The approved plan is intended to create a fresh new look, greater accessibility and easier mobility in one of the city's busiest areas, a destination for thousands of people in need of medical services and education.
Officials and interested stakeholders worked more than a year to create a new Midtown Area Development Plan, so named to embrace its centralized location.
And Wednesday, they jumped on the chance to show it off publicly.
“This is a very exciting day,” City Planner Heather Nick said. “The vision for the (plan) is to create a distinctive Tyler destination with ETMC, Trinity Mother Frances and TJC as the heart of a new Midtown.”
The plan identifies land use opportunities to support the medical and college campuses and provide retail, restaurant and entertainment options while protecting established neighborhoods.
Changes on the horizon could also include a name change for part of Beckham Avenue to Medical Parkway, records show.
“We want to make this a distinctive Tyler destination,” Ms. Nick said.
The 20-year plan includes short, middle and long range timelines for the area near the college, also home to East Texas Medical Center and Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics.
The initial goals of the Midtown 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.
Development guides were created earlier for Texas College and The University of Texas at Tyler areas, but this new proposal is larger and more detailed, due largely to the significance of the medical district to the local economy.
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.
“One in five jobs is medically related,” Ms. Nick said.
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 touches on everything from signage to architecture.
“It you are from outside Tyler, it's hard to find that area of town,” Councilman Martin Heines, a participant in those talks, said. “It was a long process and we vetted a lot of ideas.”
The bulk of planning and design work was conducted in-house to save money, with two firms, Freese and Nichols, Inc., and FrankieZed Studios, Inc. assisting in the planning efforts, officials said.
City Manager Mark McDaniel said conducting the bulk of the work in-house not only saved money, it also gave city staff an opportunity to become more familiar with neighborhoods and people who live in them.
Some stakeholders give the plan high marks.
“We are very excited about this plan,” Trinity Mother Frances Vice President Mary Elizabeth Jackson said. “We need this very badly … helping people find a way to safely cross Beckham will be huge.”
New bus shelters are planned.
Larger and more distinctive signage is on the horizon and possibly renaming Beckham.
Beckham was the commanding officer of Confederate Capt. James P. Douglas, the namesake behind Douglas Elementary School, records show.
Improvements aimed at vehicle and pedestrian traffic are also in the works, including occasional 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.
Longer range projects, unfolding between the next two and five years, center on carving out additional space for development, such as partial closures for Ideal Street, Foundation Drive, Lake Street, Mahon Avenue, Apache Pass Drive, Adair Street, Tennis Court, Blackwell Avenue and Dawson Street.
A small neighborhood park and pedestrian connections for picnicking and exercising are suggested in the residential area north of the college.
The new plan also addresses the importance of protecting the historic Azalea and Charnwood neighborhoods that border the area, as well as preserving some natural areas and creating open spaces, records show.