d like us to take a note from San Angelo, which has Goodfellow Air Force Base. They’ve got a public bus from the city that runs there (for) the men and women that live on Goodfellow Air Force Base, providing them safe and affordable travel,” Sigmon said.
Despite the strides made by the Main Street group, Sigmon said, much work remains.
“There’s a great amount of work needed in downtown Del Rio, but it is great work to be done. In order to execute these goals, we need to hire a full or part-time Main Street manager, and we must find funds to establish a façade improvement program that will restore some of the historical charm to our district, and we need to continue to support and seek ways to create a downtown activity,” Sigmon said.