The city of Killeen will celebrate its downtown revitalization project soon, but the project as it nears completion is getting mixed reviews from downtown business owners.
The $5.4 million project began in August 2012 as a city initiative to replace sidewalks, revamp streets, add landscaping, lighting, plazas and decorative crosswalks in an effort to attract residents, visitors and businesses to the area.
The city’s vision for downtown is what drew Tyrone McLaurin to the area, and it was the deciding factor in headquartering his business in Killeen. However, now that the revitalization project is almost complete, McLaurin, owner of Solution One Industries on North Gray Street, said there are some flaws in the work that’s been done.
“My concern as a taxpayer is, was the money that was spent by the city of Killeen spent wisely?” he said. “Concerns that I have are with some of the work that has occurred has not been up to standard.”
McLaurin said his complaints with the work include striping on the street peeling; sand being washed out from brickwork that was done, causing the bricks to come up in some places; and city crews already having to patch holes in the road. Another concern he has is that the sidewalk in front of his business has only been redone up to halfway in front of the building.
“When you invest in something, it’s for a long-term vision,” he said. “I always look at it like this: You can’t put lipstick on a pig and think that someone will carry it to the prom.”
City responds to concerns
Hilary Shine, spokeswoman for the city, said there is still “a little bit of work” going on downtown that will address some of the existing issues.
“(The contractors) are still working on punch list items,” she said. “Those are the smaller details that the city has pointed out to the contractor, and the contractor is finalizing. Those things are the bricks, plants, sand and a few other things.”
Shine said the streets downtown were done internally by city crews, since they will be maintaining them. “The roads, we have had issues with. They were paved in cold and wet conditions. We are going back and repaving and re-striping the parts that have failed.”
As far as the sidewalk stopping mid-block in front of McLaurin’s business, Shine said the project’s parameters stopped at that point. “That’s as far as phase one of the project goes. The intention is that all of downtown will continue to be revitalized, but there is not a specific plan in place for the next phase of the project yet.”
Shine said the city should have a better idea as to what’s next for downtown in the coming months.
Robin Ashford, owner of Judy’s Personal Touch No. 2 in downtown, said she thinks the streetscape project “looks great.”
“It looks marvelous, what else can be said about it? It’s just so beautiful now,” she said. “I love it. I definitely think it’s going to help bring more life back down here. I’ve already noticed a difference in people coming out here and some businesses moving in. I’m really going to enjoy being down here now that it looks so nice.”
Residents shared Ashford’s sentiments about downtown being more aesthetically pleasing now that the project is in its home stretch. Margarita Segarra said downtown “looks beautiful.”
“So far, everything is getting beautiful. I love it,” she said.
“I don’t go too often over there, but what I want to see are some antique shops down there. That would be nice, I think tourists would come.”
Reneta Adams likes the changes. “It’s always looked kind of dumpy, and not inviting. Now, I look forward to going there. I love the benches and the railing. It’s great.”
Vicky Eevangelisea owns property downtown that she’s had for rent for two months.
She said she thinks the revitalization of downtown will help her rent out the space more quickly.