BEAUMONT - About three years ago, the City of Beaumont borrowed $42 million to help with drainage, street repairs and to fund construction projects.
The bond made projects like the Best Years Senior Center, new fire stations and a hike and bike trail possible.
Construction is set to start on the next phase of improvements.
12News has been digging through documents and speaking with city leaders to find out where Beaumontians will see $3 million being spent in the coming months.
City leaders believe in the star power of Beaumont and are bankrolling projects aimed at encouraging Southeast Texans to make downtown a destination.
Detailed design work is underway and crews are expected to break ground this calendar year.
Damon Segura is getting ready to start a new career as a barber. Between classes at his trade school downtown, he sits on a bench on Orleans, watching what’s happening up and down the streets of Beaumont. Growing up in Southeast Texas, Segura has seen things change on that very block.
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“It’s died out a lot from what it used to be,” said Segura. “It’s slow.”
Ready for downtown to become a destination, Segura says having an incentive for Southeast Texas families to gather in the center of the city, could help.
“I have a little girl, her name is Gabriel. She’s two weeks old today,” said Segura. “I would love for it to be more lively, more people walking around sight-seeing…I would like to see how it used to be.”
City leaders are ready to grant Segura’s wish. Funds are going to several projects geared at providing more to do at Riverfront Park.
“Of course Riverfront Park it’s a beautiful park, it has been for decades really but we’ve always had the obstacle of the railroad track and yard,” said City of Beaumont Director of Planning Chris Boone. “After a lot of good work especially by the Port, most of those tracks have come out. So now we’re looking to try to leverage that by making these enhancements.”
City plans show where improvements will take place. A spray pad, which is a giant version of a splash pad, will give kids a way to stay active while beating our relentless Texas heat. There’s also a designated food truck area. The spot includes water and electric hook-ups along with a shaded area for hungry visitors to find relief from the sun while chowing down. A stage for live music will take events and holiday gatherings over the top.
“Downtown Beaumont we really feel like is a jewel,” said Boone. “It has so many amenities. So you think about we’ve had Jazz Fest, we’ve had Craft Beer Festival on the lake, we have movie nights at the Jefferson… we feel like if we continue to make these improvements, it will even more so.”
Jennifer Bianchi picks the scenic downtown area as a place to work out. When there are events held downtown she turns it into a memory-making time with her 12-year-old daughter, Nikolette.
“It looks pretty cool,” said Nikolette Helmus. “I like the lake and all that and the music is pretty cool.”
Once Riverfront Park is improved, Jennifer and Nikolette are interested in the bigger projects that could come into view. The city is hoping to attract a riverfront restaurant and a boutique hotel.
The downtown lodging would offer a unique stay for business travelers, family in for the holidays or guests catching a Southeast Texas event. Boone says there is enough room for the hotel to be built off the Civic Center parking lot. Another change city leaders are encouraging is the addition of housing downtown.
“We’ve done surveys and a lot of folks would like to live down here there’s just not a lot of supply,” said Boone. “It’s kind of a false perception that downtown is unsafe or too far away or all kinds of things but really that’s not true at all. It’s one of the safest parts of the region.”
Segura says he’d like to see more option in places to live.
“I’ve seen the condo in the back that I would like to stay in but [there’s] nothing here,” said Segura. “I mean you have to drive into town which is not a lot but still you have to have something around your area to be happy.”
While the plans sound fantastic, Jennifer Bianchi hopes that the construction, particularly at the park, won’t interfere with nature.
“As long as they don’t get rid of all the green and the trees and stuff like that I think it’s great,” said Bianchi.
As for Segura, he’s ready for more to brag about.
“Keep Beaumont downtown going, that’s what makes us,” said Segura. “Have something for us to show that Beaumont is a great city.”
As for the status of Hotel Beaumont, Boone says the owner is “in talks” with a party interested in buying the property and keeping the structure as a hotel. No official paperwork has been filed with the city at this time.
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