AP NEWS

Downtown Beaumont gaining momentum

January 5, 2019

Anyone who predicts traffic jams and crowded sidewalks for downtown Beaumont in the new year is going to look pretty silly in December. But the downtown is steadily gaining more businesses and customers, and the boomlet is encouraging.

As our recent story noted, two clubs (Rumors and Safari) have opened downtown in the past two months and five other buildings have been purchased by people who are “looking at doing something” with them. (That’s basically the only reason anyone buys real estate.) Those projects join a small but significant list of businesses that are breaking in or hanging on in the oldest part of Beaumont.

As Beaumont Main Street director Tom Bell said, the momentum from this kind of progress is contagious. “It’s a handbasket of things that feed off of each other,” he said. “The more people who live downtown, the more people who go downtown, the more bars and light retail.”

That’s undeniable for downtown or any commercial sector. Yet some Southeast Texans still suffer from the misconception that downtown is virtually deserted, with tumbleweeds blowing across the streets at high noon. That’s far from true, and any trip down Main Street will prove it.

Bell noted that in the 26 years since Beaumont Main Street was established, it has saved 30 buildings and seen some $200 million in private money invested into restoring buildings downtown. Those numbers are clearly positive.

City Hall is supporting various governmental services downtown, from the new senior citizens center by the lake to the Events Centre, which is booked almost every weekend. All of it helps and contributes to the sense that the downtown is still a place that matters.

The City Council needs to keep moving the ball forward, even if the pace is uneven, and even if some projects don’t pan out. Sometimes it’s better to try something and fail instead of doing nothing. Recent plans to revitalize the riverfront are worthwhile in their own right and will have a positive ripple effect for the nearby downtown.

Area residents can do their part by dropping in occasionally or attending the various programs held at downtown theaters or museums. There are multiple events going on every month.

It’s a slow process, and downtown will never be the retail center it was before World War II. In Beaumont, and most other cities, suburban shopping malls ensured that transition. Yet Beaumont’s downtown is in much better shape than its counterparts in other Texas cities. All things considered, we’ll take it, and hope for more of the same in 2019.