By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
Sprawling through the northern portion of Harker Heights is the city's bustling older thoroughfare, Veterans Memorial Boulevard. Some buildings along the boulevard are in need of repair, while others are fronted by freshly paved parking lots and quality masonry.
Because of the latter, a new vision for the boulevard, also known as U.S. Business 190, is starting to take shape.
Ray Shanaa, Harker Heights planning and development director, sees a revitalization coming. His vision includes families strolling down a landscaped boulevard, popping into stores for food, entertainment and a variety of wares.
"Veterans now is in need of some rehab work, some beautification work, to encourage some of the mom-and-pop shops to locate there," Shanaa said. "I could envision the whole corridor changing in the future to be just that."
Shanaa is not the only one with that vision. The owner of Club Rain, a wireless store, and Texas Grill has renovated her businesses.
"I bought this property eight years ago," said Priscilla Ellis, standing in Texas Grill. "It was an old abandoned warehouse. ... I wish I had before-and-after pictures."
Ellis said she believes it is important for businesses buying properties on Veterans Memorial to renovate. In her eight years there, she said she has seen several businesses in unrestored buildings fail.
"I think that it is good that the people opening a business aren't just opening, they are renovating," Ellis said.
Once a business starts to renovate property, other owners take notice and start to do the same, she said.
"I think it is part of trying to compete for customers," Shanaa said. "At the same time, I believe some of the property owners realize that the city wants a nicer product."
Roy Hamilton, owner of Maurice's Real Pit Bar-B-Que, has a different reason for renovating.
"Mine is complimentary. ... It is to say thank you to my loyal customers," said Hamilton, whose business has been at the location on Veterans Memorial since 1976.
In the past four years, Hamilton has added a new room to his building. Last week, he was hanging lights on the outside of the building.
The boulevard also is starting to see new construction along the route. A hotel is near completion on the east side of Veterans Memorial, and TC's Liquor & Wine has come to a new strip mall in the 100 block of the street.
TC's manager Tony Pagan said business was slow at first after the shop opened in March, but it is picking up. He is excited that his store is on Veterans Memorial.
"I think it is going to get busy," Pagan said. "This is starting to be a busy road again. ... Everyone is starting to take a little bit of pride in Veterans Memorial."
Much like Shanaa, Pagan thinks that the boulevard will be a different place in the future.
"Within two or three years, this will probably be built up like (U.S.) 190," Pagan said. "In the long run, things are probably going to be pretty good because this part of town is going to be booming again."
Shanaa said things along Veterans Memorial Boulevard are gradually changing.
"I think it has been transitioning over the last several years," Shanaa said. "It is a slow transition; however, I can see that pace changing in the not-so-far-away future."
Contact Mason W. Canales at email@example.com or (254) 501-7554.