Tyler City Council To Buy Four Buildings Downtown; Visitor, Art Center To Be Opened

At a news conference held on July 23, 2008, the Tyler City Council announced plans for the Main Street downtown development program to become a City department and current Heart of Tyler Main Street Program Director Beverly Abell to be named department director effective Oct. 2008, following adoption of an agreement at the Aug. 13 City Council Meeting.

Heart of Tyler will maintain its status as a private 501©3 non-profit organization and will continue its work toward downtown revitalization while working in partnership with the City.

The plan calls for the newly created Department to be housed in office space located in downtown Tyler.  The space will also be the home of a downtown visitors' center as well as an arts center that will showcase local artists.

"This is an important step toward realizing the Tyler 21 vision to make downtown Tyler a 'Destination Downtown' for the entire region," said Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass.  "As a City department, HoT will have the resources and support needed to contribute to the renaissance of downtown Tyler."

To house the new department, the City of Tyler has entered into a 10-year lease/purchase agreement on a 3,330 square foot office space located at 110 W. Erwin.  The lease is contingent upon adoption of the agreement with HoT.  The City will be responsible for remodeling the building into office space, a downtown visitor's center as well as an arts center.  Renovations on the new facility are expected to commence on Nov. 1 with an anticipated move in date of March 1, 2009.

The City will continue to contract with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to maintain the visitors' center on North Broadway in the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce offices.  The new visitors' center will focus primarily on downtown while the CVB center will continue its mission to provide visitor information for the entire City and larger region.

The arts center will be managed by the Department and will showcase the works of local artists and will be open to the public.

"The creation of the arts center is part of the foundation the City is building to make Tyler a hub for arts and culture in East Texas," said City Council Member Chris Simons.  "Paired with the purchase and renovation of the former Liberty Theatre, we are establishing the critical mass that will bring this dream to fruition."

As part of the transition of the Main Street Program to the City, the independent non-profit HoT, Inc. will remain active to complement the efforts of the City's Main Street Department.  HoT, Inc. will also serve as an advisory board to the City regarding Main Street Program activities.  Additionally, as part of its agreement with the City, HoT, Inc. will raise and contribute $40,000 annually to the City in support of the operation of the downtown development office. Heart of Tyler will also conduct its own fund raising efforts, and continue to support the Festival on the Square and other promotional events through volunteer involvement.

"By transitioning the Main Street program into the City - but maintaining HoT, Inc. - we maximize the potential for success," said Mark Priestner, current HoT, Inc. Board president.  "We see this as a strategic decision that is in the best interest of the community."

During the Tyler 21 planning process, revitalization of downtown Tyler was identified as a key priority. Chapter Four of the Plan outlines 40 action items aimed at transforming the downtown into a destination point that will draw tourism, residents and spur economic growth.  Three of these action items include:

  • Create a public-private partnership or development corporation to lead the revitalization of downtown;
  • Hire staff or contract for assistance to coordinate city government and private sector downtown revitalization activity; and,
  • Establish a downtown visitors' center/community arts center.

"The entire City Council is committed to fulfilling the vision of the Tyler 21 Plan," said City Council Member Donald Sanders.  "The Plan is the voice of the people, and we, as elected officials, take the responsibility for implementing it seriously."