Victoria’s downtown district has come alive again with public and private investment resulting in brick sidewalks and magnolia trees, revived buildings, new restaurants and shops. Add the brand-new Bootfest to a lively calendar of established events, and residents and visitors have even more reason to visit the city's historic center.
"It was wonderful to see thousands of people milling around downtown.It brought life back to downtown,” City of Victoria Director of Development Services Jared Mayfield says of the first Bootfest in 2011. “The plaza was full of families, sitting with their lawn chairs or dogs, wandering around eating snow cones, listening to the music. Some people were dancing in the streets.”
Bootfest unveiled major improvements to Main Street and DeLeon Plaza, said Mayfield, City of Victoria director of development services. A $2.168 million project repaired/replaced curbs, repaved streets and installed brick-paver sidewalks with ADA accessibility.
The new Victoria Main Street Program also planted 50 trees through private donations.
“It looks like a downtown shopping area should look,” downtown resident Sara Hounshell says.
Another $2.913 million project replaced water/sewer lines as part of a $46 million city-wide infrastructure improvement plan.
Bars, Restaurants, Retail Move Back in
The public investment is paying dividends with private dollars flowing into downtown.
“I probably wouldn't have even chosen to live downtown initially because there wasn't that much going on,” Hounshell says. “Everything at 5 o'clock just kind of shut down. Now it's just completely different.”
Hounshell lived downtown in Bloomington, IN, and Indianapolis, and liked being able to walk to restaurants, bars, shopping and festivals.
“If you go out with friends, you don't have to worry about who's driving or where to park,” she says.
Now, there are several after-work options: 77901 wine bar and Lauren Bade's shop, The Golden Gecko, Steve-a-reno's rock/blues bar, and Greek’s 205 with patio and live music. Downtown had its first pub crawl in August.
A microbrewery is among suggestions for a shuttered downtown building bought by business owner Torin Bales. The Victoria Advocate printing plant is being renovated into retail downstairs and 212 South Main into a restaurant with rooftop bar/dining.
The Main Street organization has façade restoration grants to uncover architecture.
Festivals, Events Bring Boots Downtown
Bootfest, marking its second year in October, was generated from a “bring your boots to Victoria” visitors marketing campaign. About 23,000 attended the first event.
Artisans made boots or artwork with boots, and there were concerts, a rock wall, sumo wrestling and fireworks shot off One O'Connor Plaza.
Other celebrations bring people downtown, too, such as a Cinco de Mayo celebration, the nationally recognized Victoria Bach Festival in June, plus summer street dances and the Victoria Symphony's Downtown Rhythms concert each April.
“What's fun about festivals is that it really transforms a place that you see every day,” says Nina Di Leo, Bach Festival director and Old Victoria resident.
The monthly Market Days feature furniture, jewelry, plants and other booths.
“The whole feel of downtown just has such a charm, such a life to it, it's very green,” Di Leo says. "It's a beautiful place to work and to live, and I'm just so glad that it's getting the investment and attention it deserves.”
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