We should all celebrate our downtown

Downtown San Marcos is one of the many aspects of this growing community that keep this city grounded in its roots. Historic and beautiful, the Square has become a hub for locals and visitors alike to walk, shop and dine. However, with the expansion of Texas State University and the increasing number of students residing in the city, it is easy to overlook the reality of what our downtown has actually become and what it truly represents to our community.

There seems to be a narrative that downtown only attracts students and drives away locals. However, the facts just don’t prove that out. In a 2017 San Marcos Main Street survey, there were 395 businesses located in our downtown, over 360 of which are active in day-to-day operations. In reality, there are 13 businesses that make their living only serving alcohol, mostly between the hours of 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Given this fact, bars represent only about 3 percent of our active downtown businesses.

According to the same 2017 Main Street survey, these 363 active businesses employed almost 2,100 people in positions ranging from professional services in the fields of finance, economic development, legal, investments, government, non-profits and service sector. Downtown is and remains a hub for continued economic growth and development and is an area of business owned, in large part, by local residents.

Over the past decade we have seen significant growth in both the number of residents and investment in our downtown. When I first moved to downtown in 2006, there were only about 64 residential living units. By the city’s estimates, in the next 24-36 months there will be some 3,200 residents living within a 5-minute walk of the town square. Property tax valuations have increase some $48.4 million since 2011 with the total downtown property assessed valuation for 2016 exceeding $150 million.

Sales taxes have also been on the rise. Since 2013 through the calendar year of 2016, city sales taxes in the downtown have grown some 28 percent approaching almost $1.25 million. The final estimates for 2017 will most likely exceed $1.35 million, an increase of some $100,000 in just one year. In partnership with Hays County, through TIRZ #5, a taxincrement district focused on creating enhance investment in our downtown, contributions to the city will increase an estimated additional $130,000. So, simply stated, in calendar year 2017, the downtown, along with its partnership with Hays County, has contributed a total of approximately $2.4 million to our city’s economic health and prosperity.

Today, downtown promotes family activities as well as promoting local products, produce and the arts. Businesses stay open late on the third Thursday of each month with four art galleries exhibiting the work of local artists. Each Saturday, The Square is home to the farmer’s market, hosting local growers, their products and other local artists and exhibitors. Every Halloween the downtown is full of children trick or treating with the participation of local merchants. And, every day downtown there are multiple opportunities to eat at amazing restaurants and cafes spilling out onto the sidewalk, shop at retail shops or just people watch. This is not the downtown I knew only 10 years ago. This is a true urban existence with a vibrant energy that is alive, organic and growing.

With this much traffic through our downtown by students, visitors and local residents, our local businesses are able to continue to grow and prosper. The students who live in our city contribute to our local economic prosperity by shopping and dining, and with the diversity of businesses in our downtown, the circulation of money goes well beyond just the sale of alcohol. All of our local businesses benefit from the students: coffee shops are perfect for studying, restaurants are social gatherings to catch up with old friends, and retail stores offer a place to shop. These same places are shared with our working professionals and visitors to our downtown.

So today, downtown represents not only a high-energy place to live, work and play for professionals, students and it’s older residents, it also represents a significant economic contributor to our city. We are a diverse city full of thriving local businesses committed to serving our citizens.

Rather than casting doubt on our downtown and our local businesses, we should celebrate the fact that our downtown provides a truly diverse, economically prosperous place that will, with our participation, continue to keep us grounded in our roots.

Scott Gregson is a San Marcos City Council member

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666