Downtown Taylor has gotten a boost from a local and nationwide program for 20 years, but the mission isn’t over.
Jan Harris, manager for Taylor Main Street, gave an update on the program’s mission during the Jan. 23 City Council meeting. Harris talked on what the program has accomplished and plans for the future.
The Taylor Main Street program is a grassroots downtown revitalization effort that also aims at historical preservation.
“It’s the perfect place for Taylor,” said Harris. “When I first came here, your historic fabric was one of the things that absolutely amazed me and enthralled me. What we try to envision is a culturally diverse and economically viable downtown that attracts Taylor citizens, new residents and new investors to come and be a part of this wonderful place.”
Harris is a National Certified Main Street Manager and brings with her 21 years of experience. She began her duties with the city Nov. 4, 2019.
The Main Street board includes Chairman Scott Dean and Erwin Stauffer, Bobby Seiferman, Steve Truex, Shannon Grace, Sharla Gola and Stacey Smith.
“We are people who are passionate about downtown, about Taylor and about taking it to the next level,” said Harris.
Last year, the city celebrated its 20th year as a member of the Texas Main Street Program, which is one of the oldest and largest in the nation with 90 designated communities.
“That is something that is to be celebrated. Main Street is a wonderful commitment,” said Smith. “It is not a quick fix. It is something that you as city leaders decided we were going to be a part of. You were going to staff it. You were going to run it and you were going to help guide this along.”
According to the 2019 State of Main Street Report by the National Main Street Center, Taylor is one of 826 accredited programs in 41 states that participate in Main Street America. As part of that program, Taylor employs a transformation strategy based on four points.
This first point is economic vitality, which focuses on capital, incentives, and other economic and financial tools to assist new and existing businesses, catalyze property development, and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators that drive local economies.
“You’re already doing some of that,” said Harris. “All we’ve got to do is continue to build on that.”
Design is the second point. Main Street America says that design supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual assets that set the commercial district apart.
“Taylor has wonderfully original fabric that is still here. You’ve got fabulous things to promote through design,” said Harris.
The third point is organization, which involves creating a strong foundation for a sustainable revitalization effort, including cultivating partnerships, community involvement and resources for the district. Then through promotion, the fourth point, a downtown or commercial district can be postioned as the center of the community and hub of economic activity while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics.
“Those four points worked incrementally over time and have brought about an amazing change in Taylor and in other Main Street communities around the nation,” said Harris.
In 2019, there were at least 11 new businesses or businesses relocated to downtown. Projects ranging from small signs to infrastructure were completed with $3,152,764 in private sector investments.
Special events also bring citizens and visitors to shop, dine and play in the area.
“It’s also to reinvest and to live,” said Harris. “All of these things have brought people here and it’s just part of what makes Taylor what it is.”
While the mission will never be done, Harris said in looking back at the past 20 years, there’s been a definitive change with downtown.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” she added, “and just the future is going to get better.”