Thursday, October 10, 2013

Update on the I-20 Corridor

While it doesn't look much different yet, changes along Longview's I-20 corridor are coming. I was privileged to chair the citizen taskforce, appointed by Longview Mayor Jay Dean, to consider the potential of our I-20 corridor and present a set of observations and recommendations to the city council three months ago.

A healthy conversation is underway about the task force recommendations for redeveloping our neighborhoods for Longview's future. While the wheels of progress turn slowly, we need to realize three months is really just a very short time. We didn't get into this situation overnight, and we won't get out of the situation overnight.

However, I see tremendous signs of progress, with new restaurants opening near I-20 and Eastman Road, including Denny's and a new Cracker Barrel. Other new businesses are near the final stages of planning, including a new conference center and hotel project in this corridor. But these kinds of projects take negotiation, planning and financing, which takes time.

More than 46,000 vehicles pass by Longview on the interstate each day. Over 52,000 employees work nearby the I-20 corridor. Investments by private developers show us the value of our city's position along the interstate and should encourage us to see the potential.

The pending demolition of the abandoned hotel and gasoline station at I-20 and Estes Parkway will remove an ugly eyesore from the front door of our entire city. The task force labeled it as a roadblock to redevelopment and made it a priority as our first recommendation.

Longview leaders responded quickly, and LEDCO, under the leadership of Keith Honey, voted to acquire the property and make it ready for future development. The City of Longview led by Mayor Dean is also ready to participate. No bull dozers are rolling yet, but the required approvals, contracts, and funding decisions are moving very quickly behind the scenes. New restaurants, hotels, city conference centers and the removal of abandoned buildings - all in the last three months. Good things are beginning to happen.