The various guidelines in play in Main Street Kilgore dominated a discussion by the organization's advisory board Thursday, a debate on how best to maintain a healthy retail mix and how to proceed with the creation of an entertainment district to fuel the city's nightlife.
Property rights was a major element of both topics as the board members tried to find solutions that would balance the need for diversity and progress with building owners' and developers' needs.
Some cities develop restrictive guidelines to curtail certain building uses, like office leasing in retail-focused areas, Kilgore Main Street Manager Clara Chaffin said. Others take a laissez-faire approach or use education and incentives to encourage the growth of retail, restaurants and other downtownfriendly businesses.
"I think it's nice to educate the building owners," said board member and building owner Susie Merritt. "Because I've been involved I know, but a lot of people don't think about it. I don't think you should restrict it, because as a building owner I've found out that sometimes you don't have a choice.
"Sometimes it's so difficult to rent a building at all. But, we like to go with retail when we can. It gives us more downtown for the public to come to. I don't think you can say, 'You can't rent to...'"
"There are some towns that say that," Chaffin said. Granted, "Most of those places that I've come across are bigger towns than we are."
Better to consider an incentive for building owners who decide to rent to certain types of encouraged businesses, Dr. Gerald Spradlin said, if the city wants to achieve a certain mixed-use objective.
"I don't think any kind of regulation telling people what they can and cannot lease to is going to really go over in Kilgore."
Board member Lynda David, a downtown business owner, said she likes the idea of educating building owners on the benefits of renting to certain tenants and also of incentivizing them.
"It might make it a little easier to wait a little bit and not jump to the first office that's there," Merritt agreed.
There are no incentive options in discussion at the moment, Chaffin said, but they can be developed.
"It's really up to the city. Like, a tax savings," she suggested.
"I like the vision," advisory board member and council representative Sherry Bustin said. "That's more pro-growth oriented."
"The city has a vested interest in the health of downtown," Stanglin said. "I think they recognize that."
On a similar note, there have been numerous discussions recently about establishing an Entertainment
District downtown, Chaffin said, an extension to the restrictions and regulations present in the Main Street Overlay District.
The overlay district is a rectangle bounded by Commerce Street and Martin Street on its long sides, capped by Kay Street and Danville. The Central Business District includes storefronts along Main Street from Commerce to Martin and Kilgore Street from South Street to Sabine.
"It just covers the two streets where we see the most businesses downtown, the highest occupancy rates," Chaffin explained. Likewise, an events corridor follows Commerce from Main Street as far as Kay or Lantrip. Future plans there could include a permanent speaker system, a movable stage or other improvements. "We can do a lot with that events corridor if we want to."
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