Hearne downtown revitalization efforts continue

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Kent Brunette | Robertson County News

Just like outdoor plants in the Spring, Hearne’s downtown is starting to show more signs of life.  As with lots of other small towns, Hearne has been engaged in a multi-year effort to try to revitalize its downtown.  

Moving and restoring Hearne’s iconic depot took some 25 years.  Just across the east/west railroad tracks from downtown, the city purchased a 7-acre tract and removed the remnants of the old Hearne Cotton Compress.   This property will hopefully one day be used by a store that needs more space than downtown storefronts can provide.  It could also be used to build a new multi-million dollar convention center should Hearne outgrow the meetings and events centre below.

The old Hearne Lumber Company had become an eyesore and fire hazard.  It’s now gone, replaced with a DaVita Kidney Dialysis Clinic that serves customers from several counties.  Across Cedar on Fourth Street, Templeton’s replaced Lockhart’s.

Since the city only owns the sidewalks, streets, and alleys, it cannot legally improve most downtown structures except for providing assistance with site improvements when a building owner is creating or retaining jobs.  Fully understanding that periodic paint jobs are only temporary solutions to far greater problems, Hearne installed durable fixtures – posts with acorn streetlights, park benches, and trashcans. 

The city is developing a Downtown Meetings and Events Centre that will hopefully bring lots more people into downtown day and night.  Five old storefronts, from Hope’s corner through the old Dollar Store, will soon be in productive use.  The city has already purchased four of these storefronts, completely gutted them, and is in the process of acquiring an additional property needed to create one continuous space.  This centre will ultimately boast 12,500 square feet of meeting room and event space.  A $10,000 Union Pacific Foundation grant, some Hearne 4A/4B sales tax funding, and a little county hotel/motel tax funding will be used along with a long-term loan backed by some of the city’s hotel/motel taxes.  No money for this facility will come out of the city’s budget.

Ace Hardware recently opened a Hearne store in the old Allen Hardware building that is really starting to bring area folks into downtown.  Together with DaVita, Ace is the second national chain to move into downtown.  To accommodate Ace and the meetings and events center, several downtown alleys have been paved.
The Robertson County News recently purchased the old Smith-Welch Library on Fourth Street.  This newspaper will continue to draw people downtown.  Although moves to Franklin or TX6 were considered, Hearne was able to keep this newspaper in downtown where it has been a fixture for over 100 years.

Other downtown property owners are considering building retail or office spaces on their ground floors with loft living spaces on upper floors.  There has been interest in putting new businesses at the Old Texas Prize BBQ and the blue building next door.  Dee’s Trailers is completing a spiffy new office on TX6.

A USDA grant/loan to build a new fire station is in the works.  While a low-interest loan will help, the Robertson County Emergency Services District will hopefully assist with loan repayments.  No grants, however, are available to build new police stations.  So, a similar loan will be needed for the city to finance the entire cost of a new police station.  These facilities will vastly improve the looks of another part of downtown.

As with other cities, Hearne’s downtown revitalization has been a gradual process spanning many years.  While some results are already obvious, expect to see more improvements in the future. 

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