Corpus Christi Caller Times

"Urban Dreams"

We have a great opportunity to beautify and revitalize the heart of the city

We are in the midst of an important civic debate over the development of our marina, as well we should be. The bayfront is the crown jewel of Corpus Christi. Decisions we make now will effect the character of our city for decades and should not be hurried.

But, at the same time, we should not forget that great urban waterfronts do not exist apart from their adjacent cities, but are part of waterfront districts.

The color and flavor of a vibrant shoreline will extend well beyond the waterís edge into more affordable and compact inland properties. That, in turn, can make for cozy cafes, protected plazas and pedestrian ways to complement the grand ocean vistas.

While we dream, letís dream in all directions.

In Corpus Christi, we are not lacking opportunity. Letís admit it: underutilized urban assets and unrealized potential abound.

Stretching along the bluff over looking downtown, Upper N. Broadway is poised to reclaim its status as a major urban asset. Flanked by a historic balustrade and uptown high-rise offices, it is not much more than a car park now.

Panoramic vistas

Suppose we remove the cars, and create a grand tree-lined promenade? Like stepping our onto a terrace, this new broadway, cooled by tempered sea breezes, offers stroller panoramic vistas of downtown and the bayfront.

From the adjacent buildings, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and shops can open onto the terrace; shade trees and decorative lights make it friendly day and night; kiosks, street musicians, vendors, benches extend an invitation to stay a while. There is ample parking in the adjacent high-rise buildings, especially after hours. This splendid terrace can very well become a favorite place to be serenaded under the stars.

South of Coopers Alley is an area of downtown that is well-suited for the development of medium and high-density apartments and condominiums for active urban living. Five-or six-story apartments, occasionally punctuated by a high-rise or two, are all within walking distance or a short trolley ride to work, shops, and restaurants in the heart of downtown.

Convenient to leisure activities along the bayfront, these residential units will be only a few blocks from city amenities such as the Corpus Christi Public Library, Blucher Park, Sherrill Park, and area churches.
Less than five minutes away are performances and events at the Convention Center and the new arena. A critical mass of residential development can generate vitality in our downtown on a 24 hours daily basis.
Northwest of the Convention Center is another area of great potential. It is roughly defined by the ship channel, Chaparral, and Port Avenue. Presently occupied by the Por;s cotton warehouses, this area can be rejuvenated as a mixed-use cultural district with a focus on local art and music studios, local specialty restaurants, and outdoor exhibit plazas can all generate vitality.
Public amenities such as the Solomon P. Ortiz International Center, Heritage Park, museums and the Water Garden are attractions already set in place to play a supportive role.
Further to the west, a new ballpark may kick off a series of urban renewal projects along Port Avenue.
These parcels of urban land within walking distance of the marina and the cityís major cultural assets represents the most intrinsically valuable parts of Corpus Christi and they are largely vacant.
We are the market ,br> We have vacated our own city center. We cannot expect tourists to fill the vacancy. It is time for us to repopulate it.
There are those who would say that the marina development is the market stimulus that downtown needs, and certainly there is some truth to this.
But remember, for the most part, we are the market. What kind of stimulus do we need? Creating a livable downtown is the key to success. Our city has a one-of-a-kind downtown that is ready-made for living, working, and playing.
When we relearn how to enjoy the beautiful heart of our city like we enjoy our own living room, then the downtown, the bayfront, and the entire city will sparkle in a heartbeat.