Sherman business owners, residents and community leaders came together this week to share a vision not of what downtown looks like now, but of what it could look like in the future with the right development. Representatives with Sherman Main Street, Downtown Sherman Now, the Sherman Cultural District and other stakeholders held a visioning session to gather ideas of what downtown needs to thrive in the future.
Tuesday’s meeting spun off of conversations regarding the committee and its role. The information and suggestions gathered will be used in future meetings including potential talks with the city regarding development and future planning documents.
“We’ve called this meeting because we all have an interest in downtown and want to see it thriving,” said Sean Vanderveer, chairman of the Main Street Economic Vitality Committee.
In describing their visions for downtown, many attendees referenced developed districts in other cities, including McKinney’s downtown and Denton’s courthouse square. Both districts feature a mixture of shopping, nightlife and restaurants that make them destinations and something downtown Sherman could aspire to be.
“But other Main Streets and downtowns have limitations we do not,” Vanderveer said. “We have six to eight blocks of space for development. We have buildings that are under utilized or not utilized at all, and they offer us opportunity.”
Dylan White, representing the Sherman Museum, said he saw opportunities to redevelop buildings and bring life to aging storefronts much like Denton has. What was once a opera house is now a thriving bookstore just off the square, while other buildings have been retrofitted as a vintage record store and an arcade, he said.
Specifically, White said he wanted to see development that catered to markets that aren’t represented in the current makeup of downtown, including geek culture.
These comments were mirrored by 16-year-old Marcus Avitia, who said the coffee shops and boutiques currently don’t offer much for his generation. Instead, he said he would like to see developments that bring younger residents to downtown. With the future connectivity to the high school on Travis, Marcus said there is an opportunity to draw in younger audiences.
“I want to see it as a place where teens come to have fun,” he said.
Heather LaRosa, owner of Fulbelli’s in downtown, said new restaurants would benefit her business rather than detract from it. With more options, it would give diners incentive to come downtown, rather than go to areas with a larger variety. In the end, all the restaurants benefit from each other’s presence, she said.
While much of the meeting was focused on potential developments, organizers took the opportunity to discuss challenges that face the district, with a specific focus on infrastructure.
Tom Kyle, who operates a financial services business, said there are times that sewer gas odor can be smelt in downtown. This can lead to negative connotations for the city with visitors when this occurs at one of the district’s eateries, he said.
There have been times when Kyle has acted as a cheerleader for downtown and its businesses only for these situations to mar first impressions, he said.
“I am just going to say that when we walked in, it smelled like the toilet overflowed,” he said, describing a business lunch at a restaurant. “And it is no fault of their own.”
Others said the nature of the courthouse square detracts from their business. Shari Wolsey, who operates Monarch Boutique on East Lamar said the one-way roads keep some shoppers away from her storefront as they do not know how far the district extends.
“People automatically think you have to stay on the square,” she said, noting that a few female-owned businesses exist off the square.
This past year marked the first time that Monarch participated in the annual downtown Sherman Wine Stroll, and many visitors expressed that they did not know about the off-the-square businesses. The night proved to be one of her biggest saling days of the year.
Wolsey said she would like to see signage that directs visitors to the various businesses that operate all across the district. In many cases, business owners would likely want to contribute to erecting the signage, she said.
“As a business owner, I would happily pay for that,” she said.
Realtor Amanda Phillips said she would like to see something similar to the Denison Development Alliance’s annual economic summit take place in Sherman. Through this, smaller establishments in downtown could share the spotlight with larger businesses.
“What I see is a division between the city, the school district and downtown,” she said. “There is no cohesion between the three.”
Phillips said downtown businesses could help each other through cross-promotion efforts that would boost not one but multiple businesses. By complimenting each other’s services, Phillips said businesses could make up for the services that they do not offer.
“They don’t know about these other business, so they leave and go somewhere else,” she said. “Or, you don’t go at all because you can do it all somewhere else.”
Vanderveer said he plans to follow Tuesday’s meeting with another community meeting to make set plans within the next five weeks.
What would you like to see come to downtown Sherman? Let Sherman area reporter Michael Hutchins know at firstname.lastname@example.org.