Downtown Growth: It's Not Just for Bryan, Says Navasota

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It's 71 miles up the road from Houston, and 25 miles down the road from College Station.

Caught in the middle of two of the biggest growing communities in the state, Navasota could easily have sunk, but city leaders are doing everything to swim.

You probably know Navasota for its blues, but for downtown?

"I know that they probably still see that there's a need for some beautification and some upgrades," said City Manager Brad Stafford about outside impressions of his community, "and that's something that we're working on and that were extremely excited about."

Get Stafford started talking about potential here, and it's hard to stop him. With Bryan and Brenham growing their downtowns, the benchmarks are close by to show the potential for Navasota.

With council blessing, they've got a design team working on redefining the downtown of a city which doesn't exactly act as its center. With the inevitable development on Highway 6, Stafford says there are probably people driving by that have no idea what's on the other side of the highway.

"It just makes a huge difference and it brings more excitement to your community," he said of the potential for a city center set up.

City hall as it stands isn't anything like the hall of a bygone era, which is what leaders are looking for now, a center, something modern but true to Navasota's history.

You can't drive Washington Street without feeling that bygone era atmosphere. If the dollars make sense, the streets will see an overhaul: better lighting, more greenery, easier crossings for pedestrians.

And the buildings? Stafford says in his couple years in town, he's seen vast improvements to the facades that show the city's long history.

Yes, there's work still to be done, but the goal of preservation is clear: "Bring it back to the original states or close to original states so that it's beautiful for everyone to look at, but also productive," Stafford said.

"Raw material" is how Russell Cushman describes downtown. In addition to serving on city council, Cushman is an artist and helps run the blues hub of Texas' blues capital. Dreams of a doubling of Navasota's current population of 8,000 sound sweet to him, though the prospects of failure have rung in his ear.

"Basically, death of a small Texas town, or we were going to be known as the Navasota Miracle," Cushman said. "I think, by 2027, we'll be well established as a town that turned it around."

That 2027 year is the goal of the city's strategic growth plan, but a good amount of growth is already evident. Based on Stafford's estimates, in the decade of the 90s, Navasota grew about 7 percent.

Over the next six years, the city grew by about 8 percent.

Their projections have Navasota, from 2007 through this year, growing by about 9 percent.

In two years, percentage-wise, Navasota will have grown as much as in a whole decade.