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'Pioneer is very dear to us.' Arlington hosts brainstorming session for its 'International Corridor'

A sign that says "Asia Times Square" hangs on top of an Asian-style roof, which is held up by white pillars in a Grand Prairie parking lot.
Kailey Broussard
/
KERA News
Asia Times Square hosts several cultural events per year. Matthew Loh, owner, says his goal is to bring communities and cultures together.

Arlington city employees, business owners and advocates are taking down people's redevelopment ideas for part of southeast Tarrant County known as the International Corridor, which is home to a tapestry of businesses from around the world.

The first visioning session, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at the East Library and Recreation Center, is the next step in a years-long effort to make the area more walkable, add more identifiers in the area and redevelop in a way that includes current business owners.

Spanish and Vietnamese interpreters will be available at the visioning session, according to Brandy O'Quinn with the consulting firm Urban Strategies of Texas.

Organizers will present the findings during the second session Dec. 12.

"We want to celebrate the experience that they are enjoying today and then what they would like to expand on or see in the future," O'Quinn says.

The corridor, which sprawls across Pioneer Parkway into Grand Prairie, is home to more than 40,000 residents and 1,105 businesses, according to a presentation to International Corridor Vision committee members Oct. 3.

Nearly 56% of residents in the area are Hispanic, 24% are Black and 5.7% Asian, according to the presentation. The annual household income and educational attainment for this area ranks beneath citywide average.

Advocates and business owners say the diverse mix of businesses grew "organically" in the area. O'Quinn says stakeholders want to redevelop the International Corridor in a way that prevents people from being priced out of their homes and businesses.

"Many of these businesses chose this area because the rent has been low. The last worst thing that could possibly happen is that, all of a sudden, the value of the property go up and the businesses can no longer afford to be there," she says.

Matthew Loh, owner of Asia Times Square in Grand Prairie, and his family have opened multiple businesses along Pioneer Parkway for decades, starting in 1986. Loh now runs one of the largest Asian markets in Texas that is home to myriad restaurants and retail, according to the business website.

"Pioneer is very dear to us," Loh says. "I think the name Pioneer Parkway is very fitting to a lot of the entrepreneurs along Pioneer."

The corridor visioning effort is centered around what types of businesses, public art or other attractions people would like to see in an area in need of redevelopment. Over half of the 318 buildings in the area were constructed before 1981, according to the Oct. 3 presentation.

Loh says creating more transportation options — including improved walkways — will lend well to cultures in Asia where more things are within walking distance than Texas' sprawl. They'll have to take extra considerations, Loh says, considering the corridor is along a state highway.

"Everyone's driving 40 to 50 miles per hour, so we've got to be very sensitive and very careful planning this out," Loh says.

Loh is one of several business owners who have championed the redevelopment effort.

Linda Dipert with International Corridor Vision has worked with former Tarrant County Commissioner and current candidate Andy Nguyen, business owners and leaders for years on a shared goal. The nonprofit and Arlington officials have coordinated efforts with both Tarrant County and the city of Grand Prairie on corridor planning.

Dipert says she'd like to see the area become a gathering place for people attending business meetings, cultural events or an authentic meal — if not all three.

"I realized that with all the conversations that we still have about Fort Worth and Dallas being our neighbors, what can we do to separate ourselves from them? Our diversity is what really separates us, I believe," she says.

Dipert says progress on the corridor stalled during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

City council in 2018 approved guidelines for corridor design, including banner displays offering "welcome" messages in different languages and crosswalk features. The committee also hosted the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market at UT Arlington's College Park area before the pandemic.

City Council in March approved the plan for a tax increment reinvestment zone covering the corridor. The financing model reimburses private developers for public improvements using newly generated tax funds.

A January 21 presentation estimated the zone will generate $66.5 million in revenue by 2051.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.