Downtown Plano has gone from sleepy suburb center to bustling business and cultural area over the past decade. Now the city is looking to create an official arts district in its historic 80-acre downtown.
The downtown area has already seen over 50,000 square feet of private development, including more than 1,100 urban apartments built or approved, and the restoration of historic commercial and civic buildings. Multiple art galleries, shopping spots, and restaurants draw people of all ages to the area. An official arts district will is the next step to encourage business and job development, create a tourist and resident destination, and foster local cultural development.
“It’s the right move, especially with all the growth in Plano,” said Suzy Sloan Jones, executive director of the ArtCentre of Plano. “With Toyota, Liberty Mutual, and FedEx headquarters moving to this community, those people will be looking for things to do with the arts.”
The driving force behind the arts district is the Historic Downtown Plano Association and its executive director Mona Lisa Ringel. The association has worked with city leaders to craft an official plan that will include seven venues and areas. Those include:
- McCall Plaza, where renovations are already underway
- A new 800-square-foot covered stage for live performances near McCall Plaza
- Interurban Railway Museum
- Renovations of the Saigling House, built in 1906 and purported to be the city’s first brick house, which will house ArtCentre of Plano in winter 2016
- Haggard Park and its gazebo, where the historic downtown Red Line train is located
- Courtyard Theater, a city-owned theater with about 320 seats and gallery space
- Cox Building Playhouse, a city-owned black-box theater
- Historic downtown Plano
The plan is to earn an official State Cultural District designation from the Texas Commission on the Arts. The commission notes that such districts can “harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization. These districts can become focal points for generating businesses, attracting tourists, stimulating cultural development and fostering civic pride.”
Inspiration comes from the Bishop Arts District in North Oak Cliff, according to Plano deputy city manager Frank Turner.
“The arts and culture define the heart and soul of a city,” said Turner. “The downtown area already has an arts element to it, in the last 20 years especially. We have several arts programs or ones that support the arts, like the Historic Downtown Plano Association, the Art Association of Plano, and the ArtCentre of Plano, and we’d like to get those groups working closer in concert with the city. We want to see more events, look at getting more gallery space, and more creative activity in downtown.”
Those kind of activities could include festivals, tours of galleries, showcases of visual arts, culinary arts, and performances.