From the moment a city is established, the downtown district flourishes into a place where people gather and businesses thrive. Lubbock was no different. Historical photos of the 1920s depict a bustling downtown, serving as a “hub” for goods and services. This was the norm for Lubbock for nearly 50 years until the night of May 11, 1970 changed the course of downtown for decades. The storm came unexpectedly, crashing into the heart of Lubbock. The F-5 tornado devasted homes, businesses and took the lives of 26 people. From then on, the city started rebuilding, and now downtown Lubbock continues its revitalization efforts with public and private investments. Serving as one of the many partners in downtown and catalytic projects, education has proved to be a driving force of growth.
In 2014, the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) began exploring the possibility of adding an academic center to downtown. Leaders recognized a need for a community college in Lubbock as well as a large attraction that would bring people to the downtown area daily. Meanwhile, South Plains College, a two-year community college that serves a 14-county area, expressed a need to grow beyond its headquarters in nearby Levelland.
To kick off the effort, LEDA staff members visited Blinn College to study its model allowing students to begin at Blinn and continue their education at Texas A&M University. They determined this to be a strategy that could be implemented in West Texas. They created the Texan to Red Raider program, paving a bridge for students who might not otherwise attend a four-year university to begin at South Plains College and then transfer to Texas Tech University.
The South Plains College Lubbock Center will open in the former Lubbock City Hall and bring 2,500 students downtown every day. This development fuels area business, creating a higher demand for restaurants, entertainment, and housing in the area. Already, this project has spurred more purchases of downtown buildings, including a new restaurant set to open across the street from the academic center. Students will have the opportunity to live, learn, work and play in a burgeoning downtown scene.
As 70% of community college students work while going to school, the South Plains College Lubbock Center in downtown also increases availability of a workforce for these businesses.
Students will have the opportunity to live, learn, work and play in a burgeoning downtown scene.
The effects of these investments in the area are seen through the downtown district. In the heart of the Cultural Arts District, steps away from art galleries and a local brewery, the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences elevates Lubbock as the premiere destination for performing and visual arts in the region. This catalytic project, estimated at more than $155 million, brings Broadway-style shows and state-of-the-art stages for students at area school districts to perform. As the cornerstone for entertainment, the Hall blends world-class performances with community outreach programs.
As the first building fully renovated in downtown, the Business District touts the historic Pioneer Building which plays host to the West Table Kitchen and Bar, The Brewery LBK, condominiums and a pocket hotel. Catty-cornered from the Pioneer, Burklee Hill Vineyards opened a winery serving their Texas High Plains wine and local eats. Just to the west, the Valencia Group is developing a boutique hotel, the Cotton Court Hotel. This new property pays tribute to Lubbock heritage’s as it is modeled after a vintage cotton gin.
The spark of investment in downtown is leading to more people and businesses living and working in the area.
The spark of investment in downtown is leading to more people and businesses living and working in the area. As one investment starts a chain reaction, this cooperative approach to economic development lays the foundation of growth for decades to come.