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Downtown revitalization efforts aim to increase traffic, business

By ALLISON MILES
Jan. 14, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 14, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.

Noontime in downtown Victoria offers several possible destinations, from Rosebud to Fossati's,  where this couple was spotted.

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To learn more about the Victoria Main Street Program, visit VictoriaAdvocate.com, click on this story and find a link to the website.

A modest wooden building with a swinging screen door, Fossati's Delicatessen, has called downtown Victoria home since its start in 1882. And, while things have obviously changed in those 100-plus years, co-manager Therese Bomersbach said change isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when it consists of downtown improvements.

"Whenever I go anywhere, I always go home by Main Street," said Bomersbach, who lives about six blocks from the restaurant. "I love to drive down there because it's so beautiful the way everything is so fixed up. I'm real proud of what they've done."

And she isn't alone.

Others say ongoing improvements mean good things to come for Victoria.

The city of Victoria is currently on the second of four phases of downtown utility replacements, said Lynn Short, director of public works. Updates include replacing water and sewer lines, street work, new street signs and improvements to sidewalks, curbs and gutters.

Although Short did not have totals regarding what had been spent to date, he said the estimated budget for the 10-year utility project - of which the city is on year three - was $42 million.

Another entity, the Victoria Main Street Program, is also working to develop the area.

Mike Sigg, the program's director, said he expected to see increased promotional activity coming down the road, through marketing and branding efforts.

The organization will likely take a two-pronged approach, not only bringing new events to downtown Victoria, but also letting people know what is already there.

Downtown has potential to become the city's entertainment hub, he said, noting people can walk from restaurants and bars to the theater and museums.

"There's a lot of things that people can take for granted that other areas would love to have," he said, noting festivals, the ballet, the Nave Museum and more. " ... Part of it is getting people to understand and realize all there is to offer down here."

Nighttime activity through theater traffic and the like is growing, Mayor Will Armstrong said, while other events, such as a proposed downtown film festival and 2011's inaugural BootFest, also mean more people.

He said he hoped to see the trend continue, especially for the entrepreneurs.

"Those buildings downtown produce more tax revenue per foot than any other business in our community," he said. "We need to support downtown businesses."

With just more than a year in business under its belt, Huvar's Artisan Market and Catering is among the newer businesses in downtown Victoria. And, while it might not have been around before improvements began, manager Falon Hernandez said she's glad they've taken place.

"We get a lot of walk-in business from the courthouse, police department and places like that," she said, explaining lunch traffic makes up a large portion of the eatery's business. "Any increases that can come to the downtown would benefit us."

Randy Pollard co-owns L-Ann Imaging and On the Edge Photography, both downtown businesses, with his wife, Laura Pollard.

In the six years his businesses have called the area home, he said he has seen an attitude change.

"Downtown had a stigma of feeling forgotten about," he said, adding it felt like a necessary evil or simply where to go to find an attorney. "Now, I think people are starting to see a different side to it. It just looks kept."

There's still one issue Pollard said needs to be addressed: parking. It's difficult to find a parking spot during the business day, he said, and nearly impossible when court is in session.

"Until that's addressed, I don't think we'll see fruition of the dream," he said. "I don't know the answer, but I've got some ideas."

As for Fossati's, the changes around the business might have the owners excited, but so do changes to the building itself.

The restaurant is in the midst of a facelift of its own, with a new paint job to freshen the place up and maintain the old-time feel. While the building front and the side facing Juan Linn St. were finished just before the Christmas Parade, there's still a bit left to finish.

"It was time for it," Bomersbach said. "We wanted a little update, too."

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