TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The future of downtown Tyler is $300,000 closer to finally being realized.
A portion of downtown Spring Avenue has been fenced off since last February. Fire ripped through five historic downtown Tyler buildings, February 2.
"There's nothing uglier than a fence going all the way out in the street," said Ralph Mason, manager of the Levine's clothing store.
Mason said it was the toughest year and a half he saw in his 30 years in retail.
"We were ecstatic when [we] heard that this was a possibility," he said.
Mason's immediate neighbor to the north was one of five buildings gutted by last February's devastating fire. The buildings were donated by the Genecov Group to Smith County, last May.
Monday, signs of progress came in the form of a signed check. Brookshire's donated $300,000 to Smith County to move forward with demolition of the site, preservation, lighting and landscaping--all the things necessary to open the space to the public, explained Joel Baker, county judge.
Baker said the county has been in talks with Brookshire's since last Fall. The plans have already been drafted for an open courtyard and, possibly, future court facilities which will utilize the original facades of the buildings.
"The only thing we could have done, initially, is to tear the buildings down," said Baker. "This is a much better end result."
Brad Brookshire, Brookshire Grocery's chairman of the board, said the board voted earlier this month, and the decision was unanimous.
"This is the location of our first, Brookshire food store," he said. His grandparents opened the original store on the square in 1928.
It is possible one of the burned out addresses could also see a downtown Brookshire's rebirth.
"It'd be a lease with the county," explained Brookshire. "We think it would be significant for us to come back in to our roots. This is where we started."
The county said work on the site could start within the next few weeks.
Brookshire's has been surveying downtown businesses and employees for the past couple of weeks to determine if a downtown store and deli would be feasible and viable. The board tells us it expects to make an announcement on the potential downtown store within the next few months.