From the birth

Texarkana hopes to renovate and restore Downtown


Photo by Kailyn Williams

The main road the stretches throught the heart of Downtown Texarkana.

Story by Kailyn Williams, Sports Editor

Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, Target, Cinemark, the mall and even Walmart.

These are just a few of the luxuries we live with today in our small town of Texarkana, Texas. A city that has developed over the years into a place to house your family, it hasn’t always been what it is today, with everything that it it holds. 

One hundred and fifty years ago, Texarkana was only just kicking up dust in East Texas. In 1873, Texarkana existed as nothing more than a single drug and grocery store opened on Dec. 8.

Founded on a railroad intersection downtown, Texarkana slowly migrated further and further away from Stateline Avenue, which was once the heart and soul of the city.

“When I was growing up here, most of the retail was downtown. It was before Central Mall opened in the late 1970s. Prior to that, most of our retail establishments were downtown,” Mayor Bruggeman said. “Your major stores such as JC Penny’s and Dillards were located downtown. In the end, when the mall opened a lot of that retail moved to the mall. Then our downtown kind of began to go down.”

 Though Texarkana has grown into a metropolitan area, its history still lives downtown in a forgotten sector of the city. 

“There are cities whose downtown districts grow and prosper, and then there are those that kind of decline over time,” Bruggeman said. “We were very prosperous downtown, and then we went through a period of time where [buildings became vacant], and some buildings that had to be torn down and that sort of thing.”

As the years pass, downtown Texarkana drifts further and further into the past, leaving behind some vital aspects of our history. Despite the time passing, there are steps being taken in trying to restore our downtown area to what it once was. 

Overtime, Downtown Texarkana has seen a few establishments pop up, springing more life into the forgotten sector of our city. Whether it be a new eatery, or a freshly painted mural, people are working to make our Downtown what it once was: alive.

“Right now we’ve got a lot of activity referencing the hotel ground projects. We have a lot of residential opportunities coming up and then also entertainment opportunities,” Bruggeman said. “We’re seeing a lot more social venues that are available, restaurants and that sort of thing. So it’s been a great enhancement to the downtown area.”

Grim Hotel is another prime example of this.  The historic hotel was built eight stories high back in 1925. 

“Grim served as a major hotel in the downtown area, keeping in mind back then we had a lot of passenger rail traffic coming through Texarkana,” Bruggeman said. “People would get off the train, and then they would stay overnight downtown. The Hotel Grim was one of the hotels that was heavily utilized [in our past].”

Since then, it has been abandoned, left behind like the majority of neighboring buildings and establishments throughout downtown. 

“Grim closed back in the early 1990s and was vacant for many years,” Bruggeman said. “As you know, when a building is vacant, it continues to deteriorate, the roof starts leaking, windows break out and things like that. So there was about a 10 year effort that was put forth to try to revitalize The Hotel Grim and that was led by our current city manager David Orr, he was instrumental in working on this.”

The building was bought on Jan. 30 of 2017 with intentions of being restored and turned into an apartment complex.

“There were some setbacks along the way,” Bruggeman said. “But it was approved and came to fruition and so we’re anticipating the reopening of Grim.”

The importance of restoration of the heart of our city isn’t being overlooked by city officials. 

“We’re seeing a resurgence in downtown and that’s complemented by the enhancement around the Federal Courthouse, the grounds around the courthouse,” Bruggeman said. “We’re seeing a lot of growth downtown, a lot of renovation of buildings downtown and that’s very important, very wanted and it’s very exciting.”

The historic, original, Grim Hotel sign still sits at the top of the building, painted to look as it did in its young days, as the revamped building parades itself as a sign of hope for all of downtown to be brought back to life. 

“I like the fact that they are renovating downtown, my friends and I used to hang around there a lot when we were younger,” long term Texarkana resident Rodrick Williams said. “Our city has changed so much over the years, and seeing them start restoration, I hope it will inspire new ideas for renovations across the downtown area.”