TIRZ board gets downtown master plan glimpse

Turning downtown Odessa into a destination site where people come to shop, dine and seek entertainment are realistic goals, but parking issues and creating housing downtown are the city’s biggest challenges.

Those are the preliminary findings of an effort to update the city’s downtown master plan. The city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Board on Wednesday had their first glimpse of the findings by Kimley-Horn and Associates, the firm hired by the city to update their downtown master plan.

“The project has been moving really fast, but we like what we’re seeing,” Kimley-Horn Planning Analyst Monica Powell told the TIRZ Board. “The groundwork for many of the city’s downtown goals are already there. But housing seems to be a major challenge due to infrastructure costs.”

Powell said the master plan update will be completed and presented to city council for adoption by the end of October.

The consulting firm spent the past two months studying the city’s existing downtown resources and hosted a series of public townhall meetings to gauge what residents think of, and want to see downtown, Powell said.

The workshop feedback closely mirrored the findings of a community survey conducted online, she said.

A majority of respondents indicated they were satisfied with the overall safety and variety of events held downtown, Powell said. On the other hand, the majority of respondents said they wanted more shopping options, parking and thought the area could use more sprucing up.

Powell said the consulting firm was especially pleased at the diversity of those who participated in the online survey. Of the 191 respondents, 47 percent were between the ages of 31 and 50 and 36 percent were 51-74. Sixty-eight percent of those who responded to the survey indicated they had been residents for at least 20 years and 50 percent said they visit downtown at least once per month.

City officials and other community leaders have said they would like to attract a broad range of visitors downtown, especially people in their 20s and 30s.

Powell said there was widespread support for increasing the number of activities and events that would attract the targeted age group, along with family-friendly activities. More art and entertainment were among the most often mentioned desires residents wanted to see downtown.

City and business leaders have also expressed a desire to see more housing downtown, especially housing that would attract young professionals and college age students.

Odessa College, UTPB and Medical Center Hospital have all expressed interest in the housing issue, but their own individual efforts have been stymied due to infrastructure costs and available property and location, TIRZ officials told Powell.

TIRZ board members said they will vote in November to form a subcommittee that would start working with different institutions and potential developers to talk about joint efforts to create housing downtown.