Heart of the city: Downtown manager to discuss revitalization

BY: Steve Clark, The Brownsville Herald

Anyone interested in getting up to speed on what’s happening with downtown Brownsville may want to check out the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce’s “Friday with the City” on Feb. 10 at the Brownsville Events Center, 1 Event Center Blvd.

Downtown Manager Allan Garces will deliver a free public presentation on downtown revitalization efforts and events, such as First Friday, that are aimed at attracting people downtown. The chamber event is from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Garces, a Brownsville native and urban planner by trade, who joined the city as downtown manager in February 2022, said Wednesday that he’ll also discuss public improvement projects and the city’s new automated building permit processing software, Accela, which streamlines the permitting process for developers and re-developers. He said he’ll also highlight revitalization efforts by business owners, property owners and the city.

Garces said it’s gratifying to witness how the changes downtown are drawing more people in.

“All these efforts are going into it and all this investment is being poured into it,” he said. “It’s awesome to see.”

As for First Friday, which features artists, vendors and performers at multiple venues scattered throughout downtown, the event was “bootstrapped” by downtown business owners a few years ago before being upended by the pandemic, Garces said, adding that city began backing it because of the potential.

“Unfortunately COVID pushed it back a little bit, but we saw that it was working,” he said. “We knew that there was something there.”

That and the many other events going on downtown are a good way to promote the area and its businesses, while attracting visitors who may not have ventured downtown in a while, show them what they’ve been missing and “create that awareness that may not be there right now,” Garces said.

Besides the festive and nightlife aspect of downtown he’ll talk about, there are also “serious projects” he’ll shed light on, he said.

“It’s not just about the parties,” Garces said. “Even though it’s fun and stuff we also know that there’s investments going on and there’s public improvements that need to happen. Those are the things we’re going to share with the public. … I’m excited. This is the first time where I get to show some of that stuff, everything going on downtown, especially for a bigger audience.”

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