The renovation of Downtown Tyler began in 1987, when citizens who wanted to see downtown restored to its former glory formed Heart of Tyler, Inc.

Just three years later Tyler became one of the first cities to join the Texas Historical Commission's Main Street program for cities with populations over 50,000.

One of the biggest changes was the recent addition of the Fair Plaza Parking Garage, which has allowed businesses more opportunities to host events downtown.

Bev Abell, the Main Street Department Leader, said downtown projects tend to ebb and flow, but there are three major phases the cycle follows.

"You always have a catalyst phase where a bunch of stuff takes off, then you have a growth phase with bigger projects, then a little maintenance," she said. "Then the catalyst starts over again."

The latest catalyst phase would have begun around 2008, when the city officially entered into a partnership with Heart of Tyler. Since then, the downtown area has been designated as the Downtown Business, Arts and Culture District.

"We've been in a new catalyst phase, now we're getting into a new growth phase," Abell said. "In the last 10 years … it's amazing. You look at some before and after pictures on our website and you'll be amazed."

One of the initial focuses on the new partnership was finding a way to bring arts and entertainment back to downtown.

"You look at Liberty Hall, it was an empty theatre not too many years ago … ," Abell said. "It was an empty, kind of falling apart theater building and now it's a crown jewel of downtown."

Liberty Hall has since become the home for the Downtown Tyler Film Festival, which has sparked an interest in local film making.

"We're moving into a new phase where we're becoming a certified film friendly community with the Texas Film Commission," Abell said.

Part of that process is the development of film permitting. Abell said the permitting process will entice insurance companies that are otherwise reluctant to allow productions in the area.

Downtown has seen $50 million in reinvestment since 2007, according to cityoftyler.org.

"The preservation and adaptive reuse of (the people's petroleum building) has brought many new jobs to downtown Tyler," Abell said. "It's brought entertainment options, it's brought banking options and professional office space."

Because the building is included in the National Register of Historic Places, they are eligible for a federal tax credit on the building.

Abell also alluded to upcoming development that could potentially see tens of millions of dollars poured into the district.

"We're getting major, major reinvestment in some large footprints downtown," she said.

Abell believes the integrity of the historic fabric of the area is what will continue to drive interest and development.

"Becoming a designated Main Street Community is a competitive process," she said.

"We really believe the most sellable downtown is the downtown that protects and takes care of and promotes its historic fabric, because what is unique about you is what is most marketable about you."

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

Recommended for you

Load comments