Humble city officials are embarking on a downtown reimagining program in hopes of attracting more businesses and visitors to the area following the completion of an assessment in June.

In August, city officials allocated an initial $50,100 from the fiscal year 2023-24 budget to fund the first of its downtown projects. The allotment is just the first in a series of investments city officials plan to make in its downtown area.

“[Business owners] are seeing downtown, and hopefully, maybe it sparks some imagination within some of them to say, ‘Hey, maybe this is where I could be,’” City Manager Jason Stuebe said.

Two-minute impact

Stuebe said considerations for downtown have been brought up off and on since 2014, but when the council officially decided to begin making progress on a program to revitalize downtown, the coronavirus pandemic brought it to a halt. In November 2022, the city finally brought the program up for consideration and contracted with the Texas Downtown Association to put together a study and plan that would create a new look for downtown Humble.

“We’re very service-heavy and professional service-heavy in downtown right now, and everybody knows what the secret sauce is: food, beverage and entertainment,” Stuebe said. “You’ve got to give people a reason to come down there.”

Stuebe said the city’s plan is to address the suggestions outlined in the downtown assessment in small pieces, which will help conserve budget funds and prevent large expenditures upfront. The assessment compared a number of downtown areas across the state and provided recommendations to implement locally.

Over the next year, Stuebe said the city’s main focus will be enhancing the appearance of downtown Humble through a variety of initiatives, including:Stuebe noted the projects are designed to increase flow to downtown by expanding the number and types of events held in the area, as well as creating a vibrant and appealing destination for residents and visitors.

Stephanie Wiggins, chief economic development officer for Partnership Lake Houston, is also leading a new merchant group of downtown business owners who meet regularly to discuss potential improvement projects to present to Humble City Council.

Humble Civic Center Director Jennifer Wooden said the city is also launching new social media pages and a website to promote tourism.

“We’ve never told our own story, and so we have decided if we’re not dictating the story, then we’re at someone else’s mercy,” Wooden said. “We launched the Visit Humble social media about six months ago, but we are in design for the Visit Humble website.”

The details

Since the release of the study in June, business owners have been working to create a compelling modern take on the area in conjunction with city officials through the city merchants group.

The overarching vision for Humble’s downtown scene is to provide a draw for residents and other potential consumers outside of holiday events such as the annual Christmas parade and Music on Main, Wooden said. As part of this effort, city officials are looking at Main Street redesigns and new, specially designed street signs for downtown.

According to the downtown assessment, the city has enough parking available but could use additional flow and safety measures to make it easier for people to move around the area without having to drive consistently.

To help break up the large number of professional businesses downtown, Stuebe said the city is looking at sponsoring pop-up shops for retailers and boutiques that provide business owners a low-cost option to launch a business within the downtown Humble area.

What they're saying

"The focus right now is going to be on doing some of those low-hanging fruit items," Stuebe said. "We've got to look into it a little bit more to see what we can afford now, see what needs to be pushed off to next year."

“We do realize that we want to be a comfortable place for people who live here," Wooden said. "We want to be a place where people want to come to live, play and work. So that is the goal: to tell the story of local place."

What's next

Budgeting for the downtown reimagining initiative will be handled on a yearly basis, Stuebe said. However, some projects will span budget cycles, which will allow the city to track spending on the projects without the need to seek outside funding through bonds or other debt.

One suggestion outlined in the downtown assessment was the relocation of Humble City Hall. However, Stuebe said the city is not currently looking at moving City Hall due to the associated costs. While a move could be possible in the future, Stuebe said current city funding does not allow for the project to be scheduled.

While only $50,100 was allocated out of the city’s FY 2023-24 budget, Stuebe noted additional funding for more downtown projects will be allotted during future budget workshops and as needed.