It has been a busy month.
I hosted the Lufkin ISD Convocation, saw the beautiful new gymnasium, and visited Lufkin Middle School, where I have two daughters this year. All of this made me even more grateful to our schools and teachers.
Over the past 30 days, I have met with residents of Lufkin to discuss unity, drainage, housing, employment opportunities for our youth, crime in the city, and economic development.
I’ve also heard the Boys & Girls Club talk about after-school activities for youth, the pastors of North Lufkin talk about their community, and the residents of our excellent PineCrest retreat community.
I grew in my appreciation of the importance of each person and each age group to the future of our great city.
In each context, I sought to listen and interact on how we might build a better quality of life in our city, how we can create better employment opportunities and how we can promote unity and community. authentic.
Along the way, I even managed to witness some pretty impressive dance moves from Nathan Worthen on his 78th birthday at Buck Creek Hall.
There are many encouraging things happening at Lufkin.
We will end the budget cycle in September; the city’s tax rate will remain the same in fiscal year 2022 and the city administration will present another balanced budget to city council.
Lufkin Economic Development Corporation’s exciting new program, Lufkin Forward, has the potential to jumpstart economic development in the city core. It’s more than just a downtown beautification project.
Lufkin Forward is nothing less than a movement to increase diversity, build community and promote a higher quality of life in the town of Lufkin. It is a citizen effort turned towards the future and built on the past.
Think about it.
There was a time when most of the city’s local social and business activities were located along the half-mile-long First Street Corridor between Frank Street and Denman Avenue.
The area included clothing stores, jewelry stores, hardware stores, JCPenney, Perry Brothers, The Pines Theater, drugstores and more.
Offices or professional apartments were located on the second or third floor of buildings. The side streets offered more commercial and professional spaces, sandwich shops and cafes.
But Lufkin did not prosper because of the convenience offered by a downtown area. It flourished mainly because of its people, the sense of community naturally created when people lived, shared common values, and interacted with one another.
It’s great to see the booming business activity at the southern end of town. More the merrier, the merrier.
But Lufkin’s heart and soul has been, and can be again, a thriving downtown area conducive to street life, walking, and community.
We want to see increased residential options in and around downtown, especially in the west and north.
The city intends to develop a moderate mix of uses and densities in the city center that will ultimately support daily destinations such as more small businesses, cafes, a neighborhood grocery store, small restaurants, green spaces. and pocket parks.
We want to see our local culture on display, greater accessibility to the arts, more entertainment venues and outdoor gathering places.
This project will stretch some of us. Temporary construction and parking issues can be difficult. But we will be as friendly as possible for traders and pedestrians.
Lufkin Forward coincides with a trend that is gathering momentum in other parts of the country: the revitalization of city centers and the return of people – especially young people – to neighborhoods previously abandoned in the name of progress.
But these big projects are not just about building community and unity.
Our research shows that efforts like Lufkin Forward promote economic development throughout a city.
The prosperous and economically resilient small towns of the 21st century will be relatively close to large urban areas, but not too close. They will have advanced technologies, mixed uses of residential and commercial properties in close proximity and pedestrianization, and opportunities for the arts and entertainment.
And their architecture will inspire a sense of history and cultural cohesion.
The workforce of this generation wants to be in touch with the world from the corner of a cafe or restaurant where everyone knows their name.
If we build this place, the businesses and the jobs will be here before you know it.
Lufkin’s future will run through downtown.