City discusses downtown’s future

The City of Odessa and Odessa College are in preliminary discussions that could result in an increased downtown presence for the college, including school-sponsored events and art displays, City Manager Michael Marrero announced during Wednesday’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board meeting.

Marrero acknowledged the talks during the board’s discussion of updating the city’s downtown master plan and what some future projects might include.

“(OC President Gregory) Williams and I have had some preliminary discussions about them having an increased downtown presence,” Marrero said. “It’s something they’ve wanted to do for a couple years, but I think they had some other things going on.

“We’re talking about creating space for art, a symphony (concert) and other activities; things that will help bring more people downtown.”

Marrero emphasized that discussions are still in the preliminary stages. Williams could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Marrero’s comments were greeted enthusiastically by TIRZ board members who briefly discussed efforts to update the city’s downtown master plan.

The city council in June voted unanimously to hire planning and design architects Kimley-Horn to oversee the updating of the plan. The firm will be paid $85,000 for their work.

A Kimley-Horn official told the TIRZ board on Wednesday that the project will take about six months to complete. The architectural firm is currently reviewing the city’s current plan and will provide the board feedback within the next two months. They will then begin working with the city to conduct surveys and host a series of small community meetings to obtain feedback from residents, business owners and other community stakeholders.

TIRZ board members also discussed several smaller downtown projects that could begin while the master plan is being worked on.

Phillip Urrutia, assistant city manager of community services, said the city’s parks department has suggested that the city start replacing dead, aging trees in the downtown area, along with adding more flower beds along parking lot areas at Fourth Street and Grant Avenue. Another idea is to enhance the current EZ Rider Station located at Lincoln and Fifth Street. The station site is currently just a concrete sidewalk, Urrutia said.

TIRZ Board Chairman Craig Stoker and other board members asked for more information about the park department proposals so that they can decide whether to move forward with some of the ideas during their next monthly meeting.

“I’d like to see anything that we can get started on,” Stoker said.