The Downtown Revitalization project is well underway and some citizens of Pampa have concerns about the overall outcome.
As previously reported in May 2022, The City of Pampa has been awarded a grant for $350,000 from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to improve the downtown area.
The TX CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) Downtown Revitalization Program funds infrastructure improvements to address conditions of deterioration in applicant communities’ downtown or main street areas. The grant program is run by the TDA with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding. Cities with populations under 50,000 in the State of Texas are eligible to apply and allowable improvements include sidewalks and lighting, water and/or sewer lines, road construction to include curb and gutter and related drainage, etc. The grant maximum the year it was awarded to the City was $350,000.
Dustin Miller, the Community Services Director for the City of Pampa, explained in depth the concept of the original design for the downtown streetscape improvements.
In the original design, the islands shown in the middle of Cuyler Street (these are not to be confused with the bump-outs on the corners) are not going to be included in the outcome. The City Commission had decided to remove the islands from the project. This is the only change to of the original design.
“When applying for this grant, only up to ten percent of the layout can be changed once it’s submitted,” Miller said. “By omitting the islands, that put us at around eight percent. If we were to go over that ten percent threshold, we would lose grant funding.”
One of the notable changes during the downtown construction has been the removal of the trees. The tree removal was done because of the damage the roots had done to the sidewalks.
“The trees were encased in concrete and had nowhere to grow. The roots were breaking the concrete in search of moisture,” Miller said. “We have also been told by Arborists that the species of trees were not suited for the environment they were in.”
There are plans to include foliage that is noninvasive, drought tolerant, and thrives in the Texas Panhandle without being invasive to the downtown area.
Another concern of the construction was the bump-outs and how that would affect traffic.
“The primary purpose of bump-outs is safety,” Miller said. “Bump outs are designed to slow down traffic. The bump-outs serve as a visual marker for drivers to be cautious of their surroundings and slow their speed if necessary. Bump outs promote foot traffic and decrease the area of street pedestrians need to cross. We have measured from the new curb on the bump-out to the center stripe and it is 16’, so the entire street on Cuyler from bump-out to bump-out will be 32’. Our normal streets in town are 34-35’ and have cars parked parallel on them. While it looks like it’s going to be very narrow it will actually be as wide as most city streets.”
Prior to the construction, the City Commission consulted with people both privately and during commission meetings to address any concerns that arose. The Emergency Responders of Pampa were conferred to ensure that every emergency vehicle could safely maneuver through the roads.
“We would have never done this project without consulting Emergency Personal. Both the Fire Chief and Police Chief of Pampa have signed off on the project,” Miller said. “Recently, the Fire Chief and I have taken the biggest fire truck the City of Pampa has and navigated it through Cuyler Street. With the construction going on and traffic in downtown, the fire truck was able to clear the road without concern. The Fire Chief stated that any area where there is traffic can create a challenge and he felt this would be no different than navigating through other parts of town where there is traffic.”
The property owners of businesses that currently reside in downtown in this phase of construction were contacted as well to address their concerns.
“I’ve tried to contact every property owner personally to try to address any concerns that they may have. If I haven’t spoken to them the engineering firm has.” Miller said. “We want them to be happy with the project before we’re happy with the project.”
One owner brought up the topic of parking spaces.
The overall area for spaces has not changed however the area of certain parking spaces has. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that any and all construction projects in the United States must be compliant with their accessibility guidelines. Two handicap-accessible spaces are to be included. With the addition of these two handicap-accessible spaces each side on the road lost two parking spaces. These spaces are designed to be wider for ease of access and will be next to the ramps located on the bump-outs.
As well, the downtown revitalization project will include color-coded stairs and handrails. The steps will be indicated by red concrete. Nearly every store downtown will have a set of red steps and handrails.
The final and most common concern was the status of the historic brick streets. The brick streets are going to stay.
With that being noted, some bricks needed to be removed due to the nature of the construction. Though some of the bricks were removed, Miller assures the community that the brick streets will not be removed as a whole.
“We did have to move some bricks during construction - as we didn’t want to lay concrete on top of bricks - but we did not throw the bricks away,” Miller said. “They are stored at the Pampa Street Department for future use. It is unfortunate that some bricks had to be removed for the project but that does not mean the brick road is going away. That will not change.”
Miller reiterated the purpose of the revitalization project.
“The purpose is to improve our downtown,” Miller said. “We want downtown to thrive. It has been proven when your downtown is thriving your town is in much better shape. I really think as a whole these improvements and changes, while may be difficult getting through the construction phase, will make out downtown more appealing to new business as well as increasing business to existing stores, and most importantly make it safer for our citizens.”
For more information about the Downtown Revitalization Project, contact Dustin Miller at (806) 669-5750 or via email at email@example.com.
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