Downtown Tyler redesign plans call for traffic circles, expanded sidewalks, plenty of greenspace
Tyler & Smith County leaders review downtown redesign plans
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Design plans for the downtown Tyler square were reviewed Wednesday in a joint meeting between the Smith County Commissioners Court and Tyler City Council.
“As part of the revitalization efforts in downtown Tyler, the City of Tyler sought to formulate a cohesive direction for the future layout of downtown’s public areas, sidewalks, and thoroughfares in partnership with the new Smith County Courthouse,” said a city spokesperson.
A joint meeting was necessary considering the county owns the land on the square, while the city owns the streets and right-of-way.
Design concepts were presented by Fitzpatrick Architects and revealed a major transformation to the downtown layout.
Among the highlights:
- Two traffic circles recommended to keep traffic moving. One at Broadway Avenue and Ferguson Street and another at Broadway at Erwin Street
- Reducing Broadway Ave. to two lanes
- Expanding sidewalks to improve pedestrian safety and accommodate outdoor dining
- Greenspace including shade structures and area for food trucks
- One continuous park from the east to west side
- Amphitheater-style fold on northwest side of square
“It’s about slowing things down,” Mayor Don Warren said. “I’m talking about connectivity, walking, families, picnics. It’s about downtown restaurants, dining on the square, dining on the sidewalks. It’s about taking a deep breath and enjoying the environment.”
Members of city council and the commissioners court voted unanimously to accept the concept plan presented and move forward in the process.
A number of decisions must still be made by both the city and the county. Among them, considering closing a part of Spring Street, improvements to Fannin Avenue, and a maintenance agreement to determine who will be responsible for the various parts of the square. A similar agreement would need to be reached concerning the rental of downtown space.
Funds for improvements to the east side of the square are already included in Smith County’s voter-approved bond package. Funds to cover west-side improvements have also been set aside by the city from the American Rescue Plan Act, according to Mayor Warren. However, he said the city may need to consider half-cent sales tax funds or other revenue streams to cover future phases if the ARPA funds are insufficient.
“As long as I’m mayor, we’re not going to be going to the voters to raise taxes to pay for this,” Warren said.
Work on the new Smith County parking garage is set to begin in October and is expected to take a full year. Once completed, the garage will offer 550 new parking spaces for downtown commuters. Work on the new courthouse is expected to begin in the fall of 2024 and is estimated to take about two years. Construction on the west side redesign of downtown is expected to begin around the same time as courthouse construction, according to architect Brandy Ziegler.
Ziegler said they’re working on plans to help limit the impacts on downtown tenants, and pointed out the county’s new parking garage will help considering its completion date.
“There are a lot of options for looking at making this as painless as possible for the businesses downtown during this project,” she said.
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