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“It is important to establish downtown as a real, sustainable Downtown with a full mix of uses and commerce, not just a destination for specialty antiques and decorations,” Chapter Six of the Waxahachie 2007 Comprehensive plan states, calling downtown “the crown jewel of Waxahachie” and “an asset …unparalleled in the north Texas region.”
As such, the plan devotes a chapter to downtown strategies aimed at the continued development and re-development of what it calls “the cultural center of the city.”
To facilitate this progress, downtown needs to have a proper “building infrastructure” capable of growth and change, connections to surrounding neighborhoods, better (and more) parking, aesthetically pleasing streetscapes and building form standards, the plan states.
Clyde Melick, Waxahachie’s Director of Planning, notes that while the city is already pursuing a number of these requirements (specifically mentioning the $7 million parking garage the city will build downtown as part of the new county facility), the implementation of a “form-based code” may be the most interesting and innovative concept here.
“It’s a way of looking at form, not use,” Melick said, adding that it will be a way for the city to develop by looking at how structures will relate to one another.
Such standards can be used to address a number of issues, the plan states, including:
How developments should address the street in terms of location of front walls, height and materials Where and how retail space should be provided to support pedestrian activity and success of retail businesses How residential (units) should be integrated into the fabric of downtown How parking should be addressed Flexibility of building space to allow for changing markets over the long term.
While a form-based code “is kind of oxymoronic,” Melick said, it will play a valuable role in the development and redevelopment of downtown, the boundaries of which are illustrated in the graphic (see graphic illustration at right).
While the city is currently considering steps such as uniform signage and new way to integrate context-sensitive design into downtown, more long term goals include addressing the vacancies downtown, the director added, noting that since the vacancies are market-driven, it will be “some time” before they can be addressed.
While the Concerned Citizens Coalition (C3) master plan for downtown prepared in 2000 will continue to be valuable as an “in-depth and meticulous outline of various recommendations for downtown,” the plan states that its policies provide a “big picture assessment of what needs to be done in a practical sense.”
“If followed, the Downtown Strategies should help the city maintain the uniqueness of downtown while enhancing it for future generations,” the chapter concludes.