ROCKWALL,TX. (July 29, 2014) Caution tape and orange cones may line parts of downtown Rockwall, but by August 2015 the square will have received a major facelift. Although parking options are not yet ideal, Farmer’s Market and surrounding businesses are still attracting customers.
Main Street Manager Bethany Browning said ultimately the renovations will benefit the businesses and the community as a whole, making the downtown area “pedestrian friendly, with lots of additional seating, more parking, and more green space.”
Rockwall Planning and Zoning Director Robert LaCroix said the renovations will provide greater aesthetic appeal and increase citizen safety.
“You’ll see things that will unify the whole downtown area,” LaCroix said. “We are trying to create a better main focal point down one street. The sidewalks are not currently very conducive for pedestrians. The new sidewalks will be much smoother, and we are building ramps to make things more accessible to the disabled. There will also be new lighting, because there have been some concerns that there is not enough visibility downtown at night.”
According to the official Downtown Rockwall Capital Improvement Project brochure, the project was approved by voters last year and costs $8.625 million. The brochure states that the project “focuses on strengthening the historic downtown core by creating a pedestrian connector along San Jacinto Street, beginning north at Olive Street and continuing south to City Hall.” The goal of the realignment is to “improve traffic flow and provide additional on street parking opportunities.”
LaCroix also said landscaped public gathering spaces and raised platforms for entertainment and public speaking will promote a sense of community throughout the area.
Until this downtown ideal becomes a reality, some businesses are dealing with construction zones where their customers would normally park. Zanata manager Curtis Schaibly said this hasn’t stopped them from maintaining their business so far.
“For lunch things have slowed down a little bit, but it hasn’t been anything major,” Schaibly said. “It’s inconvenient because there are 26 parking spots unavailable, but I haven’t seen anyone too disgruntled by it.”
Groovy’s employee Whitney Williams agreed that the construction has not taken a noticeable toll on the business.
“Random foot traffic has slowed down, but business as a whole hasn’t,” Williams said. “We have a lot of regulars. Our summer months are usually slow because of the heat, so we are interested to see what the fall will be like with the construction.”
Farmers Market vendors pitch their tents alongside the roadwork, but Reeves Family Farm vendor Aaron Reeves said they have continued to turn a profit nonetheless.
“People are still coming,” Reeves said. “We were a little nervous about the construction, but people haven’t hesitated to come. We have a lot of repeat customers; we really can’t complain at all.”
Schaibly said that in spite of the obstructions now, he is appreciative of what the end result of the renovations will look like.
“I do understand the vision; it is gonna look beautiful when it’s done,” Schaibly said. “It’s definitely going to attract people. The bigger picture will be worth it in the end.”
Rockwall Area Chamber of Commerce President Dana Macalik said she believes that the renovations surrounding the businesses will be a huge asset.
“I think this is creating a new chapter for our community,” Macalik said. “I think it will bring in more business downtown and it will grow exponentially.”
Story and photos by Blue Ribbon News staff writer and reporter Julie Anne White.
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