Small Texas city launches 3-phase downtown revitalization but—like most communities—lacks complete strategic renewal process

The city of Allen, Texas is about 25 miles north of Dallas, and had just 400 people in 1950. It’s situated on land taken from the Caddo and Comanche tribes by European immigrants in the 1840s. Today, its population is over 100,000.

On June 30, the Downtown Steering Committee appointed by Mayor Ken Fulk and the Allen City Council the month before kicked off their work to develop a vision and plan that they hope will revitalize the heart of Allen.

The plan of work will include research, community feedback, and team collaboration in an effort to create a workable vision for downtown that can be implemented.

Committee Chair Tommy Baril said, “Tonight’s meeting represents the first step in an exciting and challenging journey that will revitalize the heart of Allen.

He added, “For the next 12 months, the Committee members and City Staff will work tirelessly to learn more about the downtown area, actively seek and listen to members of the Allen community (including the city’s residents, business owners, landowners, and developers), and develop a plan that will revitalize the center of our wonderful city. I look forward to serving alongside the talented Committee members and City Staff towards realizing the dream that so many of us have for our downtown Allen.

The committee will pursue the work in three phases over a 12-month period:

  • Phase 1: Data Collection and Analysis – assessing the current status of the downtown area;
  • Phase 2: Visioning Process – Seeking community engagement and public input which will be used to develop the Downtown Revitalization Plan; and
  • Phase 3: Implementation – Strategies will be deployed to implement the revitalization plan.

Readers of last year’s groundbreaking book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity know that too many communities dive right into a visioning session, forgetting that a good vision must be based on data and a thorugh understanding of the situation. Otherwise, it’s little more than a daydreaming session. So, it’s good to see Allen’s Phase 1.

During Phase 1, committee members will be gathering data to understand the opportunities and challenges that exist within the current structure of the designated Downtown Area (sometimes referred to as the Central Business District).

A variety of subcommittees have been formed to focus on specific areas of this process including zoning, finance, and community uses – to name a few. Another area of review will be analyzing other successful downtown developments and the factors that contribute to long-term, thriving economic success and place-making implementation.

Phase 2 will provide the Allen community (including residents, business owners, downtown landowners, and developers) multiple opportunities to share ideas and ask questions about what they would like to see in the future for Downtown Allen. Using information collected from Phase 1 along with community input, the committee will develop and present a plan with a list of recommendations to revitalize the heart of the community—downtown Allen—to the Mayor and City Council.

Phase 3, the implementation phase, will deploy strategies to work with Downtown stakeholders to implement the Downtown Revitalization Plan.

Readers of RECONOMICS will also see the danger in Allen’s plan: they are moving straight from visioning into implementation, without devoting a phase to the critical element of creating a strategy for success. They refer to “strategies” in Phase 3, but they probably mean “tactics”, since few communities know the difference.

Ideally, they should have a complete strategic renewal process. The minimum viable process is an ongoing program, a vision, a strategy, policy support, partnerships and projects.

To actually achieve revitalization, however, each of those six elements must be regenerative. That means based on repurposing, renewing and reconnecting existing natural, built and socioeconomics assets, as opposed to sprawling.

The committee comprises 13 Allen residents from various geographic areas of the community and professional expertise along with two councilmembers:

  • Tommy Baril, Chair
  • Murry McKenzie, Vice Chair
  • Bob Acker
  • Austin Bassil
  • Doug Galletti
  • Ted Gould
  • Stacey Greer
  • Marcelle Jones
  • Alyssa Schnick
  • Janet Sherlip
  • Ana Sutter
  • Mary Vail-Grube
  • Gregg Watling
  • Councilmember Chris Schulmeister, Ex-Officio
  • Councilmember Dave Cornette, Ex-Officio

The committee and City of Allen intend to keep the community informed with updates and information through multiple communication channels. This will include a dedicated project page on the City of Allen website, updates on, and through the various social media channels including Nextdoor and the City’s digital newsletter Sharable.

Photo of downtown Allen courtesy of the City of Allen.

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