By Steve Holt, Opinion Editor
We need more restaurants, shopping and entertainment near ACU.
I’m sick of driving half way to Tye to eat Biggie Fries, buy some jeans from Old Navy or see a movie. And no reason exists why more commerce hasn’t moved our way.
Seemingly before, the only thing keeping our side of town from booming was a liquor ban on some areas surrounding ACU and HSU. In July of last year, the Abilene Chamber of Commerce approved a plan to re-draw the “dry zones” where liquor can’t be sold, and the ACU and HSU administration agreed.
This new plan allowed most restaurants that sold liquor to be exempt from zoning restrictions placed on taverns and bars. Instead, these restaurants, whose major business must be in food preparation and not liquor sales, have to stay at least 300 feet from schools and churches. Also, supermarkets and convenience stores that sell liquor would be exempt from most zoning restrictions as well, while still having to remain 300 feet from schools and churches.
Jeff Armstrong, development services manager for Abilene, said the town’s north side has seen limited increase in development, but more is wanted.
“The city would love to see some places over on the north side. It’d be great,” Armstrong said.
In addition to the increased convenience more restaurants and such would bring ACU and HSU students, commercialization would also bring more revenue to Abilene. In its current state, Abilene is a barren wasteland to passers-by on I-20. Nothing exists immediately off the highway that would tip-off travelers that Abilene might be a nice place to spend the night, or even a weekend sometime. More stores, food and entertainment on our side of the tracks would compliment Texas’ second most prominent highway nicely, and might actually make the town some money.
“You want things to draw people’s attention, whether through signage or actual storefronts,” Armstrong said. “And if travelers are like me, they don’t want to drive three or four miles off the highway to get food.”
To its credit, Abilene is in a comprehensive planning process to develop the city over the next 20 years. Two proposals are for more development inside the 320 loop and near Ambler along I-20.
The city has a green light to develop around ACU and HSU. Owners and developers should see this as an opportunity to expand Abilene’s economy even more, as soon as possible-and I don’t want to wait 20 years.
In short, I want to eat a triple play sampler at Chili’s without spending the equivalent on gas money each time I drive across town.
Well, that’s a stretch, but I think you catch my drift.