Meeting with the Mayor on Community Business Creation/Infrastructure Growth



It’s easy enough to take a look at the road construction on Main Street in Lamar and acknowledge, despite the detours, that the street will be an improvement once it’s completed.  There are other areas of development and improvement taking place around the city that doesn’t always meet the eye.

Several of these developments were covered during a recent conversation with Lamar Mayor, Kirk Crespin.

Cresin explained that over the past year, improvements have been made in the community, but not always observed by everyone, “We’ve been working on infrastructure improvements as well as economic development projects that will benefit our overall quality of life, recreation, transportation and economic.  Most of our focus has been directed to growth from within the community.”

Crespin said one project was a series of improvements to sidewalks connected off Main Street in the city.  Although not everyone would notice them, depending on their daily routines, it has made a huge difference in safety and the appearance of the downtown area.

“We received a CDOT Resiliency Grant financing an ADA accessible sidewalk project that extends from Lamar Community College to the Lamar Canal on the eastern side of the road which will help connect the college students to downtown Lamar.  We’ve had concerns when we get reports of kids walking down the median, heading in to town.  Once that has been approved, we’ll work on a grant to do the same thing on the western side of Main Street.”

The city is now in the second phase of a water infrastructure improvement project as the first one was completed along Main Street two years ago, after which the road was repaved.  Work has been underway for the same project running from Pearl Street to Savage Avenue with new mains and when that’s complete, we’ll repeat the process with cement, connecting the entire length of Main Street with a wider, safer roadway that will last for decades without constantly having to dig up the street for water repairs.

The mayor added the master plan for the Southeast Regional Lamar Airport will include a new taxiway for runway A which can add to the number planes coming here as well as planning for economic growth for the next ten years.  Once this plan has been completed, the city will begin to search out new areas of financing.  Crespin said the city owns land due west of the airport that is being considered as warehouse distribution centers or something of that nature.  We realize it’s somewhat out of the way with just a two-lane road system, but that area does have potential and is currently zoned for development especially since the airport is now registered with the FAA as a regional operation.

The city is also selling aviation gas at an under-the-average price and has plans for self-service for airplane operators in the future.  “We’ve always received good reports on our service there and we’re using some of the city’s pool cars as a courtesy to visitors who fly to Lamar, but need a way to get into town to conduct business.

Groundbreaking ceremonies will be held next week for the construction of the Cobblestone Motel at 1215 North Main Street in Lamar, a deal that had been in the works for the past couple of years, which goes to show that these projects don’t just happen overnight.

Another long-awaited project is the renovation to the Main Café, downtown.  It has been vacant for at least a decade before it was sold to the city which is now working on a grant application to secure at least $300,000 to fix it up as a restaurant and see if anyone wants to lease the operation from the city.  This includes what will be two upstairs apartments.

Crespin said, “This can be the first of several projects of this nature where we can acquire and renovate empty businesses, bring them up to code and lease them or sell them outright which will help generate tax revenue, bring in more employees, and be able to offer more business selections to local residents, as well as generate more people from the region to shop Lamar.  Under the program, the Urban Renewal District will hold the Main Café for ten years, so a lease/management agreement would be the first start, finding the best equipped manager or franchise to take over the operation and act as an incubator project for future projects.”

Crespin acknowledged that it appears the city is financing competition against established businesses, but the main focus will be on Lamar’s current strengths…hotels, visitation, restaurants and entertainment.  “If we don’t focus on this, we won’t be capturing any of that outside, pass-through money that comes through this town every week.”  He added it would be nice to secure some manufacturing operations, but we aren’t going to get any more Neoplan bus plants coming to town.  “It’s a long-shot, it hasn’t been happening, historically, so our most logical direction is to focus on what we have to offer in the way of all our sports tournaments and other draws.  We have the ballfield complex, we’re improving North Gateway Park and just put down $500,000 in sod and dirt to construct two regulation sized soccer fields at Escondido Park.  The more we can become a visitor’s hub to this region, the more that increased traffic helps our current businesses.”

The city owns 60 acres of land south of town by the two water tanks that could also be developed.  Crespin explained, “We’ve sent a proposal to the state to develop this land into a site for data storage.  We already have the water and electric power with the sub-station, fiber optics and a ready-to-go sewer system.  All we’d need is road development, so this can be an ideal situation in unused land that has been idle for years.”  He said it’s also close to the alternate truck route which has a path to the rear of Walmart and Highway 50 for ease of access.  “The council has sat down and analyzed how best to use this property, the costs involved, how to go about developing it and brought in department heads for their suggestions.  This area could be divided into four, 15 acre plots of land for several businesses to use and all the infrastructure is already in place.”  The mayor said that once that plan had been laid out, the city can take the information and create a marketing plan to advertise the location to future developers.

Crespin summarized these projects with the, “what came first, the chicken or the egg scenario.”  We’re the chicken before the egg.  The concept and approach is we, the community, have to be the one who looks at what we have and develop plans to make the community grow and prosper on numerous fronts.  Once we get started with our improvements to streets, sidewalks and water, we can move ahead to renovate what were once very popular restaurants and retail stores.  All of this is long-term planning for long-term growth.  It isn’t always easily noticed, but the behind the scenes efforts have to come first.”

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyFeaturedHot Topics


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