Organizers ready to apply for Main Street program


July 12, 2010 at 2:12 a.m.

Downtown Victoria could be much different than it is now, filled with retail shops, public events to draw families and buildings that appear as they did 110 years ago.

At least that's the vision planners have if Victoria is successful in its bid to become a Main Street program city.

"For at least 20 years, I've thought there was so much more we could do down there," said businesswoman Louise Hull Patillo, who is helping spearhead the initiative. "I think, in 10 years you won't recognize it."

Mayor Will Armstrong said he sees no reason why the effort won't be successful with the contagious enthusiasm being shown by those working on the project.

"I have never seen the level of participation and excitement in a project in the community since I've been involved in this community," he said. "That's a long time."

The group hopes to get a resolution of support from the city council before submitting the application to the Texas Historical Commission by the July 30 deadline. The commission is expected to make a decision in September and an announcement in October.

"I think our chances are excellent," said businessman Robby Burdge, who is also helping spearhead the effort. "Bottom line is by Jan. 1, the Main Street program should be up and running."

While the state won't provide direct funding for the program, Hull Patillo said being a Main Street city still has advantages.

"What they do is, they provide expertise," she said. "They give architectural advice and fundraising advice and even planning."

One of the first steps will be to have a director hired and trained by the state by Jan. 1, Hull Patillo said. Most of the work the first year will be behind-the-scenes planning, with the fruits of that work beginning to show up in 2012, she said.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Hull Patillo said. "It's going to be a gradual process."

The group hopes to have a $130,000 budget, with about half of the money coming from the city and half from donations.

Organizers plan to allow people donate money on an annual basis, pledging to do so for five years, Burdge said.

There are people in that initial group who will be giving from a $1,000 to $10,000 a year and there will be opportunities for others to pledge smaller amounts, he said.

"We're doing that because, in my opinion, I don't think the Main Street program should be put in place and then hire individuals to actually generate money to operate itself," he said. That staff should concentrate on carrying out the program.

Hull Patillo said one of the goals will be to have more retail business downtown. That might involve asking some of the existing businesses to move to an upstairs location and rent out the downstairs area, although no one would be required to do that, she said.

"I would anticipate more restaurants and entertainment venues coming into the area," she said. "I would anticipate special events on a fairly regular basis to be held in the downtown area."

Hull Patillo said she also hopes to find money for grants that would help those businesses that want to restore their facades to the way they looked around 1900. The Texas Historical Commission could provide architects to help.

Hull Patillo and Burdge said the Main Street program would capitalize on the city's downtown utility, street and sidewalk improvement project already under way.

"We have so much going on already that this will just be the next step, thanks to the city council and the paving project, the sidewalk renovations and tree project," Hull Patillo said.



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