Residents and Killeen City Council members were optimistic after Wednesday’s presentation from Dallas-based consulting company Verdunity on the state of the city’s comprehensive plan.

The $349,140 plan, which is the second of its kind in a decade, aims to refocus Killeen’s development through the implementation of community feedback and professional consulting.

Thus far, the company has received over 400 pieces of feedback on the comprehensive plan over two surveys and several workshops, as well as over 12,000 interactions on its website.

Wednesday’s meeting, which was attended by Councilmembers Jessica Gonzalez, Mellisa Brown, Michael Boyd, Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King and Mayor Jose Segarra, was the culmination of months of community feedback efforts.

During the nearly two-hour meeting, Verdunity presented a potential time-line of the plan, which has a focus on smaller, bit-sized projects.

This focus on smaller, more manageable projects is what Verdunity representative Mark Meyer said sets the current plan apart from a similar plan drafted in 2010. While the 2010 plan was scrapped within the year, this plan, Verdunity said, is actionable.

Additionally, Wednesday’s presentation offered several opportunities for downtown revitalization, such as a remodeling of the Veteran’s Memorial Park, the site of the H-E-B which closed in 2018, and the old First National Bank of Texas.

What each of these sites have in common, according to Meyer, is that each site has the opportunity to become a community space.

One proposal would have the old H-E-B converted into a sort of business park — with small, 100- to 500-square foot businesses that could be rented for $300 to $600 a month interspersed among greenery.

Another project would convert the site of the First National Bank into a park space with room for food trucks; the site would also become the start and end point for the city’s parades and could potentially host a monthly “movies in the park”-style event to draw residents downtown.

This proposal does, as Segarra pointed out, go against the city’s current bid to attract the soon-to-be relocated Bell County Annex to the site of the First National Bank. However, City Manager Kent Cagle, providing an update on the city’s talks with Bell County, said that the County has confirmed any such renovation or relocation would result in the city paying millions of dollars — something that the city had hoped to avoid.

Instead, Verdunity CEO Mark Shepherd asked the city to consider utilizing the space, along with other areas in downtown Killeen, for community events, as a way to “give people a reason to come to downtown.”

The largest project proposal by far was one that Segarra has dubbed the “gateway to Killeen.” The project would transform areas of Rancier Avenue into an “urbanized” gateway to the city’s downtown district, featuring brick medians, shade, and wider sidewalks with storefronts. The city is set to address Rancier Avenue through its Capital Improvements Project over the next five years.

The consulting firm also provided the city with several ways to improve traffic downtown, such as building a list of downtown businesses or adopting a sort of “punch-card” that would offer a free meal after the holder purchased from different restaurants around Killeen.

The firm hopes that, by leveraging city funds and local partnerships to put on regular events in downtown Killeen, the city would be able to utilize its neopolitan nature to create a rich, vibrant city.

“A lot of cities like to say that they’re diverse,” Shepherd said. “But you guys really are.”

Finally, Shepherd advised that city employ a “downtown coordinator,” who would be responsible for the growth and development of downtown Killeen. This individual would need to have knowledge of permitting, advertising and marketing, and would likely need to have up to 30 years of experience across multiple fields.

Council members that attended by and large applauded the firm for the efforts in bringing an actionable, realistic plan to improve the city.

“I think this is it,” Boyd said.

jdowling@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7552

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(2) comments

Alvin

I'm sorry but we, as a city with the current governmental group, keep going back to the same 3 themes, such as ' Veteran’s Memorial Park, the site of the H-E-B which closed in 2018, and the old First National Bank of Texas'. This is nothing new as it keeps on drubbing the same 3 things that has been going around for years and so we coming up with nothing and this city has the downtown area to show for it.

In my opinion, the old 1st Baptist church is an example of what not to do with a structure. How many times has the old 1st Baptist church been remodeled, changed to look the same, and what is it's main draw now?

The old 'First National Bank of Texas', which the mayor has set his sites on refurbishing, is just another boon doggle in which, if implemented, would cost this city millions of dollars, as the city manager has pointed out.

We have a city that is continuing to be ran by 'old school' mentors that keep trying to advance when the door has been shut years and years ago, say 'what's good for the goose is for the goose and to h*ll with everyone else'. So we keep trying to do something with a downtown that is, in my opinion, not salvageable and should be discarded so some that is new and viable can be built, or better yet, demolish the down area and build something that is vibrant and will allow people to come to the area and label it 'This is the site of the old downtown area'.

Let's face it, people will not come to an area that is as dismal an area as 'the old downtown area of Killeen'.

I would like to suggest that this would be a great place to build a city hall with surrounding buildings as annexes. Incorporate what used to be the 1st Baptist Church as a Christian center. Also this area could be used as a center for some small businesses with adequate parking that is centralized so as to be close to everything.

We need to build a new city hall before the existing structure falls down so why not be the center point for the 'old downtown' and make it the center point for 'the new old downtown'.

Noneofyourbiz

I agree with most of what you are saying. The only one I do not agree with is. Using tax dollars for a Christian center as it violates the Texas state constitution article 1 Sec. 7. APPROPRIATIONS FOR SECTARIAN PURPOSES. No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.

Just like grant money nor city property can be used to put a Christian or any other religion room in a senior center.

Reading the Texas state constitution is actually very beneficial and Texas did a great job to insure separation of state and church when it came down to it. The Texas constitution is very well written and safe guards all Texans.

Other than that I agree with you

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