Over the past few years the Wichita Falls downtown area has surged with new business, building renovation, and special event activity such as a renewed Farmer’s Market, several studios and galleries, Art & Soul Festival, and the highly successful Food Truck Challenge. However, this great progress has been an uphill battle against severely outdated codes and red tape which hinder growth and progress.
Right now local business owners are lining up to invest their time and money into making downtown great and are being met with long wait times and outrageous demands. For example, one successful local business owner has been trying to open an upscale whiskey and wine bar in a second floor space downtown that is now in poor condition, and instead of getting a green light to renovate this eye sore into a beautiful, classy establishment she is told that she may not be allowed to open unless she installs an elevator which would be far too costly for anyone to ever consider using that space and would leave it to rot. Another business was forced to install a $4500 water fountain that was never used and later removed. Three local businessmen are chipping in to turn a run down, abandoned building into a local grocery store and soda fountain. That sounds nice, but not before the city forces them to spend many thousands of dollars on a sprinkler system. Speaking of sprinkler systems, did you know that “The Little Skyscraper”, which is a historical landmark and known world wide, was forced to put in a $10,000 sprinkler system during it’s renovation? For what? It’s only 640 square feet and rarely visited, not to mention that a modern system takes away form the historic feeling of the space. It might also be noted that they didn’t have to install an elevator, like the first example, which leads one to wonder if these “code” enforcements are just hit and miss. I’m sure we can always dig up an excuse for certain city codes but room should also be made for common sense and the greater good. Don’t lose heart. Good things are still happening. Many that are in the fight have no plans of letting up. When you see downtown being renovated and cleaned up, or there’s an awesome event that you have a blast attending, know that it is great local organizations, local businesses and business owners, as well as hundreds of volunteers that are doing this for you and for this city. When you feel like complaining about “nothing to do in this town” pause and realize that there really is plenty to do and more is on the way. There are good people investing and fighting to improve Wichita Falls. You can help! Join and support these organization, volunteer for events and, most important and easiest of all, SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS. Drink local coffee, see local bands, and eat at locally owned restaurants.
photo credit: downtownproud.com