Rowlett officials hope DART light rail ’s arrival next Monday redefines downtown

When Dallas Area Rapid Transit next Monday delivers the DART light rail in which Rowlett has invested three decades, the city hopes the byproducts include mixed-use development and a redefined downtown.

It’s far-fetched to expect the first train to bring benefits equal to the $73.6 million in sales tax the city has paid into the system. But eventually, the residents of the city of 56,000 will measure success as a feeling that they didn’t spend years throwing in good money after the bad.

In the easternmost of DART’s original 13 member cities, there has always been debate over spending a penny of sales tax on transit. The lakeside community could have used that cash to relieve its high property tax rate, create a quality of life foundation or redevelop downtown on its own.

However, Mark Enoch, Rowlett’s former mayor and its longtime DART board representative, says the city should be happy with DART-generated help to finance roads and intersections; on-call bus service, which he describes as revolutionary; and, now, the light-rail extension.

Now, Rowlett becomes a DART destination. At the current end of the Blue Line, the downtown Garland station, 40 percent of license plates in the parking lot belong to out-of-town commuters.

“We anticipate that you’re going to have quite a bit of park-and-ride usage at that [Rowlett] station,” said Todd Plesko, the transit agency’s vice president for planning. “Over time, we think they’ll be successful at development.”

Rowlett officials spent recent years putting zoning in place to redefine the city’s downtown around the station, also extending the city center to State Highway 66 and the Bush Turnpike, whose eastern extension through Rowlett opened last December.

Municipal dollars have always played a major role on Main Street, home to Rowlett’s city offices, library and chamber of commerce. Thousands of residents take advantage of celebrations and other events the city sponsors there.

“We have people show up at the community events and say that they are surprised. They didn’t know downtown was even there,” council member Chris Kilgore said.

Source : DallasNews

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