The area known as Downtown Bryan may be dramatically changing shape soon. Over the last four years, city council has expanded the area and offered businesses a helping hand through its Downtown Improvement Program. Now the city is considering reaching out to another part of the community.
When Bryan's city council approved its downtown master plan in 2001, the idea was to revitalize and draw attention back to the area. One of the plan's components was a facade improvement grant that made money available to those who wanted to spruce up the front of their properties.
' We feel that it has been very successful just from the sheer number of requests that we've received. It's a great incentive," said Katie Blanchard.
Since 2001, 24 downtown buildings have received facade grants. Some of those were able to qualify when the designated boundaries of downtown Bryan were expanded. Now the city council is looking at stretching downtown Bryan to included parts of East MLK, which is on the other side of Texas Ave. Doing so would enable Shiloh Baptist Church, The African American National Heritage Museum and, the North Bryan Community Center to apply for city grants.
" I think that it will help extremely with the revitalization project that the city wants to do and project an image of a complete Bryan as well as the African American community," Pastor Kris Erskine of Shiloh Baptist.
Pastor Erskine says including parts of East MLK to downtown demonstrates that the city cares about that side of town and would help with beautification efforts in the future. The congregation of Shiloh Baptist recently reached into their own pockets to pay for re-modeling the church. A facade grant from the city could put the finishing touches on their hard work.
" We began our revitalization project here at our church with no government funds, no city funds to show our community that we were investing in our community and not leaving," said Erskine.
Another candidate for facade help is the African American Museum, which is still under construction.
Council member Paul Madison represents this district and says it should be included in the city's revitalization efforts. He says the area is very significant and important to the African American community.
The museum, community center, and church are glad to have the support of their councilman, and only hope the rest of the council feels the same way.
The council will discuss the issue at its' June 14 meeting. In the past roughly $300,000 was earmarked for the downtown improvement plan.
But at any time, council can decide to reduce that amount or do away with the program completely.