CELINA, TX (May 7, 2019) – The City of Celina recently marked the beginning of an over $16 million public and private investment in the heart and soul of the city with a Downtown groundbreaking event. As part of a years-long, city-wide collaboration, it all came together, full circle. But this groundbreaking was different than most. Sharing in the love and commitment to the city, townspeople, officials and developers joined to celebrate with two very special honorees and the namesake for the very first project, The Huddleston Building.
Jane and Billy Ray Huddleston spent a lifetime giving back to the city in so many ways through the volunteering of their time to countless city-wide initiatives. And now, in honor of their same giving spirit, the Huddleston Building will bring two stories and over 12,000 square feet of office and retail space back to their beloved community.
Adopting a Main Street Approach to redevelopment that is thoughtful in its nature, a city sponsored community survey from a year ago revealed an overwhelming need to enhance Celina’s greatest asset. Downtown is the heart and soul of the community and is essential to maintaining the wholesome quality of life and strong economic growth. In order to preserve its character, enhance its position as a destination, revitalize its vacant spaces and create new opportunities for growth, the city moved forward with the Downtown Master Plan which was unanimously approved by the City Council in January.
“All of the pieces of the puzzle have come together. The community told us how important Downtown is to them, says Alexis Jackson, Director of Celina Economic Development. “As a result, the city council and staff began to take pointed steps to direct time and resources. The word is out, it’s time for Downtown to shine.”
Longtime business partners Van Nichols and Gregg Allen are putting their mark on Celina with 13 buildings to date in their pipeline. Their patient and thoughtful approach to development and their collaborative nature has attributed to the overall success in enhancing Downtown Celina. Owning some of the buildings for 15 years, they waited until the market was ready. That new day has come.
“Meshing the old and the new is important, but you have to be flexible to know when you need other options, too,” says Van Nichols, Downtown Celina Land Developer. “What’s unique about this city is that it has pulled together in the same direction and I think that is what works here.”
The redevelopment will introduce a variety of new conveniences to the square. Toasted Walnut Table and Market, Bongo Baux’s Cajun Restaurant, Hey Sugar Candy and Ice Cream Store will be bringing new flavors to town and will occupy the site of two vacant buildings.
“Downtown is a special place unlike any other – a destination, a showcase of Celina’s roots,” says Sean Terry, City of Celina Mayor. “When I take a look at what we have, I feel so lucky to call Celina home.”
As part of this collaboration, a Celina By Choice campaign was implemented to explain the city’s appeal to both families and businesses, but the new mantra is one that the Huddlestons lived far before it was ever coined. As lifelong Celina residents, this farm family, worked the very land that gave so much back to them. Where raising their four kids at their heels, was important in a town that always has been family first.
“Families are coming here for a reason. I think they see what we have to offer and it just makes my heart happy when I see children playing on the square, turning summersaults and families bringing their quilts,” says Jane Huddleston. ”That’s kind of how I feel about the renovations and what’s happening now. It makes me happy to know that what makes Celina unique is getting even better.”
The downtown investment plan has been a positive force for enhancing the unique spirit that already exists in Celina. It’s success thoughtfully considers the emotional connections to the past and the excitement of what’s to come in a combination of historic preservation and creativity that both business and residents support. For one resident in particular who exemplifies the consummate public servant with a humble force, the past paves the way for the present, but the future must be prepared for with open arms.
“You can’t lose sight of your past or your heritage and I think everyone needs to be a part of the present,” says Huddleston .”But you always have to plan for the future.”