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Victoria Hiring Urban Planner for Downtown Master Plan

Feature Photo (above): Deleon Plaza in the historic district of downtown Victoria. Image: Google Streets.

Posted 7-2-2020

by Adolfo Pesquera

Victoria (Victoria County) — Staff at the city of Victoria anticipate negotiating a contract next week to bring on a consultant that will be tasked with producing a Downtown Master Plan.

The selected firm will be required to conduct meetings and community events with officials and citizen groups; review past efforts and existing relevant programs; and offer recommendations on policy direction, capital improvements, and funding strategies.

The final document shall be a guide for how to make physical improvements to the downtown area that would enhance its vibrancy whil preserving its historic character. Prior studies related to traffic, parks and trails, and economic development shall help inform the scope of the Downtown Master Plan.

Corner view of part of the courtyard at City Hall, with the spires of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the background. Image: Google Streets.

Areas that have been cited for consideration include:

  • Increase residential living in the downtown area, including loft apartments or re-purposing existing facilities, such as the Convent.
  • Diversifying business, restaurant and entertainment choices in downtown Victoria.
  • Address any parking issues in downtown, particularly relative to pedestrian safety while balancing with the automotive traffic environment of Main Street.
  • Enhancement of the street realm to a high-quality pedestrian environment that is a safe and inviting place for people to walk, bike, shop, and eat or drink.
  • Enhancing parks, plazas, and other public gathering places to create safe and inviting places for people to gather, relax and play.
  • Strongly facilitating infill development and redevelopment in downtown Victoria.
  • Addressing market pressures to transition historically residential property to other uses through adaptive reuse.
  • Pedestrian connections from Downtown Business District to the surrounding historic neighborhoods and Riverside Park.
  • Creation of policies/codes that support downtown enhancement by taking consideration of alternative regulatory mechanisms to proactively address development issues.
  • Preserving and protecting Victoria’s rich heritage.
  • Encouraging the preservation and enhancement of Victoria’s unique character among citizens and private landowners.
  • Providing adequate resources to guide and support design review of historic properties.
  • Modifying incompatible development regulations to efficiently achieve downtown goals.
  • Research and possibly update the Downtown boundary map and the Main Street map.

The study area includes the original 20-block downtown historic district and an extended commercial area referred to as the Main Street Boundary. The area is generally bounded by U.S. Highway 59 Business to the west and north, William Street to the east, and East Convent Street to the south.

The study area for the Downtown Master Plan.

Most of the commercial buildings in the downtown historic district were constructed between 1880 and 1939. The center of the study area is anchored by Deleon Plaza, host to many festivals and city events.

Structures that require special consideration include City Hall, Victoria Municipal Court, and the Public Library, as all are facing pressure to expand because of population growth and demand for services.

Other municipal divisions, located at the 700 Main Center, include Utilities, Information Technology, Public Information Office, Development Services, Public Works Administration, Finance and Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Victoria Chamber of Commerce, the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Main Street Program are currently seeking a space on Main Street to share an office and Visitors Center.

Nazareth Academy Catholic School, owned and operated by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, is within the study area. Several religious buildings & congregations are located in the study area. The Convent, also owned by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, recently underwent a Feasibility Study with the Texas Historical Commission and is on the market.

The city budgeted $200,000 for this consultant’s services. A Request for Qualifications was issued June 8 and responses were due June 30. Staff is expected to makes its recommendation of award to City Council on July 21.

This effort is listed in VBX as Project ID 2020-4Ef1.


adolfo@virtualbx.com

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About the Author:

Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.

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