Anyone who has ever built anything from the ground up knows that nothing simply “falls into place.” Long-term commitment takes time, skill, patience, planning, and a contagious kind of enthusiasm and tenacity. When outside observers start commenting that “things are falling into place,” insiders can give each other a wink and a smile, knowing that their persistence has turned the invisible Big Idea into a Tangible that other people can see, too. At that moment, when the world declares that things are falling into place, the only next step is to do more, bigger and better.
2016-17: A year in review
While “Falling into Place” might not have been the title of the recent Downtown Arlington Management Corporation Annual Meeting, it certainly describes the mood. Thanks to the commitment of people like Lana Wolff — recognized at the event with the DAMC-Texas Trust Dream Builder award — Big Ideas are becoming Tangible in Downtown Arlington.
Highlights from 2016-17 include:
- Placemaking was enhanced by a growing number of indoor and outdoor public art pieces
- Urban Union, Free Play Arcade, Sugar Bee Sweets, Namoo Korean Bowl and On Tap opened to rave reviews
- UT Arlington launched a bike sharing program
- Downtown Arlington is a great fit for the creative class, including PicturePlane design studios
- Buzz continues to grow about Downtown’s craft beer scene
- Premier events like Light Up Arlington attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Downtown annually
- The State of Texas named Downtown Arlington an official Cultural District
There’s a highly visible “tell” that Downtown Arlington is experiencing an economic boom: cranes. Heavy construction vehicles have become regular fixtures along main arteries like Center St. and Cooper St. as several major Downtown developments take shape, including 101 Center, the new Downtown Library, the UT Arlington SEIR Building and the West Campus expansion project.
Additionally, new business ventures are revitalizing outdated buildings with an eclectic mix of retail, restaurant and coworking spaces, including CenterSpace Coworking, Truth Vinyl, Lester’s, Urban Alchemy Coffee + Wine Bar and The Craft Yard. And there’s more to come.
Aldo Fritz, DAMC’s new President and CEO, couldn’t be happier. “Cranes in the skyline are powerful indicators of public and private development activity, investment and optimism. If you’re an entrepreneur looking to move to or expand in North Texas, it’s a great time to invest in Downtown Arlington.”
Earlier this year, the DAMC Board of Directors adopted a revised Strategic Action Plan that sets in motion the next Big Ideas. Over the next five years, the Board identified six “critical need” items for the organization and for Downtown Arlington:
- Increase revenues to expand programs and services
- Renew the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone
- Complete the transformation of Abram Street from pass-through to placemaker
- Develop a Downtown master plan
- Improve data and marketing information
- Establish an innovation district
Activating the plan
“The Strategic Action Plan adopted by the DAMC Board of Directors is a bright light that not only illuminates but focuses the organization,” said Fritz. Together with the Board, Fritz has already begun identifying ways to begin addressing the needs outlined in the Strategic Action Plan while building on the natural assets within the Downtown district.
“DAMC will amplify its position as a major driver of development in Downtown while creating cohesion and partnerships between the district, developers, the City and other stakeholders,” said Fritz. “For example, we must assert our role as the center of knowledge for market data related to Downtown Arlington including occupancy rates, growth projections, commercial development activity, and more. We want to make it easy for investors to make the decision to invest in Downtown and bring the kinds of projects that will enhance and complement the existing businesses, cultural assets, public gathering spaces, UTA and residential communities.”
Increasing visibility and enhancing connectivity – even during construction – are two more ways to enhance placemaking. “During the two-year period that Abram Street will be under redevelopment,” said Fritz, “DAMC will work diligently to support those business located along the construction zone while we seek even more opportunities for improving pedestrian and bike mobility.”
“We’ll also find new ways to leverage and celebrate the Cultural District designation granted to Downtown by the State of Texas,” he continued. “We want our neighbors from across the street and visitors from around the world to discover and return to Downtown Arlington. Music, art, theatre, film… these are the kinds of activities that draw people back again and again.”
Things are really falling into place in Downtown Arlington. Now, let’s get to work.