L to R: Mark Mitchell, City Manager Jason Stuebe, Mayor Merle Aaron, Shad Comeaux. Photo by Michelle L. Bonton

- Local leaders, community members discuss plans for downtown revitalization -

Around the country, small towns are finding new life through strategic revitalization, and city leaders are positioning Humble for its opportunity to benefit from the trend. The mayor, councilmembers Charles Cunningham and David Pierce, and City Manager Jason Stuebe participated in a workshop to gain information on how to design and implement an effective revitalization program. “We’ve all been wanting to do something,” said Stuebe. “We just weren’t quite sure what to do.” “[Humble’s] got good bones, and we want to see our downtown achieve it’s full potential,” he went on to say.

Shad Comeaux, a specialist with the national urban planning and design firm of Freese and Nichols, led the workshop. Comeaux explained the process and steps required to achieve revitalization and cautioned stakeholders that the process is not overnight and will require commitment. Revitalization is “the implementation of intentional efforts that are likely to lead to measurable increases in access to employment, living wage jobs, supportive services, community amenities, transportation, and a variety of quality housing stock,” Comeaux stated.

The idea of revitalization created an exciting buzz among attendees such as Mark Mitchell, Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce director of economic development, Humble native and author Margie Parker, and long-time resident Debbie Pierce. “I brought this information about Tomball and all their activities to the mayor when he was elected, so I’m glad to see this beginning,” said Pierce.

Not everyone is excited about the prospect of change, however. Former Mayor Don McManus expressed alarm at the idea of having foot traffic and extended hours for businesses after dark, which is a key feature of most of revitalization and renewal projects in small cities and towns such as Humble. McManus spoke of losing the nostalgic charm of Old Humble in the wake of revitalization. While McManus was on the other side of the fence, others, like attorney Patricia Billings, owner of the historic Jewel building, sought the middle ground. “There’s logic to keeping the charm, but we need to get with the times,” said Billings. “I love the town, and I love the history, and I think we can build around that,” she stated.

Mike Baxter, director of marketing and tourism for the city of Tomball, and Brett Banfield, president of Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association (FDFA), gave presentations on their cities’ experiences and highlighted both the challenges and benefits of revitalization planning and implementation. “It won’t be easy. Be prepared to fight and make the hard decisions,” Banfield cautioned attendees.

If Tomball is the gauge, the long-term benefits of an effective revitalization program will likely be worth the work. According to Baxter, Tomball’s revitalization program took the city from being “a sleepy little country town that you’d drive through” to being a destination spot with regular events and commerce that attract thousands each year.

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