Downtown expert helps Glen Rose set the stage for a turnaround

Retired urban planner and downtown revitalization specialist Ken Devero

Downtown revitalization specialist Ken Devero spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in Glen Rose at the Courthouse Annex. 

Photo by Kathryn Jones/GR Current

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Ken Devero, an expert on rejuvenating downtowns, came to Glen Rose Thursday for a forum that identified what locals liked about the downtown square, what they didn’t like, their vision for the future and who should be involved in carrying out that long-term plan.

Devero is the retired president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., a nonprofit that became a catalyst for that city’s downtown rebirth. He continues to help other cities revitalize their downtowns.

He shared his observations about the Glen Rose downtown area at the forum sponsored by the Glen Rose Downtown Association. The event drew a standing-room-only audience in the Somervell County Commissioners Courtroom. More chairs had to be brought in for the overflow crowd of more than 50 people.

Downtown building owners and shopkeepers attended, as did Mayor Dennis Moore, County Judge Mike Ford, County Commissioner John Curtis, and representatives from area tourist attractions, hotels, the hospital and the general business community.

Downtown Association President Steven Garcia, who also is the general manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Glen Rose, opened the forum by asking for the crowd’s input. He pulled out a marker and wrote on a big white pad set up on an easel, “What do you like about Glen Rose?”

Glen Rose Downtown Association Steven Garcia takes input from the community about downtown.

Glen Rose Downtown Association Steven Garcia takes input from the community about downtown.

Photo by Kathryn Jones/GR Current

The answers flowed. A sense of community. History. Natural beauty. Rivers, schools, little traffic. Location, location, location. A quaint atmosphere. Lots of destination activities and recreation. A rural, laid-back lifestyle. Churches and camps. A picturesque courthouse. A hospital. Friendly people.

Then Garcia flipped to another page and asked what people didn’t like about Glen Rose.

The answers didn’t flow quite as fast at first, but soon they filled up the page. The high cost to do business, one person said. A bottleneck at the traffic light downtown, said another. Vacant buildings downtown. Rising property taxes after reappraisals by the Somervell Central Appraisal District. Not enough marketing of Glen Rose’s strengths. A need for sidewalks and crosswalks. Not enough major festivals and events.

Some downtown merchants said they see a lack of community support for their shops. The area between Barnard Street and the Paluxy River isn’t developed as it should be, another person said. Some also brought up the “sleepy town syndrome,” referring to a desire by some to keep Glen Rose small and not want progress.

Semi trucks passing through downtown bothered some folks. So did inconsistent hours of operation at some downtown shops. Others didn’t feel downtown had enough diversity.

“OK, then what’s your vision for downtown?” Garcia asked.

The answers included more shops and restaurants. Alternative means of transportation, such as bicycle rentals and a bicycle lane on Barnard Street. A more pedestrian-friendly downtown. Get people living downtown again. Expand on Glen Rose’s growing reputation as an art center. Better communication to get the word out about what’s going on downtown. A pedestrian bridge over the Paluxy River and another bridge for vehicular traffic. Incentives for business people. The expansion of the River Walk from Big Rocks Park to U.S. Highway 67.

Preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of downtown also made the wish list. So did a trolley to transport visitors from hotels to downtown, Oakdale Park and area tourist attractions. Other wants included tour guides, a community theater, wireless Internet downtown, more live music downtown and a Glen Rose app for smart phones.

“Water in the river,” another person said, drawing laughs.

Next Garcia made a list, with input from the audience, of the government entities, local civic groups, associations and foundations that could help achieve the vision.

Devero shared what he’s learned that downtowns need to stay healthy and vibrant. One is a strong downtown association, he said.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of people,” Devero added. “It’s amazing what a half-dozen people can do for a downtown.

“We had 12 people put up money to start Downtown Fort Worth Inc.,” he added. “Some of them are still on the board 30 years later. It takes people who are committed to see this through on the long haul.”

The second thing needed is a vision, Devero said. Develop a strategic plan, revisit it and adjust it as needed, he advised.

Rejuvenating downtown has to be a public-private partnership, he added. And Glen Rose has to promote what it’s doing with a marketing program.

“Stay focused,” Devero continued. “Stay with the plan. Downtown is a living organism.”

Success won’t happen overnight, he reminded the audience.

“Downtown Fort Worth has been reinventing itself for 30 years,” he noted. “It’s still going on.”

