A new plan for the revitalization of downtown La Marque — an area the city’s now calling the Renaissance District — is out this week after months of community workshops and planning.
The plan, created by Texas A&M University’s Texas Coastal Watershed Program, spells out specific measures for the next several years meant to redesign La Marque’s downtown and lure new businesses.
The revitalization efforts will be focused on Laurel Street between Bayou Road and Yupon Drive and First Street between Bayou Road and state Highway 3.
In December, the city’s Economic Development Corp. approved a $25,500 contract with the watershed program for a revitalization planning project.
Through surveys of the area and community meetings with residents, the planners outlined some of the area’s strengths and weaknesses, including ample parking but lack of common design, according to the report.
It also highlights things city leaders on the council and in the economic development corporation can do over the next one to five years to begin making the improvements.
Beautifying and improving the newly named Renaissance District is one of several priorities for the city council, Mayor Bobby Hocking said. The city’s been concentrating on infrastructure and drainage, which are all important steps to developing and improving the Renaissance District, he said.
“It’s a long process, similar to what Texas City has done with Sixth Street,” Hocking said. “We’re in the beginning: naming the district, picking the location. We’ve purchased a few buildings and are moving forward in that direction.”
“La Marque is growing immensely on the west side of the freeway, but we want the east side to benefit as well.”
One thing the city could consider is changing some of its zoning to establish clearer boundaries between neighborhoods and business districts, corporation spokeswoman Colleen Merritt said.
“For a long time, La Marque has had mixed zoning, where commercial and residential are in close proximity,” Merritt said. “We could re-examine some of those areas and see if there’s zoning that makes more sense.”
The current district is a mix of single-family homes, retail and office space and public buildings, with about 23 percent of the area vacant, according to the report.
The report calls for planting trees, creating pocket parks in some of the open spaces, improving lighting and raising crosswalks for walkability. Planners also recommended land-use policies that allow for residential properties and high density, multifamily developments.
There’s plenty of parking in the area, but the spots need to be repainted and marketed and many have potholes to fill in, the report said.
One of the first priorities for the area from the corporation is finding a tenant for a property it owns, 401 Laurel St., Merritt said. The building, previously a carwash and convenience store, has about 4,650 square feet, she said.
Residents have requested the corporation try to attract a cafe, bakery, coffee shop or taco shop that serves breakfast or an entertainment venue to occupy the space, she said.
“It’s got a lot of possibility,” Merritt said.
In the coming year, the city also will work toward improving streets, sidewalks and utilities, she said.