Thursday, September 13, 2012

South Side: Beautifying entryways should be only a first step

View article on Longview News Journal Web Page.
Posted Sept. 12, 2012 by Longview News Journal

Those of us who call Longview home know it is a city of beautiful, tree-shaded neighborhoods wrapped around a historic downtown and lovely parks and trails.

Unfortunately, that is not the impression it gives visitors entering Longview from the south. In fact, for many of those who briefly exit I-20 to buy gasoline or a meal, the only impression they may get of Longview is blight. With one notable exception, the view does not get much better for those who venture deeper into Longview until they get near downtown, nearly five miles to the north.

So we were pleased by news of plans afoot to beautify our city’s south entryway. The effort is welcome and, frankly, long overdue.

Taking part in the push are Kasha Williams, the Longview City Council member who represents the area, the Longview Chamber of Commerce’s Keep Longview Beautiful group, Mayor Jay Dean, and others.

South Longview is the original heart of our city, and includes the city’s finest old neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as development has pushed ever further northward, we seem to have forgotten our southside roots.

That means too many of us also have forgotten the impression we give to visitors.

Imagine being a parent bringing a prospective student to LeTourneau University. The university, of course, is one of our city’s jewels. But what must those parents and young people think when they exit I-20 at Estes Parkway and cast their eyes on empty lots, partially demolished buildings and other blighted properties?

Imagine the impression business travelers must have when they’re entering the city from the airport. And let’s not forget those who might spend more time in the city if it appeared more inviting at first glance.

We can do better.

Equally as important, of course, are the benefits such beautification would have as it spreads off the main thoroughfares and into surrounding neighborhoods. We have seen exactly that happen with improvements made in downtown and elsewhere, and we believe it would happen as well in South Longview.

As reported in Sunday’s News-Journal, there are challenges even to simple first steps such as beautifying roadways with trees and gardens. There is underground infrastructure that may make planting difficult, trees planted along streets require extra work to ensure roots don’t damage the roadway, and overhead utilities could scratch some hoped-for improvements off the wish list.

But such minor issues should not derail this effort. And simply planting trees and cleaning up the worst of the blight must not be the end of it. We believe the city should be working toward a plan for comprehensive redevelopment of the area, with an eye toward increasing both residential and business uses of property.

We have great potential for growth and improvement on our city’s south side, and look forward to seeing it come to fruition for the benefit of all Longview.

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