As I sat down in my office this morning I was greeted by an article in the Dallas Morning News entitled “Downtown Residents wonder where the City stands on Revitalization.” The reporter paints a bleak picture of Downtown Frisco – one where business owners and residents alike seem uncertain about the future of Frisco’s Historic Downtown section. The author of the article infers that Downtown Frisco has somehow been forgotten.
I believe that the reporter got it wrong.
I not only work in Historic Downtown Frisco, but I am also proud to make my home there. My husband and I moved into Historic Downtown Frisco in late 2003 after living in West Frisco. Our first home downtown home was built in 1911; our second, purchased two years later, was built in 1925. In late 2004, I went to work for the City as the Downtown Coordinator.
As I have lived and worked in Historic Downtown Frisco these last six years, the one thing that has continued to amaze me is the number of people who have actively been involved in the revitalization efforts in Downtown Frisco. It is in the example of longtime downtown residents like former Mayor Bob Warren, who has lived here most of his life, and who has spent countless hours supporting the neighborhood that he grew up in and still calls home. But that same passion can also be found in relative newcomers like former Mayor Mike Simpson, who has spent less than 15 years in Frisco and who will be the first person to volunteer his time and money in the ongoing efforts to make Frisco’s Historic Downtown a revitalized and active neighborhood in our community.
In addition, I have been blessed to work with more than 50 Frisco residents who have been actively involved in revitalizing Historic Downtown Frisco. In the last few years Downtown Residents have successfully worked with City Staff and City Council to develop a Historic Tax Incentive program targeted at bringing new homeowners to Frisco’s historic downtown, and encouraging homeowners of historic properties to restore and preserve their historic homes. Downtown stakeholders have worked with staff to develop the Downtown Architectural guidelines that provide guidance and flexibility to developers who are looking to develop in Historic Downtown.
And it’s not just Frisco’s citizens who are working to breathe new life into the historic downtown. Over the last year alone at least 8 new businesses have opened in the seven-block stretch of Historic Downtown Frisco – a fact that was conveniently missing from the Dallas Morning News article. Investment is being made by private businesses – investments that have a direct impact on the revival of Historic Downtown Frisco.
In addition to the revitalization efforts of Frisco’s downtown citizens and merchants, Frisco’s City Council has been a key partner in the revival efforts in downtown. Not long after going to work for the City, the Council formed an Ad Hoc Downtown Revitalization Committee with the goal of trying to decide what to do with the Old City Hall once the City Offices moved to Frisco Square. In presenting their final report to City Council, they made three recommendations:
- Retain ownership of the Old City Hall Buildings, for two reasons:
- We have lost many historic buildings in our old downtown, but these buildings remain as some of our City’s first history dating back to 1905.
- By targeting the use of these buildings in a way that would enhance the life and culture of Historic Downtown Frisco, the City could further its revitalization efforts.
- Create a Downtown Development Fund – in addition to funds that were contributed by Frisco’s General Fund in the early years, the long term vision for this fund is that rental revenues from the City-owned buildings would be reinvested the in the Historic Downtown District to further enhance the downtown revitalization efforts.
- Create a Downtown Advisory Board – this Board would be a permanent City Board that would not only oversee both the leasing of the old City Hall Buildings, but would also provide long term recommendations to Council on Historic Downtown.
By late 2005, the Frisco City Council had adopted all three of these recommendations. The city still owns the Old City Hall buildings, the Downtown Development Fund has been establish and funded, and the Downtown Advisory Board is an involved city board, populated by both city residents and downtown merchants.
So revitalization in Frisco is in fact happening. It is happening because individuals are motivated to see historic downtown moved to the next level, because the City has funded some key initiatives, and because merchants and residents alike are working together to plan the changes that will shape the future of Downtown Frisco.
Does Frisco have work to do to make Historic Downtown successful?
Absolutely! Historic Downtowns are never easy.
In June 2009, the decision of what to do next with Historic Downtown Frisco will rest on an entirely different City Council than the Council that made those key decisions in late 2005. With the exception of our current Mayor, no sitting council member will have voted on the original plan.
If I could challenge them to the future I would offer the following recommendations:
- Don’t give up on the original vision, but make sure to give it the support it needs. So often it is easy to develop a vision without considering what resources we need to make it successful. These are not easy times to invest resources in a dream. But visions and plans don’t succeed without resources and support in any economic condition.
- Form a committee to evaluate our existing Downtown Development Standards. Historic Downtown Frisco has a unique opportunity to preserve a piece of Frisco’s history and make that history vibrant and relevant to the Frisco of 2009, but we need development standards that take into account the important balance of maintaining safety and quality, encouraging revitalization and protecting the places of our past.
- Support a vision that also builds on the gifts and talents that Historic Downtown has today. The make up of Historic Downtown Frisco’s current residents and businesses is different from what was seen in the 1930s, 40s or even in the ‘90s. Today, Downtown Frisco is home to a variety of races and cultures that bring with them a broad range of cultures, food, traditions and experiences. We should build upon that as a key element to the future of Downtown Frisco.
What I love about my neighborhood, more than any other place I have lived in Frisco is the sense of permanence that it conveys. This is important because as our society and city become increasingly transient, culture, art, and the lessons of history will get lost in the mix. Downtown Frisco is the roots and foundation of a City that is now home to more than 30,000 families.
In the evenings, when I sit out on my front porch or gather around the campfire, my neighbors tell stories of the times when they painted “SRS ’57” on the grain silos or when they were baptized in the salad bar at the Abbey or how South County Road used to be the edge of town. And we sit and marvel about what that little town called Frisco has become today.
Why do I believe in Historic Downtown Frisco? Because we are so blessed with a rich past and a rich future. But most of all because I am blessed to be part of both!
Author’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Janet Maccubbin and do not reflect the opinions of the City of Frisco, any of its staff or elected officials.