Update on Melissa Downtown District
Exciting things continue to happen in Melissa, Texas, as the vision for the downtown district is taking major steps toward becoming a reality. We are thrilled to share that construction on the Melissa Gateway Village project at Hwy 5 and Harrison Street has commenced, marking the beginning of a remarkable transformation. The downtown district's future is taking shape, promising inviting gathering spots, expanded streets and parking spaces, as well as the revitalization of existing structures. We understand that one of the most anticipated aspects is the establishment of various businesses downtown, and while we cannot disclose specifics yet, we want to address some questions about the overall downtown redevelopment.
- What is the overall plan for the downtown area? The vision for the downtown area has been a collaborative effort, with substantial time and thought dedicated to the development of the Downtown Overlay District (DOD). In 2018, the City Council unanimously accepted the latest version of the DOD's ordinance and plan. The ordinance encompasses specific design elements and requirements that businesses, homes, and other structures must adhere to. It fosters a mix of commercial and residential land uses, essential for a vibrant downtown. Our goal is to create a downtown district that is unique to Melissa. For a complete overview of the Downtown Overlay District Ordinance, visit https://www.cityofmelissa.com/449/Downtown-Overlay-District-DOD-Ordinance.
- What is the City’s role in the downtown redevelopment? The City plays a pivotal role in the downtown redevelopment with a focus on two main responsibilities: setting the vision and general regulations, and planning and delivering essential public infrastructure such as roads, utilities, and sidewalks. The Downtown Overlay District (DOD) ordinance outlines the architectural vision and encourages a blend of commercial and residential land uses. While property owners will undertake reconstruction or renovations at their own pace, the ordinance's design guidelines will contribute to a beautifully recreated downtown for Melissa. We recognize the significance of adequate public infrastructure, and over the last decade, we have carefully planned for the reconstruction of downtown. Major projects like drainage improvements and utility replacements have paved the way for the upcoming road improvements. The reconstruction of sections of Harrison Street, Red River Street, and Cooper Street is already in progress, and we anticipate further enhancements within the next twelve months. Imagery of what the full street section of Cooper St would look like today is shown below. Modifications to the private structures shown in any of the depictions are illustrative only.
As we proceed, we will consider phasing some elements to ensure seamless integration with private developments.
- Which streets will be widened and reconstructed? The transformation of the downtown district involves comprehensive changes to all streets in the DOD. This includes Harrison St., Cooper St., and Fannin Road in the east/west direction, and Red River St., Central St., Sherman St., and Santa Fe St. in the north/south direction. Our plan is to widen the streets to accommodate safe two-way traffic, add on-street parking (either slanted or parallel), install pedestrian sidewalks, and integrate decorative elements like planters, benches, and landscaping. While some core streets are already undergoing improvements, others will be redeveloped based on private property owners' decisions.
- When will this work really start? The work is already underway, with Melissa Gateway Village taking shape at Harrison St. and SH 5. This exciting development will span approximately 55,000 square feet and house esteemed partners like Ace Hardware and Hope Coffee, along with various retail and restaurant spaces. Additionally, a two-story office element is also part of the Village's design. As part of this project, Harrison Street between SH 5 and MISD campuses will be reconstructed with improved travel lanes and on-street parking. Within the next twelve months, you can expect tangible public improvements and private developments that showcase our vision for the community.
- Will all existing buildings be preserved and made part of the new downtown? The City owns three structures in the DOD, and we are committed to preserving buildings that align with the desired look and feel of the district. For instance, the former An Donut building on Cooper Street will soon be renovated to house Public Works Administration and Parks Administration. However, structures that do not contribute positively to the downtown's ambiance or hinder reconstruction will not be retained. Unfortunately, the city-owned structure on the northeast corner of Cooper St. and Red River St. has been deemed unsafe by the Fire Marshall due to its deteriorating condition. It is beyond repair, and the City has acquired adjacent parcels of land to potentially facilitate the construction of a 30,000 sq. ft. (or 60,000 sq. ft. if two stories) mixed-use development along Red River St.
- What considerations did the City undertake in making the decision on the structure? We understand the importance of honoring our city's historic past and are actively considering ways to maintain the historical character of downtown. In addition to the design guidelines in the DOD ordinance, we are evaluating options to assist commercial building owners in preserving the historic look of their properties. Financial assistance through façade grants and other mechanisms is under consideration.
Furthermore, we are contemplating the installation of permanent plaques in strategic locations, featuring historically significant facts and narratives about Melissa's past. Our aim is to ensure that our heritage is appropriately celebrated.
In summary, while there are still several steps and numerous choices ahead to bring the downtown district to complete fruition, it's incredibly exciting to witness our progress and move closer to turning this vision into a reality. Before we know it, Melissa's downtown district will be a thriving and vibrant hub, a place that fills us all with pride.