Thursday, June 13, 2013

I-20 Corridor Development Update

After several weeks of work, the Mayor's Task Force on the I-20 Corridor has finalized a report. As chair, it is my pleasure to make the final presentation to the Longview City Council tonight.

As all of us who work at LeTourneau University know well, the I-20 entryway into our city gives guests the "wrong view of Longview." Our city is blessed with a strong economy and hospitable people in the heart of the most beautiful geographic region of Texas. Unfortunately, one's first impression of the city is everything but this reality.

Interstate 20 brings more than 36,000 autos and another 10,000 trucks past Longview each day. This is a tremendous opportunity for economic development. Now is the time for Longview to capitalize on the opportunity we have with an interstate highway, regional airport, and Amtrak train service.

The good news is that redevelopment of our I-20 entrances has already begun. It is good for south Longview, of course. It is good for our university as we strive to make a good first impression when prospective students and their parents arrive from all 50 states. I-20 is the front door of our entire community and, therefore, redevelopment of this area is important for the growth of our entire city.

Our task force will recommend that the city take the lead in removing and redeveloping the former hotel site at I-20 and Estes Parkway. This is a major roadblock to the development of new business.

Another roadblock exists near the Wal-Mart Super Center south of the interstate. We will recommend that the city consider cost effective ways to improve the city's visibility to those driving I-20. We will applaud the city's intention to incentivize a hotel/conference center project and encourage study of the location both north and south of the interstate on Estes Parkway.

Important to the future will be the creation of a small area plan or overlay district that will guide the development of "destination businesses" that will draw visitors from the interstate as well as residents from the north.

Much of the I-20 corridor itself is a flood plain outside the city limits. The task force believes this could be added to the city's impressive park system and encourage future development of an urban recreation area that would take advantage of the Sabine River.

The unattractive I-20 entryway we have now is the result of many years of neglect. It will take many years to redevelop this passage. My prayer is that this task force will be the first step in this journey of reclaiming our I-20 corridor as a magnificent gateway to our increasingly livable, lovable Longview.