Downtown Conroe development plan officially approved

Conroe’s new downtown development plan was unanimously approved at the July 25 City Council meeting.

The plan divides downtown into five distinct districts, and its implementation is subject to future budgetary needs.

Conroe Director of Community Management Nancy Mikeska said at a July 24 workshop the plan outlines how Conroe is going to move its growing downtown and give it more life.

"Approving ... and moving forward with the downtown development plan establishes a vision designed to strengthen the role of downtown and the unique makeup that we have," Mikeska said. "The key is this is a plan. It doesn't mean these things will happen tomorrow. It doesn't mean they may not ever happen. It is a vision, and we're going to move forward cautiously with how we implement it."

The plan expands downtown from a nine-block area to more than 30 square blocks. It proposes creating five interconnected districts for expanded, yet distinct, downtown areas.

In March 2017, the city of Conroe spent $95,000 commissioning Hawes Hill Calderon LLP to create a revitalization plan for downtown. Project Manager Tony Allender presented the more than 100-page draft plan Oct. 8, which included issues the city should address as well as 41 recommendations for potential projects that could expand and enhance downtown.

The proposed districts include an arts and honors district highlighting performance arts, an old town marketplace district with open space for outdoor markets, a central business district, a near-town district catering to national retailers and a homestead district with neighborhood improvements.

The new planned downtown will extend east to west from 10th Street to I-45 and north to south from Dallas Street to Avenue G, according to the plan.

“This has certainly been a dream for those of us who have been in downtown," Council Member Raymond McDonald said at the workshop. "We had dreams about downtown, and I think Tony [Allender] captured a lot of that in this, and we really appreciate that."

Citizens are invited to take a downtown Conroe survey to participate in what they would like to see online at www.conroe2040.com.

Also at the workshop, council further discussed the incentive program for housing unit development in some of the downtown districts described in the downtown plan.

City Administrator Paul Virgadamo said the city's intent with the program is to increase housing—whether it be single-family homes, multifamily homes, brownstones or condos—downtown by encouraging developers to build those residences there.

"We need to start off with a new city downtown manager and have them put their expertise into this before we can put some great ideas out there for us all to look at," Mayor Toby Powell said. "We can all express our desires [about] what's the reality, what we can do, when we can do it—and how we can afford it is very important."

Mayor Pro Tem Duke Coon said he would prefer more of the properties to be for sale than for rent and would like the city to maintain architectural control.

"I'm glad to see this come to fruition now with the downtown plan and to incentivize people to move downtown," Council Member Seth Gibson said. "I think it's something we need to get going real quick."
By Jules Rogers
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jules Rogers has been covering community journalism and urban trade news since 2014. She moved to Houston in June 2018 to become an editor with Community Impact Newspaper after four years of reporting for various newspapers affiliated with the Portland Tribune in Oregon, including two years at the Portland Business Tribune. Before that, Jules spent time reporting for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Southern Oregon. Her favorite beats to cover are business, economic development and urban planning.


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