WICHITA FALLS, TX - For years, The City of Wichita Falls has been pushing to revitalize downtown. Has the investment paid off, or is downtown a money pit?
"I can remember back when I was a whole lot younger, we would come into Wichita Falls and park in the parking lot and walk the streets," said Wichita Falls Downtown Development Executive Director Cynthia Laney. "That was the whole culture back then."
It's a memory many people have of downtown Wichita Falls back in its glory days. Old black and white photos show a thriving downtown, but today downtown is a stark contrast to what it once was.
"As the malls came in, every thing shifted," Laney said.
Laney says by the late 1960's and early 1970's, people started shopping at big box stores instead of small downtown businesses. That left downtown less populated.
As community leaders work to revitalize downtown, Laney says their big focus is community development. It all starts at the old Zales Jewelry building located at the corner of 8th and Ohio Street. The building was purchased by the city last year and now their hoping to breathe life back into it by putting in two to five new store fronts.
"Yes, it takes time and yes, it takes a lot of money," Laney said. "We are in that progress and that process to move forward."
Over the past several years, Laney says they've pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into revitalizing the downtown area. Henry Florsheim, President and CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, says it's a good start.
"We've done a lot over the past few years to work on redevelopment," Florsheim said. "We just need to keep doing more and more to be a world class city."
Even though it may not look like much is getting done downtown, Florsheim says revitalization isn't something that happens overnight. Take Fort Worth for example, it took some 30 years to bring businesses and interest back to that city. So, is the investment in Wichita Falls paying off? Officials say it's too soon to tell.