DOWNTOWN DEBATE: Smith County officials weigh in on revitalization project

Local News

TYLER, Texas (KETK)- Smith county leaders say they want to bring more people downtown, not to jail, but to do more business. Now, they’re hoping a grant will help them get there.

Downtown Tyler could be getting a makeover, with city officials doing everything they can to breathe new life into the area.

“I’m fully committed to supporting the city of Tyler efforts for revitalization efforts downtown and for their economic development efforts,” said Judge Nathaniel Moran to the Commissioner’s Court.

In Tuesday’s commissioner court meeting, Judge Moran made his opinion known, expressing his support for the project in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In the letter Judge Moran writes, “the goal of this investment is to draw interest back into Downtown Tyler, benefiting the surrounding districts by spreading the economic wealth and job creation throughout the city.”

The project includes safe transportation for bicyclists, pedestrians, buses, and vehicles. It also mentions updating existing streets, parks, plaza’s, and open areas.

With talk about updating the area, KETK took a trip downtown to see what the public thinks.

“I think it’s great, anything we can do to bring people back downtown to revitalize it. You see other communities putting resources towards it, I think it’s high time that Tyler does the same,” said Brandon Davidson, a Tyler resident.

Davidson isn’t the only one with a positive outlook on the project.

“I love downtown, I used to live down here, and work down here. There’s a lot going on, but there’s also a lot of potential to do more I think,” says Daniel Griffith, a Tyler resident.

If awarded, the federal grant from the United States Department of Transportation will account for 80 percent of the total costs. The remaining balance will be provided by the County Seat Coalition, a task force initiative between the city and county.

According to the project overview, the city explains that with the partnership of the County Seat Coalition, Smith County has agreed to fund the remaining balance of over three million dollars.

The total cost of the project is projected to be over 25 million dollars.

The goal is simply to bring more people to downtown Tyler, but not everyone agrees that this would be money well spent.

“When your committing taxpayer dollars, the people that were elected to represent the people should be making the decision,” said JoAnn Fleming, executive director for Grassroots America- We the People political action committee.

Fleming went before the commissioners court expressing her concerns for the plans. Specifically stating that there should be a public vote on the use of the funds.

“You have to care about the short term and long term impact to the budget,” explained Fleming.

In response to Fleming’s public comment at the last commissioner’s court meeting, Judge Moran made it clear that the county is not committing to any funds at this time.

Moran made sure to state that until the grant is approved and accepted, there is no legal obligation from the city at this point.

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