The Priority of Downtown Redevelopment

For Immediate Release 
 
The Priority of Downtown Redevelopment
 
[Marshall, Texas, March 5, 2020] City Manager Mark Rohr issued the following statement regarding the Downtown Redevelopment plan on March 4, 2020. 

“The citizen-driven Mobilize Marshall (MM) Plan made downtown redevelopment a priority, which in turn was supported by the City Commission, as one of their highest-ranked projects moving forward. More specifically, making downtown a destination location was a key component of the envisioning process.

Given that direction, the administration developed a plan that included a vision to transform the current appearance of the downtown to achieve the MM goals and to create interest in renewed investment and developing attractions to draw people to downtown Marshall. This could not be achieved by presenting the downtown in the current condition it is in. We can’t hope for things to improve, but have to change current circumstances, so that they do change. One thing I am sure of, that without the city casting a vision and financial commitment, Marshall’s downtown area will eventually go from an asset to a liability.

On November 21st, The City of Marshall advanced a visionary plan that was requested as part of the MM process and since that time we have been evaluating responses to the plan in hopes of transforming the downtown. We realized in doing so, that we would receive feedback and that we would need to partner with various entities in order for any plan to advance. It was never the city’s intent to engage in a fight with any entity on the overall plan or any aspect therein. We were merely trying to advance a concept to improve the downtown for the better.

The City has a history of significant participation in similar partnerships, in the courthouse area, having contributed to the refurbishment of the exterior of the building in the 1997-1999 era. In addition, the city committed over 1.3 million dollars to the courthouse grounds and square improvements in 2006. 

Another factor in this scenario is that Harrison County sued the city in the early 1950’s regarding the city’s plan for installing parking meters in that area of the city. In November of 1952, the Ft. Worth Court of Appeals ruled that the city had “control” over this area of Marshall. The court did not weigh in on the ownership issue as part of its decision. Perhaps a reason for that, is that no one knew at that point and still didn’t until the recent redevelopment plan was presented. It is also important to note; the court did acknowledge that the square had historically been used for “public gatherings.” In addition, an easement was granted by the county to the Texas State Historical Commission in 2001, but staff can find no evidence of the city signing said easement. In addition, according to a state representative, there was no property description for that easement in the paperwork.

I met with Judge Sims a second time recently to review the proposed plan, as well as some of the factors listed earlier in this memo. He indicated the County’s recent research revealed that the County owned thearea in question. Thus the confusion related to the area involving the square. The county owns it, but the city “controls” it.  We discussed any opportunities available to us to determine a path forward on the renovation of the downtown area through amutuallyagreeable compromise. Part of this compromise could consist of utilizing removable bollards that would allow Bolivar Street to remain open, except during times of festivals and special events. After conferring with the remaining commissioners, Judge Sims indicated they would be receptive to determining the specifics of the new arrangement and we plan to have those talks in the near future. We appreciate the open attitude and spirit of compromise demonstrated by Harrison County officials to work towards the betterment of the downtown area.

Despite the complicated nature of the above discussions, the City of Marshall is still advancing aspects of the project as presented on November 21st.The engineering work for the streetscaping work to be performed on the 100 block of East Houston is advancing and citizens should see that portion of the project begin this year.  In addition, the first portion of the recreational trail consisting of the Johnson St. sidewalk improvements should begin this summer in conjunction with the state. Other aspects of the plan will bethesubject of further discussions and will have to “catch up” with the efforts in 2020, as the progress of those talks allow.”
 

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