A new marketing plan for future growth and development in Downtown Belton was presented to local business and community leaders, state and local elected leaders, and appointed officials, during an Imagine Belton reception at the Cathedral Oaks Event Center in Belton on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Cynthia Hernandez, Belton EDC Executive Director, moderated a panel consisting of City of Belton Mayor Wayne Carpenter, Belton City Manager Sam Listi; Travis Crow, Principal of Covey Planning and Landscape Architecture; and Joe Shepperd, President of Belton EDC.
The Imagine Belton Plan was presented in a conversation and discussion format among the panelists with a question-and-answer session at the end.
Imagine Belton serves as a guide for future growth and development in Downtown. The Genesis for Imagine Belton is a path forward, while preserving the past for downtown Belton. An advisory group of business leaders and residents were selected to guide the planning process for investment into the core of the Belton Community.
The vision for Downtown Belton is to increase activity levels and housing opportunities within downtown by using public/private partners. Improving connections into downtown Belton includes enhancing the core of downtown as an attractive and desirable development along key corridors. Utilization of public/private partnerships improves an expanded quality of life to branding a footprint within the downtown.
The Belton EDC realized that with the increase of businesses wanting to locate in downtown, at some point, they would run out of downtown inventory.
Hernandez said that the EDC was feeling out of their comfort zone of industry, distribution, warehousing, manufacturing and job creation.
“Where do we direct people when the inventory isn’t there anymore? How do we expand the borders of downtown?” Hernandez said.
The Belton EDC and Covey Planning and Landscaping Agriculture worked together on a thorough analysis to develop a plan that gradually matured with more detail. Attracting more investors and businesses into the downtown area was needed.
Travis Crow, a Principal with Covey Planning, explained a concept which separates downtown into six sub-districts. The idea of using sub-districts are just a guide for the plan. Nothing is set in stone. A proposal to create downtown into Central Downtown, South Main, The Fields, North Sixth, West Second, and University Heights, will border downtown. Sub-districts offer a guide for investments, improved connections to Belton’s Downton, and identifies ways to better utilize the characteristics of Belton.
South Main will be a sub-district, entering from I-35, and using Main Street as the spine of the sub-district.
“Here we see a roadway that has no sense of place. It’s your entry into downtown. It could be Anywhere USA, really—it could be anywhere,” Crow said. Main Street was identified as needing improvements. As a possible catalyst project, the city could initiate a partnership with investors. Adding sidewalks, streetscaping, ornamental lighting, beautification, and improving its appeal through investments, would turn South Main into a key arrival into downtown.
“These beautification type elements can bring up the values of the properties as well,” Crow added.
Future development in the six identified sub-districts within Belton will use the Imagine Belton marketing plan which is intended to guide investment in its core. Each sub-district will have its own unique and key projects, land use recommendations, which are intended for a combination of mixed-use, apartments, townhomes, and single-family attached houses.
Workable strategies will require partnerships between vested interests to grow and support the downtown. Public-private partnerships between public entities and private business are used to find solutions to accomplish a desired outcome. Partnerships include opportunities for redevelopment and infill within the plan area.
The Central Downtown sub-district is what most people think of when referencing Downtown Belton. The area is home to a variety of businesses, government agencies, and dining and shopping. Other sub-districts are made up of Belton ISD properties, churches, businesses and residential homes. Some of the districts have large tracts of underdeveloped or undervalued property. The North Sixth district is a residential neighborhood that includes both stately and historically significant structures, small single-family homes, and a few smaller apartments. Residential, park space, and public buildings define the West Second subdistrict that share the Nolan Creek and Nolan Creek Trail eastern boundary.
Joe Shepperd, President of Belton EDC, said there are big lots with a lot of infill opportunities along Main Street, Penelope Street, and Pearl Street.
“There’s a lot of business opportunities. The business environment is good,” Shepperd said.
Sam Listi, City Manager, said the way to reinvest in the things that are already here, you maximize the opportunity. The City of Belton and the Bell County Commissioners Court have approved the plan. Work is being done to establish guidelines for each sub-district.
“What we, from the city standpoint and the EDC, would like to say is don’t wait for that. We are ready right now and have the tools in place,” Listi said.
Mayor Wayne Carpenter remembers the days when the downtown was dormant. That’s not what we want.
“I don’t want a nice Downtown Belton. I want a great Downtown Belton,” Carpenter said. “The pieces are in place, we can do it,” he said.
Mayor Carpenter and Sam Listi thanked Cynthia Hernandez, Travis Crow, and Joe Shepperd, for doing a terrific job of bringing a vision, a picture of what the opportunities are. There are some tremendous opportunities resulting from this vision, they said.
“The plan as presented to investors, businesses, partnerships, and elected officials was adopted because everyone can see what happens when we work closer with each other,” Carpenter said.