San Augustine hopes to breathe new life into its Main Street program

SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - The Texas Main Street Resource Team was resting up from its second day of a three-day visit in San Augustine Thursday evening.

Members are developing a strategy for the "Cradle of Texas," which entered the Main Street program only three months ago. East Texas News and a business owner, found out becoming a Main Street Partner requires a civic commitment.

Earlier Wednesday, the noon day church bells reminded Louann Mills that another day had come and gone with so much still to do. Mills owns a downtown building dating back to 1890.

"It is overwhelming because there is so much repair to do," Mills said. "In an older building, you just don't know where to start. You do things you have to do and a lot of times the things you want to do are a lot of times put on the back burner."

Architects affiliated with the Texas Historical Commission's Main Street program are familiar with the daunting tasks.

"Next to it, it looks like there's a lot of damage to the brick," said Howard Langer, an architect with the Texas Historical Commission. "It needs to be, that section has to be removed and replaced and then mortared."

Mills is learning rule number one about an older building...don't neglect or it can run into work and money. Main Street Texas provides a plan to make the improvements more affordable.

"It just seems like everybody wants to do something, but they need some kind of direction," said Tracy Cox, the manager of Main Street San Augustine. "And we're so lucky to have them here."

Building owners are taught how to do right by their building. It involves a strategy.

"You have to crawl through them and look at them and kind of come to understand them so that you can help them be restored because there is a proper way and an improper way to restore a historic building," said Debra Farst, the state coordinator for Texas' Main Street program.

The third component to a successful main street program is to make sure the buildings are being used. Mills operates the Body Shop, a fitness business from her building. You'll also find other service store fronts. Then there are empty buildings needing rekindled entrepreneurship.

"These buildings are designed to house small businesses and so our economic development efforts in Main Street generally center around very small business, mom and pop business development," Farst said.

Mills is ready to give a try.

"I'm nervous about it. Excited and nervous," Mills said.

Mills' peace of mind comes from knowing the business venture will provide a promising future for the place she calls "a great town."

Ten downtown San Augustine building owners asked for an assessment from architects. Numerous meetings with other resource team members provided information on how to establish a locally-driven program.

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