by Mary Beth Wright, LFN Editor
The community of La Feria is well-known for being a friendly, clean town with a good school system and city administration, but as with all things; there is always room for improvement.
A large group of city leaders and residents met with a Community Planning Assistance Team of experts at a workshop held Tuesday, May 21 at the Chaparral Building in La Feria. The team is part of the American Planning Association. APA is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.
City Manager Sunny K. Philip welcomed the group of nearly 50 and expressed his thanks for their attendance saying it showed their love for the community.
“We want to identify areas of our town that we like and those areas that need attention. This team of experts from around the country will help us and make recommendations to assure a good future for La Feria,” commented Philip.
The entire meeting was conducted in Spanish and English to allow full participation by the attendees.
Mayor Steve Brewer told the audience that an opportunity like this doesn’t come along very often and La Feria was very fortunate to have this experienced team of experts in town.
CPAT Team Leader Robert “Bob” Barber spoke first and explained the project explaining that the team of six will be working in La Feria for 4-5 days gathering information in order to make recommendations for future planning.
“We were invited to study your community in order to make suggestions in planning for the future of La Feria. We are half the team and the other half is the leaders and residents of La Feria,” explained Barber.
“La Feria has grown from 5168 to 7510 residents from 1990-2013…that is a 45 percent growth rate. It is the highest growth rate in the country that I am working with,” shared Tripp Muldrow of the team. He added that it is estimated that another 500 residents will be added to the rolls by 2018. These numbers do not include Winter Texans.
La Feria is one of the most affordable areas to live in the United States with the median price of a home at $55,000 and 73 percent of the homes are owner occupied. However, 30 percent of La Feria’s resident live below the poverty line with the median household income only $25,212.
After sharing a brief history of La Feria and showing some early photos of the community, the room was divided into three groups to discuss the things they liked about La Feria, the things they disliked and what they might change if they had unlimited resources.
The top likes from the group included all the parks, the downtown area and football field. Other things mentioned were the library, El Centro Foods, the schools and the Catholic Church.
Innovative Block Company glared as the number one thing that was most disliked in appearance, but recognized its value for jobs and tax revenue. Buildings and homes around town in disrepair and vacant also topped the list with heavy emphasis on the downtown area and the 4th -8th Street (some call El Pueblo) residential area.
And those who had a magic wand, would beautify Innovative Block with landscaping, lower their mountains of scrap block or just relocate it to a better place within La Feria. Others wanted a huge sign to welcome visitors to La Feria and the totally revitalized downtown area with new shops and restaurants making it a destination location. Additional designated parking and drainage were on the list of improvements.
In addition to Barber, who is a Adjunct Professor of Planning at the University of Memphis, the team is comprised of : Andy Kalback, a talented designer from Annapolis, Maryland; Joseph “Tripp” Muldrow, an experienced urban planner from Greenville, South Carolina; Irayda Ruiz-Bode, an infrastructure planning and development professional from Guatemala; Community Planner Philip L. Walker of Nashville, Tennessee and APA Senior Outreach Associate Ryan Scherzinger of Washington, D.C.
The team’s study continued for several days and they invited the public to visit them at the downtown Chaparral building to discuss any ideas or concerns.
A report of recommendations and findings will be revealed next week as the community of La Feria continues to make this the place you want to live and work.