The Downtown Merchants group met June 9 at the Rockport Railroad Depot, hosted by the Rockport Cultural Arts District (RCAD).  Owners of galleries and studios, restaurants, and shops and managers of non-profit organizations in the District discussed plans and shared issues.  Jennifer Day, Executive Director for RCAD, discussed progress being made to highlight the District as a distinctive destination for an authentic experience in dining, entertainment, shopping, and cultural enrichment.   Day noted, “The District is especially proud to have spearheaded the initiative to create a 60-space parking lot around the Depot, coordinating efforts with our great Long-Term Recovery team.  Working with them, the City and County, RCAD’s vision was executed and creation of additional parking through a disaster recovery grant from the Texas General Land Office to benefit new and existing organizations and businesses materialized.  This will provide needed parking for the new Rockport Center for the Arts and Civic Core buildings, as well as other downtown venues.”

Michelle Simmons, a partner of the New Beginnings Gift Shop, commented, “It was very exciting to see the participation, energy and cohesiveness of the group, coming together to continue and brand the District as a cohesive destination.   Rockport residents and our visitors may come to have a glass of wine or a great meal, or listen to some live music, but they will hopefully linger longer to shop at one of our amazing boutiques or take a selfie at one of RCAD’s murals.  And then, they may experience our historic or artistic venues.  Working together, we will continue to achieve great things for continued economic development.”

Day briefed the group on plans for the restoration of the Depot into a new tourist sector with events, functioning as a transportation hub with bicycle rentals, and repurposing as a museum and rentable venue.  She also gave updates on RCAD’s other initiatives, including District bathrooms, flags and new signage for the Heritage and Cultural Districts, future areas for food trucks, multi-level geocaching, new sidewalks, and a map and phone app for businesses and bathroom locations.

The Rockport Little Theatre discussed their plans for their new facility in the District, and the Rockport Center for the Arts provided an update as well.  Other events in the District were discussed, including a Retailers Ramble, Walk the Wharf, a Shopping Tournament with the Women’s Lions Club, and Market Days.   Katy Jackson, the new Council Member for Ward 1, and Liaison with the City, also attended the meeting.