Downtown Lubbock revitalization efforts continue

As Downtown Lubbock revitalization efforts continue, leaders of organizations involved in the efforts discussed with High Plains Pundit how everyone can benefit from it.

Mont McClendon, general counsel and chief operating officer of McDougal Companies has worked downtown for about 25 years and is deeply involved in the master redevelopment efforts in Downtown Lubbock. McClendon said some of the original recommendations concerned public space infrastructure, like moving utilities underground. A method that was successful in the Overton Hotel area.

Additionally, McClendon said they focused on harmonizing the various constituent documents related to downtown.

“There were lots of opinions about downtown from a lot of different sources,” McClendon said. “And we welcome that, because you know, a diversity of opinion, a diversity of ideas, a diversity of viewpoints, all of these sorts of things. But at some point, they just started to clash.”

Due to the clashes in opinion, a couple years ago the city council asked for an updated master plan for Downtown Lubbock revitalizations, McClendon said. This master plan harmonized the various opinions.

Current revitalization efforts continue to focus on infrastructure, as well as vertical development, which is new buildings being constructed, McClendon said. Some of these vertical development projects include Buddy Holly Hall, the Cotton Court Hotel, and the new City Hall.

Additionally, there is a focus on renovating buildings downtown, McClendon said. For example, the old City Hall building is being converted into a South Plains College location and the McDougal Companies building is undergoing renovations as well.

“All of those things are more visible and sort of readily available,” McClendon said. “But there’s a whole lot of effort that goes into horizontal development, just getting the thing ready, getting the city ready for what we need in order to spur development.”

John Osborne, president and chief executive officer of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance, said five years ago, LEDA’s sister company, Market Lubbock, saw a need to get Downtown Lubbock revitalized quicker to help try and stimulate the effort in investment and encourage residents to live downtown.

“We were looking at a lot of data that describe millennials and Gen Zers as really wanting a revitalized downtown in whatever community they live in,” Osborne said, “and they choose where they want to live before they choose where they want to work.”

So, in an effort to retain students from local colleges and attract individuals from other places they pushed to revitalize downtown quicker.

The focus on revitalizing buildings downtown will attract more people, Osborne said, and it will encourage others to revitalize their own buildings downtown. Additionally, revitalizing buildings encourages businesses to move downtown, creating an opportunity to build the economy. 

“It’s kind of taken off, and we have seen a lot of new projects that have taken place,” Osborne said.

LEDA and Market Lubbock are not the only organizations putting effort into revitalizing downtown. Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Associates has built Buddy Holly Hall and the City of Lubbock acquired Citizen’s Tower and plans to revitalize it, Osborne said.

One concern some citizens may have regarding Downtown Lubbock is the homelessness population in the area. However, Osborne said LEDA has worked with the City of Lubbock and has helped fund extra police officers downtown. Additionally, the Lubbock Police Department has put together a Homeless Outreach Team, who work with the homeless population and enable them to get to the resources in place to help their situation.

Osborne said it has been exciting to see how quickly efforts to revitalize downtown have taken off.

“I think that our downtown is in an improving state for businesses and for residents,” Osborne said.

Tech students can benefit from downtown revitalization efforts as well, McClendon said. Downtown Lubbock offers entertainment options, such as the Art and Depot Districts.

Additionally, McClendon said having things to do is a large part of the decision-making process when students decide on a college and where they decide to start their career. This typically finds the place where the people are.

With First Friday Art Trail to make its full return in May, McClendon said he thinks this will help draw students downtown.

There are restaurants in Downtown Lubbock that could appeal to Tech students as well. Some of these businesses discussed what they have to offer Tech students and how they contribute to Downtown Lubbock revitalization efforts.

Finn Walter, owner and chef of The Nicolett, has worked in San Francisco, Austin, Paris and other cities where a food scene was beginning to emerge.

“I feel there’s a very similar energy here,” Walter said.

People are embracing local business, Walter said.

Mike Nghiem, director of operations for the West Family Hospitality Group, which includes The Brewery LBK, Dirk’s and The West Table, said he enjoys being a part of a culinary scheme drawing people in from all over Lubbock and contributing to the growth and liveliness downtown.

Specifically, Nghiem said he has witnessed a lot of growth in the last six to seven years, with The West Table opening almost six years ago.

“That was kind of the beginning of what we’re seeing as just a lot of tremendous growth,” Nghiem said.

The West Table is a fine dining establishment with entrĂ©e prices between $25 to $50 a plate, which may be a little out of some people's price range. However, Dirk’s is a little bit more economical, Nghiem said, with platters starting at $13.

The differentiations in pricing help draw different demographics downtown, Nghiem said.

Nghiem said it has been exciting to be a part of the downtown movement and see the level of support people from Lubbock have shown in creating a beautiful, vibrant downtown.

“We’re starting to see what, hopefully, is a tipping point for growth downtown over the next decade where we can become a really great, vibrant scene that will beget growth,” Nghiem said.

Rob Allison, who retired in 2011, was involved in the original master redevelopment plans, and said urban culture is the goal.

“With urban culture, you have a defined space that, you create an environment where people want to live, work and play in that designed space,” Allison said.

For urban culture to be successful, Allison said there not only needs to be businesses, retail and restaurants there needs to be people of all ages living downtown, including students, professionals, families and seniors.