Thriving downtown in Wichita Falls becoming more of a reality

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Wednesday the Highlander Public House held its official ribbon cutting. The restaurant is just one example of what one city official calls recent organic growth in downtown Wichita Falls.

City leaders are hoping to give the momentum a boost by creating a Downtown Development Steering Committee. Tuesday they appointed members to the group.

It will have members from the city, chamber of commerce, business owners, and much more. The committee will help lead the revitalization efforts by addressing issues as small as lighting and sidewalks to as big as attracting more businesses.

City leaders believe it is the right time for an inclusive committee because of restaurants like The Highlander Public House.

"Everybody has wonderful ideas," Wichita Falls Mayor, Stephen Santellana said. "But people just don't know how to focus those ideas and implement it. That is what we will do here."

Mayor Santellana will chair the group and said more want in.

"We have so much involvement," Mayor Santellana said. "So many people that want to be involved. We are already looking at several subcommittees to help with the efforts."

Henry Florsheim, CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, said they have never been involved in downtown development before; and for the city to grow, that is where it has to start.

"Frankly, it is required," Florsheim said. "If we want to be a great city, we have to have a great downtown. Every great city you ever visit, no matter where you are in the world, has some sort of historic district. Whether it is a lot of stuff going on. It is a gathering place for people."

How do you do it?

"There is a lot of good broad stroke plans that I think in the next six months we will really focus down and be specific about," Mayor Santellana said. "And just go out there and start tackling these projects."

Cynthia Laney, Executive Director of Wichita Falls Downtown Development, said they need to target young people.

"One of the downtown Wichita Falls development targets and focus is getting our young people involved, getting our millennials, getting people who are moving back to Wichita Falls involved," Laney said.

Florsheim believes this committee can help attract more people.

"Today people want to find a city that they are interested in living in," Florsheim said. "And that means a lot of things. It means recreation, it means schools, it means downtown. And then they will find a job once they find a city."

Florsheim said his vision of Wichita Falls in five years is a strong military, college, and recreational town with a trail that circles the entire city and a downtown district with places to stay, shop, eat, and drink.

Mayor Santellana and Laney said having everyone involved could provide the necessary boost to get downtown Wichita Falls where many have envisioned it to be for many years.

Copyright 2017 KAUZ News All Rights Reserved