Devero said he’s familiar with Glen Rose and has visited here often. He has a home in Tolar now and Glen Rose Downtown Association secretary and landscape architect Karen Richardson has been doing some landscaping for him. They talked about what’s been happening in Glen Rose and she invited him to come speak.

Before the meeting Devero came to town on a fact-finding mission and walked around the square, making observations. He said he noticed some things right away, such as the “Shop-Dine-Stay” banners.

The city might want to add “Play,” he added.

“I love your banners – there’s just got to be more of them,” he said. “Change them out from time to time.”

Keeping sidewalks and streets clean and grass mowed is important, he added. It not only keeps downtown beautiful, but also helps keeps downtown safe and deters vandalism, he noted.

Devero said he was “amazed” at the variety of businesses downtown.

“It gives you something to build on,” he said.

He agreed the vacant storefronts were a problem, but he had a possible solution – bring more artists downtown.

“I really see that as an opportunity for Glen Rose,” Devero said.

Glen Rose already has some artist studios and galleries, he noted. If owners of the vacant buildings could be persuaded to rent their spaces to artists for working studios and the city could perhaps give artists a break on utilities, that would “add a lot of vibrancy to downtown. It becomes an incubator” for other business, too.

The annual Main Street Arts Festival in Fort Worth brings thousands of people to that city’s downtown and has been a major part of its revitalization plan. Glen Rose needs at least one annual event that the town is known for and is a draw for tourists, he noted.

“Events are important, particularly when you are just starting out,” he said.

Glen Rose also should rejoin the Texas Main Street Program, he added. The program is part of the Community Heritage Development Division of the Texas Historical Commission and is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Glen Rose is such a historic city,” Devero observed. “You just kind of need a kick in the pants” to start making downtown vibrant again.

 

 

4 Responses to Downtown expert helps Glen Rose set the stage for a turnaround

  1. Shirley Reply

    November 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I agree whole heartedly with everything said. Sorry I missed the live meeting; would loved to have been there. I have big plans for Glen Rose also. I plan on opening several busineses there. Any help would be greatly appreciated; Mr. Devero, Mr. Garcia, Kathryn,Larry Whitworth, Larry P. Smith, Historical Society or anyone else who would like to contribute to our mutual success.

  2. Lori Whitworth Reply

    October 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I submit this humbly as a new transplant to Somervell County. I recently met some tourists at a distant bed & breakfast who remarked how much they enjoy visiting Glen Rose. I asked them what features would make Glen Rose an even more inviting destination. Their wish list included horseback trail riding opportunities, nature oriented trail hiking opportunities, a zip line like some they visit near Austin, and public access to the Brazos. I realize none of this is “downtown” oriented but all tourism brings people to the square eventually.

    Family fun activities for fall could include pumpkin painting and carving for kids, hayrides, tractor parades, pet adoption, native plant sales, wreath making, bird house construction, art sales, jewelry sales, jewelry making activities, bounce house, haunted house (in one of those vacant buildings perhaps), ghost tours, ghost stories, book sales, etc.

  3. Larry P. Smith Reply

    June 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Kathryn,
    I said I would comment later. Well, it is much later so, here goes.

    Downtown is the heart and soul of a community- especially in Glen Rose where our history,the laid back lifestyle and the friendly atmosphere are so well depicted.
    The meeting with Ken Devero was one of the best that I have attended in Glen Rose. The turnout was great and Steve Garcia did a super job bringing everyone into the dialogue to identify our strengths and weaknesses.
    The question remaining is “Where do we go from here?”.
    Fort Worth did it(on a larger scale)under the leadership of Ken Devero and others becoming one of the most prosperous cities in our nation while retaining its downhome charm, its historic past and western culture, and its focus on the arts. It all began Downtown and it spread throughout the City and County. Homebuilding is at a brisk pace, businesses are thriving, tourism continues to grow and Economic Development is on their front burner. That sounds exactly like what we want and need here.
    It took dedication, commitment and a sound belief in the community following an organized plan of action to increase Fort Worth`s economic future.

    We can do the same in Glen Rose, only on our terms and at the level that fits our community to bring jobs,increased business and renewed vitality.

    Thank you,Ken Devero for sharing your knowledge.
    Thank you Karen Richardson for inviting Ken.
    And-Thank you Downtown Assn.for making it possible.

    I will close again with my favorite Lincoln quote:
    “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
    It is time to replace words with action!

  4. Larry P. Smith Reply

    June 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

    GREAT!
    Will add comments later.
    Larry

Leave a Reply to Larry P. Smith Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>