25 Years of Elmore PR: 1995

2017 is a big year for Elmore Public Relations—we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary! For the past 25 years, our agency has been working with numerous clients to help them achieve their goals, or as we say – connecting strategy, expertise and results. Each week we’re highlighting a year of Elmore PR.

In last week’s installment of our 25th anniversary series, we traveled back in time to 1994 where we reflected on our work with the Downtown Development Framework Plan and the opening of Houston’s first Starbucks. This week’s we’re headed to Main Street as we look back on the beginning of Main Street’s revitalization.

1995

Today, downtown’s Main Street is home to many attractions and hot spots, including the beloved Main Street Square, which boasts a 250-foot long fountain and the popular art installation, Art Blocks. Before these two were downtown staples, the Downtown District, which was also formed in 1995, put forward a plan to revitalize the underutilized area.

The Main Street plan was a part of a $100 million project that was designed to renovate downtown’s streets, lighting and landscaping in an effort to attract more people to the heart of the city. In August 1995, the Houston’s Chronicle’s James Robinson wrote an in-depth piece called “Boosters hope new plan puts Main Street back on road to recovery.” The article outlines details of the plan and why it was imperative that downtown officials put this plan into place. We pulled a few key snippets of the original article to give further insight on the plan:

Downtown Houston boosters Tuesday unveiled a revitalization plan they described as a realistic and achievable approach to reversing the steady decline along Main Street.

Aimed at making the thoroughfare more user-friendly, the Main Street plan is part of a $100 million project to upgrade downtown streets, improve lighting and landscaping.

“This is very reality-based,” said Guy Hagstette, the Downtown District’s director of planning and development. “We’re not playing games with unrealistic visions.”

The street reconstruction program, a $100 million project funded by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, is scheduled to hit Main Street in 1997. Sidewalks will be widened, decorative lighting will be installed and trees will be planted. In addition, on-street parking will return to some stretches of Main.

Yet along Main Street’s “central core” from Texas Avenue to Clay Street there is a latent demand for 300,000 square feet of retail space, the district’s retail consultants have concluded.

If so, why aren’t retailers moving in?

“The retail could be supported if the environment wasn’t dysfunctional,” said Hagstette, referring to the transient nature of pedestrian traffic and the constant drone of diesel-powered buses along Main.

Part of the revitalization plan is aimed at drawing more Houstonians – including office workers who scurry about the area via underground tunnels – to Main Street with parks, plazas and beautified sidewalks.

In the short term, district officials will continue making their case to the public by bringing in attractions such as an outdoor ice-skating rink, which will be in place for this year’s holiday season on the 1000 block of Main.

The district will also expand its litter patrols to weekend hours and will attempt to address the needs of the homeless. Mooney said “window-dressing” techniques also are in the works to improve the appearance of boarded-up Main Street facades.

In the long term, officials hope the northern end of Main Street will be redeveloped as an area for the arts, especially art galleries. In addition, if the conversion of the Hogg Building on Louisiana into apartments is successful, officials believe more such projects will be in the works in other parts of downtown.

The Make Main Street Happen initiative was a significant early step in the effort to revitalize downtown Houston. Elmore PR contributed by planning and executing the Central Houston Annual Meeting (where the plan was announced) in an unoccupied ground floor retail space downtown, and by orchestrating the media strategy for Make Main Street Happen. Being part of the team was meaningful to our agency and further fueled our passion for downtown. Next week, we look at how PR strategies and tactics have changed over the years.