Group aims to improve downtown Friendswood

Group aims to improve downtown Friendswood Friendswood has established a standardized style of brick pavers, light poles and benches to be installed downtown.[/caption]

What began as an eight-member steering committee has transformed into the Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association, an organization focused on improving the city’s downtown district.

The group incorporated in late August to address the appearance and economic landscape of downtown Friendswood, which stretches about a mile down South Friendswood Drive from Edgewood Drive to Stevenson Park, according to FDFA President Brett Banfield.

“The downtown area is kind of the calling card for your city,” Banfield said. “It [currently] doesn’t represent Friendswood very well. It’s kind of a community pride thing, but there’s also some very strong economic reasons why we need to fix up our downtown.”

Banfield said about 17 acres of vacant land remains in downtown Friendswood, contributing about $20,000 in property tax revenue per year. With such little amount of land left in the district, attracting more business to the area is crucial for the tax base as the city approaches build-out, he said.

“I found it amazing that in a city of 40,000 people our downtown area is generating so little for our community,” Banfield said. “I think it’s vitally important that we start making downtown an economic engine for the city.”

Friendswood City Council held a work session Nov. 2 to discuss land use and building requirements in the downtown district, which include standardized brick pavers, light poles and benches. These features will be installed in front of City Hall, Fire Station No. 1 and Stevenson Park in the first quarter of 2016, Banfield said.

FDFA—which has several subcommittees, including business recruitment and project enhancement—hopes to have a work session with council in January or February to discuss further ideas to beautify the area and spur economic development.

Banfield, whose father was involved in a similar Friendswood organization in the early 2000s called the Main Street Task Force, said part of his passion for revitalizing downtown came from a business interaction 14 years ago with a lender who pictured the district as a low-income area because of its appearance.

“That’s when it really hit us,” he said. “It was an outside perspective. Someone [was] seeing downtown Friendswood for the first time, and that’s the impression they got.”

Friendswood is one of 130 cities in Texas that has a group attempting to improve its downtown area, according to Banfield. He said he used ideas from similar organizations to help build support for FDFA.

“It’s a really big movement right now,” Banfield said. “I think people are yearning to have that true sense of place and a true gathering place where they can mingle and get a cup of coffee or a cold beer within their own community.”