As the bright, red ribbon stretched across Avenue D fell Thursday signaling the unveiling of a newly revitalized historic downtown Killeen, City Manager Glenn Morrison said, “Now, it’s time to party.”
Several hundred residents joined local dignitaries at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off Celebrate Killeen and marvel at the newly finished downtown streetscape project.
“(This is) the best day in a long time in the city of Killeen,” Morrison said.
On Morrison’s count of three, the crowd shouted “yes” in unison.
“This is a great testament to what can be done with $5 million,” Mayor Dan Corbin said. “A few years ago, the council before ours made a difficult decision. They had the opportunity to take advantage of $2.5 million worth of grant money from the state if they put $2.5 million of their own money up.”
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.
“As a result of this streetscaping, what you see on Avenue C and Avenue D is businesses taking pride in the way they look. They’re sprucing up their businesses, empty buildings are being remodeled and new businesses are coming into the downtown area,” Corbin said. “That’s really special for our community.”
Maria Michel, a Copperas Cove resident who works near downtown Killeen, said she was leery of the project at first, but was impressed with the final result.
“I’m downtown all the time, but I haven’t, up until now, come down and walked the streets all that much. It’s beautiful,” she said. “I think they’ve done a great job. When it started I thought ‘This doesn’t feel like the safest place in town,’ but they’ve done such a great job. I love it.”
Rose Martin said she’s seen the project as it’s slowly progressed.
“I think it looks good,” she said. “They did a really good job with this.”
Of the several hundred people gathered downtown, no one was more proud or more eager to show off the area than Charlotte Humphreys, the city’s downtown project manager.
“Right here in downtown is where our story began,” she said. “This is where our story is still being written.”
The festivities continue today from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Killeen Rodeo Arena, 3601 S. W.S. Young Drive, with a concert by The Eliminators — a ZZ Top tribute band out of Chicago. The event will host several food vendors and a beer garden.
Carnival rides will pick back up again from 4 to 11 p.m. behind the Killeen Community Center, 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd.
An event-filled day will wrap up the celebration on Saturday. The Celebrate Horsnby 5k will kick off the day at 8 a.m. at the Killeen Community Center. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Killeen Independent School District will host its wellness fair with kickball tournaments and rock climbing. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a car show with craft and food vendors, a barbecue cook-off, hay rides, pony rides and a petting zoo.
A derby mash-up will be from noon to 5 p.m. A showing of “Monster University” at 8 p.m. at the amphitheater will wrap up the festivities. Assisi Animal Refuge will host a low-cost animal shot clinic 1 to 4 p.m. at the Killeen Farmers Market downtown, 717 N. Second Street.
The Texas Patriot Guard Riders also will be at the Celebrate Killeen Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday promoting a message to motorists to “share the road” and “look twice for motorcycles.” Event-goers can climb on a stationary motorcycle in a virtual-reality setting and take photos to help promote the group’s message.
For a complete schedule of events, go to www.killeentexas.gov/celebratekilleen.