The city of Arlington has long been a destination for a Dallas Cowboys game or a visit to Six Flags, but now city leaders are working to make their downtown a draw of its own.
They're kicking off a revamp of Abram Street through downtown, from Cooper to Collins streets.
The $26.1 million project calls for a combination of repaving Abram Street and adding wider sidewalks, landscaping, better lighting and a plaza to hold events outside city hall. The concept is to make downtown Arlington a place where people want to live, work and play instead of a drive-through destination.
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J.R. Bentley's is one of the few bars and restaurants in downtown Arlington, though a group of friends gathered there Monday evening weren't sure the Abram Street strip has earned that title.
"To me, that's a little bit of an oxymoron to say 'downtown Arlington,'" said Jason Hogg.
But the push to revamp Abram Street with added features to attract foot traffic is a welcome change to University of Texas at Arlington senior Richmond Escarlan.
"Cooper and Abram is always really busy with cars and stuff, so you don't really see as much students just walking around and enjoying the park," Escarlan said.
But it will be a long two years of construction before the payoff. Monday night, neighbors and business owners heard an update.
"We're creating a destination for people to really come down and enjoy downtown Arlington," said Keith Brooks, Arlington's assistant director of public works.
Construction is set to begin in two weeks, and city leaders are promising monthly stakeholder meetings throughout the project.
"It's going to be a tough year and half, two years," said Randy Ford, Owner of J. Gilligan's Bar and Grill. "But I look forward to it, because it's going to increase our property values, it's going to increase traffic, and at the end of the day we're going to have more business in downtown Arlington."
It's a big step toward a downtown to believe in.
"What is downtown Arlington?" Ford said. "Well, this is giving downtown Arlington some identity."
The project also includes back-angle parking along Abram Street. City leaders acknowledge that may take some getting used to but say studies prove it's safer.
Construction begins March 19, and in an effort to get everything done sooner, the city is offering the contractors a $4,000 bonus for every day they finish early.