The Economic Development Pulse October 2015 - Page 10

A new direction for Downtown Odessa

Odessa’s story began when the Texas & Pacific Railroad headed west from Fort Worth in the early 1800’s. As the railroad tracks were expanded into West Texas, Odessa became known as a market center for wheat and the small town was born in 1886. Like so many other cities around the nation, Odessa’s roots were planted in downtown. Today, the city is concentrating its efforts on revitalizing Downtown Odessa as part of a large-scale and multi-phase master plan.

Why downtown? The city is aiming to capture and maintain its small-town nostalgia while capitalizing on the city’s rapid growth from the recent uptick in oil drilling and constant oil production. “Preserving Downtown Odessa’s rich history and revitalizing the area has always been a goal for many of our residents and the city,” said Michael Marrero, city of Odessa deputy city manager.

In October 2014, the city absorbed Downtown Odessa, Inc., formerly Main Street Odessa, a nonprofit dedicated to the revitalization of Downtown Odessa. The city and the nonprofit partnership took a new direction toward economic development for the area by kick-starting its plans for a hotel and convention center in downtown and crafting attractive incentive packages for multi-family developers, restaurants and retail development.

Downtown Odessa, Inc. Director Gloria Hernandez joined the City of Odessa in January 2015 to assist the city in its mission to create a vibrant downtown. Downtown Odessa, Inc. is focused on creating more community events to bring residents and visitors downtown, as well as assisting the city in strategic economic development.

“Downtown Odessa really is the heart of the city,” Hernandez said. “An estimated 20,000 people live just south of downtown, between Interstate 20, which is just three minutes away. We have about another 30,000 people living in West Odessa, in addition to an estimated 8,000 employees that come to work downtown, all who need more dining and retail options.”

Downtown Odessa maintains the hustle-and-bustle of any vibrant downtown. The 5th Street Corridor connects its growing medical districts – Medical Center Health System to Odessa Regional Medical Center. More than 17,000 vehicles pass through the heart of Downtown Odessa daily, ranking it among the highly traveled roadways in the city, according to a 2013 Texas Department of Transportation traffic study.

“Downtown Odessa works for our young professionals, medical staff, lawyers and residents who are looking for the live, work and play atmosphere,” Hernandez said.

The city’s planned hotel and convention center with dining in the heart of downtown, on Texas Avenue, would be a catalyst for downtown economic development. In the city’s master plan, apartments and lofts in downtown are simultaneously being recruited, in addition to dining and retail options.

Downtown Odessa, Inc., as a nonprofit, has hired Opportunity Strategies, a strategic planning firm, to assist the nonprofit and board in its new direction and partnership with the city. The three-year strategic plan will provide the nonprofit with five to seven goals that can be accomplished in the efforts to revitalize downtown. The plan is expected to be ready before the end of the year.

Downtown Odessa, Inc. and the City of Odessa issued a Request for Proposal for an urban planner on September 23, 2015. The urban planner is tasked with implementing design standards, as well as development of a streetscape design, opportunities and creation of downtown districts, such as entertainment, arts, urban living and restaurant and retail.

“We recognize that our growing population is seeking more shopping, dining and entertainment,” Marrero said. “Revitalizing downtown will provide those options and continue to grow our sales tax while generating a new tax base for the city,” Marrero said.

For more information, call 432-335-4682 or visit www.odessa-tx.gov/downtownodessa

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Community

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The Road to Revitalization

Downtown Odessa, Inc.