Future city hall, more events aim to attract more customers
As other sectors in the Katy area continue to boom, businesses in Downtown Katy are faced with the challenge of how to not be passed by. Together with local leaders, downtown businesses are banding together to find ways to increase traffic and awareness for their area.
“Our biggest challenge is we are on this side of [I-10] and the railroad—most people just don’t know we’re here,” said Betsy Proctor, owner of Limited Edition in Downtown Katy. “Because we’re away from a main road, you either know we are all back here or you stumble upon us. We want to change that.”
The Katy Area Economic Development Council markets Downtown Katy by posting images of the area on its website, in branding materials and on the group’s development map, said President Lance LaCour. The city is also looking at ways to help improve the overall look and feel of the area, but Mayor Don Elder said downtown’s biggest advocates have to be the businesses.
“No matter what, the business owners all have to come together for what they want to accomplish,” he said. “If they do that, they can be very successful.”
In December 2012, Proctor and a group of several other downtown business owners began meeting to discuss how to strengthen current events and to brainstorm new ones. The group’s goal is to one day join the ranks of Katy Mills Mall and LaCenterra as Katy area destination spots for residents in the Greater Houston area.
“Every third Saturday we have our Market Days in the center of downtown with vendors selling fresh eggs, organic meat, and arts and crafts,” Proctor said. “It is very eclectic.”
Other events include art walks, city-wide garage sales, and for the first time, the businesses have organized car shows to bring people downtown. The first one is set for April 20. Some of the events, such as the Market Days, have existed for several years and are slowly yielding results, said Janine Anderson, owner of The Village at Old Katy as well as Gourmet to Go.
“There are more people coming in, and more businesses coming into the commercial vacancies, which is good,” she said. “What we are trying to do as a group is advertise together and come up with this calendar of events so we can still meet our personal budgets.”
By spending less individually on advertising, the group of businesses can achieve more together, she said.
In early February, the City of Katy invited individuals from the Texas Downtown Association to evaluate the state of Downtown Katy and help gather feedback from the business owners, Elder said.
A needs assessment will help shape future city action as leaders move toward creating plans for a new City Hall.
“We demolished our former senior citizen building across the street from the current city hall and hope to build a new one in its place,” Elder said. “There is great potential in Downtown Katy.”
The new building will answer the city’s desperate need for space, but it will also act as a catalyst for additional growth and improvements in the area. In March, City Council will hear proposals from two architectural firms, Elder said. Although construction will not begin for at least two years, Councilwoman Carol Adams said the project will be worth the wait.
“The new City Hall will set the tone for downtown and will help re-invent the area,” she said. “Equally as important, our current City Hall is failing us. It is very old, too small and we have outgrown it.”
In the meantime, the Keep Katy Beautiful Board—a group of citizens appointed by City Council—is working with the city to place more directional signs in and around Downtown Katy to help direct drivers to landmark buildings, parks and businesses.
“We have people coming in who may be looking for the museums and other local buildings, and we want them to be able to find them,” KKB Chairwoman Sandy Schmidt said.
Signs would be placed on both sides of I-10 to potentially capitalize on customer volume on Katy’s south side. Elder said the city is also looking at some form of public transportation, which could be trolleys or horse-drawn carriages, to take people from Katy’s south side to downtown.
“I know it’s hard for small business owners to compete, but you really can’t compete with places like LaCenterra because they are not the same,” Schmidt said. “Each place offers different things.”