It's one of the city's busiest areas, a daily draw for thousands of college students, medical employees, patients and visitors who often encounter challenges in parking and mobility.
Officials and interested stakeholders worked for more than a year on a new Midtown Area Development Plan, so named to embrace its centralized location.
“It's very exciting for the city of Tyler as well as the people who visit the area,” City Planner Heather Nick said. “It was a very big endeavor — it's going to be really good for the area.”
The draft proposal is a 20-year plan that includes short-, middle- and long-range timelines for the area, also home to East Texas Medical Center and Trinity Mother Frances Health System.
The Tyler City Council is expected Wednesday to take a look at the efforts.
If the panel ultimately agrees with the plan's components, expect to see some changes unfolding within a matter of months, officials said.
The initial goals of the Midtown development plan are to improve signage, land use, aesthetics and connectivity within the 1,062-acre target area, bordered by Front Street, Broadway Avenue, Fifth Street and East Loop 323.
The plan was created in response to recommendations from the Tyler 21 Comprehensive Plan and Industry Growth Initiative; two strategies that help organize and then capitalize on the city's amenities.
The city already created development guides for areas near Texas College and The University of Texas at Tyler, but this new proposal appears significantly larger and more detailed.
To create the plan, city staff first organized a series of stakeholder talks. Data was collected, analyzed and then compiled into a final listing of recommendations that touch on everything from signage to architecture.
The bulk of the planning and design work was being conducted in-house to save money, with two firms, Freese and Nichols, Inc., and FrankieZed Studios, Inc. assisting in the planning efforts, officials said.
A key objective is creating an identity for the area, so it has a sense of “place,” officials said.
Within the next year or two, for example, officials plan to infuse the area with the blue Midtown branding.
Larger and more distinctive signage is suggested, as is the renaming of Beckham Avenue to Medical Parkway; and the existing Medical Drive to Medical Way or Medical Circle.
New bus shelters are planned, featuring blue to correspond with rider scheduling and routes.
Improvements aimed at vehicle and pedestrian traffic are proposed, including medians, turn lanes, new traffic signals, sidewalks, landscaping and lighting along Beckham Avenue between Front and Fifth streets.
To slow traffic on Lake Street, landscaped islands, crosswalks and textured crosswalks are recommended with similar amenities planned later for Fleishel Avenue.
Partial closures are suggested for Ideal Street, Foundation Drive, Lake Street, Mahon Avenue, Apache Pass Drive, Adair Street, Tennis Court, Blackwell Avenue and Dawson Street to create additional space for development.
A small neighborhood park and pedestrian connections for picnicking and exercising are suggested in the residential area north of the college.
Street overlays, sewer rehabs and sidewalk improvements in some locations are slated for some areas.
The medical district is the leading economic engine for Tyler and surrounding region, supporting more than 25,000 jobs and generating an annual economic impact in excess of $3.2 billion.
For example, a single physician on average creates about a $1.3 million annual impact, providing on average eight jobs.
ETMC, established in 1952, and Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, created in 1937, are both expanding, as is TJC, which carries a reported student enrollment of 15,000.
The college also serves another 20,000 students through its continuing education programming.
As demand for health care and education grows, activities are slowly encroaching into areas zoned primarily as single-family residential, including the fringes of the Azalea and Charnwood historic districts, officials said.
The new plan addresses the importance of protecting those areas, as well as preserving some natural areas and creating open spaces, records show.
Mrs. Musselman said it's critical for the city to protect its historic assets.
“As long as this study is to help protect historic areas, we are in full support,” she said.
Primary stakeholders seem to approve of efforts to spiff up the district.
“It's exciting,” John Moore, Trinity Mother Frances spokesman, said. “We're looking forward to the aesthetics of the plan, but also the functionality. We've had someone at the table since the beginning … we think that the plan, when it's all said and done, will meet our expectations as well as the people we serve.”
TJC spokesman Fred M. Peters, in a written statement, said college officials are pleased with the recommendations.
“The timing for this district coincides perfectly with TJC's land use plans as we prepare to break ground on the largest single construction project in our 86-year history on land adjacent to properties of East Texas Medical Center and Trinity Mother Frances Hospital. We believe the district will serve students, employees and patrons of the medical community in a very positive way,” he said.
ETMC spokeswoman Rebecca Berkley, also in a statement, agreed, saying the hospital “welcomes” the city's interest in enhancing the appearance of the medical district.
“Since ETMC opened its doors in 1951, the hospital has placed a great deal of thought into both the interior and exterior,” she said. “A comforting environment is important to the healing process for our patients and their families. The ETMC campus features a variety of trees, shrubs and green space and the hospital plans to add more in the years ahead as part of its master plan.”