Port Arthur Receives Long Range Planning Award

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release                                                                                                   

November 18, 2016

 

Contact:

Risa Carpenter

409.983.8143

 

larisa.carpenter@portarthurtx.gov

Port Arthur Downtown Study Garners State Planning Award

The Port Arthur Downtown Revitalization Plan has won the Long Range Planning Award from the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association. The organization named the city’s plan as the only recipient of the long range recognition at its annual conference on Nov. 4.

Spearheaded by Freese & Nichols, a Texas-based engineering, planning, architectural and project management firm established in 1894, the city’s plan is the first in the nation to integrate a market analysis, economic development framework, infrastructure assessment, capital improvement plan and urban design all into one document.

The Downtown Plan builds on decades of effort, history and culture, successes, urban context and working relationships. It is intended to be used for policy development, to guide public funding and to attract private investments. The plan also provides a physical framework layout and catalyst actions to promote Downtown Port Arthur. As this plan builds on current and past efforts, it does not find it necessary to completely revise decisions of the past, but rather moves forward with a focus on market potentials, capital improvements and project opportunities.

Because much had been studied and several local organizations had individual plans for portions of Downtown Port Arthur, the project team approached this effort as an implementation-focused plan in which previous efforts are combined with new market-driven strategies.

This plan’s inclusiveness is obvious when considering a street beautification plan from a decade ago paid for by the PA Economic Development Corporation that provided ideas for increasing the attractiveness and walkability of the area on Procter Street between The Pavilion, Peoples Park and the EDC’s refurbished building at 501 Procter.  Once the underground infrastructure in the downtown area was examined with smoke tests and camera footage, it became clear that the underground storm sewer lines and inlets were far too small to handle increased foot and road traffic.  The drinking water and sanitary sewers also need marked improvement before any streetscaping should be begun above ground because any beautification efforts done first must be destroyed to dig up the streets for improvements below ground.

The community needs to see visible change and continued progress. Ultimately, the Downtown Plan presents strategies for the transformation of Downtown Port Arthur into a destination that leverages the area’s unique activity generators, waterfront, civic core and urban forms along with its position in the market place. Most importantly, this plan should be the guiding tool for the much needed implementation of new development.

Together, local, state and national trends have led this plan to the underlying belief that a vibrant and healthy urban setting is the best formula to maintain a downtown’s significant role as a hub of activities, a headquarter for businesses, and a focal point of civic institutions. The Downtown Plan has been constructed in part upon the foundation of certain trends and assumptions:

      The Millennial population (i.e. the generation born between approximately 1982 and 2003) has expectations regarding urban environments and mixed use urban areas. In particular, knowledge-based workers, such as engineers, doctors, architects, scientists, accountants, lawyers and teachers, find districts appealing that include walkable environments with small-scale amenities such as cafes, galleries and independent stores.

      Consumer preferences are changing based on the rise of the Creative Class. As defined by Richard Florida, this innovative and creative sector of the work force comprises 40 million workers (about 30 percent of the U.S. workforce). There is a pent-up demand for walkable places and the demand for walkable urbanism will represent at least one third of the U.S. housing market. Both experience and place matter when choosing a shopping location and many buyers expect social engagement and a variety of amenities.

      Not all individuals want to live in a walkable urban place, but they all expect to have the opportunity to do so at various times of their life and will gravitate to metro areas that offer multiple housing choices.

      Housing needs and expectations are changing based on national and local trends that include shifting demographics, decreased household sizes and aging populations. This relates directly to smaller household sizes, the increase in single-person households and households without children, in addition to the amplified demand for housing variety related to an aging baby boomer population.

      Continued sprawl and auto-centric development models can cause traffic congestion, increased fuel consumption, added vehicle trips and increased burden on cities to provide for new infrastructure and the maintenance of existing infrastructure. New developments of urban centers are helping to address these issues with increased densities, mixed uses, new amenities and desirable work environments.

      Expanding downtown residential space will add market forces that support education, retail and dining and entertainment options. More residents and the buildings that house them will also add to the experience of Downtown Port Arthur, close development gaps and make Downtown Port Arthur a more walkable urban center.

      Downtown Port Arthur should position itself to attract new workers and those that employ them. Capital and talent are mobile and some places will make the investments to attract them and prosper while others will not. Downtown Port Arthur should position itself as a vibrant district that entices and serves the next generation of companies, professionals, educators and researchers.

Positioning Downtown Port Arthur’s partnership with Lamar State College, public schools and private institutions can create a destination for lifelong learning. These affiliations will most likely yield significant economic, social and image benefits for the community as a whole and the present and future companies, residents and workers.

 

From left to right: Michelle Queen, with Freese & Nichols, Derrick Holland, Rhonda Bell, Pam Langford, Paul Brown, Ron Burton, Planning & Zoning Chair Fernando Ramirez, TxAPA President Kim Michelson, Councilmember Tiffany Hamilton, P&Z Commissioner Alma LeBlanc,and Shad Comeaux, Freese & Nichols.



















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