Filling the role vacated by Frank Robinson, who retired in January, Michael Corbett is Conroe’s new downtown manager and will oversee issues related to downtown, such as economic development, programming and capital improvements.

Can you speak to your work background?

After college, I started working with The Woodlands Township in their parks and recreation department. I did a handful of different things, had a few different jobs with them, but mostly focused on natural space development, community programming, special events and then facility management.

What is everything you’ll oversee as downtown manager?

Primarily, the job is to promote downtown Conroe. It’s a special, special place. Really, there’s a lot of things involved with that, but I’ll be focused on economic development, special programs, be involved with a lot of infrastructure improvements, cultural arts, marketing, promotion. And then a lot of it will just be building relationships with our stakeholders, local businesses—working with them to make sure they’re satisfied and happy and thriving.

What is the status of the Main Street Advisory Board and its strategic plan?

I’ve gotten to meet all of them and they are a fantastic bunch of people. It’s all volunteer—they’re serving on this board because they care about downtown Conroe. Their goals are in progress. A lot of it is focused on parking, wayfinding, promotion, infrastructure improvements. So I’m still getting settled in and getting my finger on the pulse of everything that’s going on, but from what I can tell, it’s a really special and productive group.

Do you expect any big things to start happening when it comes to what that group is doing over the next year or so?

It’s still a pretty new program for the city. We haven’t been doing it that long since we most recently got the designation [in 2022]. So everyone is really, really motivated and everyone has really, really good ideas. And I know the city of Conroe is really supportive and really wants to see downtown Conroe thrive. So I wouldn't be surprised if we’ve got some big stuff coming up.

Can you speak to where the nonprofit Conroe Live is? I understand one of the goals is to get it re-established?

My understanding is they’ve got their board; they’re back in action. So they’re doing regular meetings again with the goal of being a funding mechanism for a lot of really cool projects downtown.

What will your role be in terms of facilitating relationships with private developers?

That will be a big part of my position and what I will be doing. To be honest, that’s still something I’m still learning about. I know what the idea is—I’ll be able to help promote downtown as a destination, as a place you want to be, a place that’s open for business and ready for folks to come in. I know we’ve got goals for more retail, more residential spots downtown, so helping guide that is going to be one of my responsibilities.

Is one of the goals for downtown attracting private developers to do projects down here?

Sure. That’s always an option that we will explore and are interested in.

Are there projects you’re getting up to speed on and expect to work on throughout the next year or so?

So a big thing that’s going on right now is the alleyway improvement project, which is a ton of work but it’s going to be amazing. They are burying all of the utilities and really cleaning it up, with the idea that it’s just much more pedestrian-friendly, less of an eyesore. I think that will make a big difference, so that is the biggest project that is ongoing right now, other than some private developments coming down the pipe too.

Are there other projects in discussion for happening downtown?

That’s the big stuff right now. We definitely have some plans to improve our wayfinding signage downtown. That’s one of our goals. We’re exploring options with our art benches—looking into what we can do for that program, to help that out too. Those are some little things, but the alleyway project is the big thing that is ongoing.

As downtown manager, what challenges do you see the downtown area facing and what are your goals?

In my short time here, I’ve been really impressed with how happy and upbeat and excited the people are that I talk to about downtown. So I know there is a lot of motivation for growth. But that doesn't mean there won’t be growing pains either. When you develop new things or take on capital projects, that means construction; that means we have to get creative with trash, traffic, parking, things like that. That’s always going to be a challenge during a period of growth that I can see. But my feeling now is that folks are excited about it, and they’re onboard with the goals. So I’m not too worried about that.

What do you hope the downtown area will look like, and what are you going to try and do as downtown manager?

To me, I think Conroe is just such a special, special place. Communitywide, everyone sees the growth behind it. And I feel like downtown is the heart of the community. To me, what I think is important is [that] we’re preparing for that growth, we are stepping into it and promoting downtown Conroe without losing the things that make Conroe authentic and not losing sight of the history and the culture that is so rich here already and has been. Finding a way to highlight that and really show that off to everyone, to the world, while also bringing in new things, updates, making this space one that really thrives, where the businesses complement each other, that people want to come to downtown Conroe to shop, to eat or just to hang out and see what happens—that’s all things that I think would be amazing for the city, for downtown.