Major Changes Coming To Historic Downtown Tyler Square

POSTED: Friday, May 8, 2009 - 7:22pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 12:03pm

Four months after a massive fire ripped through downtown Tyler, the Genecov Group announced this week plans to donate five properties to the citizens of Smith County.

TYLER – Four months after a massive fire ripped through downtown Tyler, the Genecov Group announced this week plans to donate five properties to the citizens of Smith County.

The tract of land is located on the east side of the square on Spring Street between the Smith County Jail, the Courthouse and the Courthouse Annex.

“This is a gift of unprecedented generosity from the Genecov family to the citizens of Smith County,” County Judge Joel Baker said.

The highest and best use of the property is yet to be determined – but in the meantime, the County will create a courtyard that can be enjoyed by all the citizens of Smith County. In the future, the space could potentially be home to a “Justice Plaza.”

“Creating room for the courts could make sense and solve a number of long term problems. The courthouse has been plagued for many years with size issues and design challenges,” Commissioner Jeff Warr said.

Revitalizing this space in the heart of Downtown is also a step toward creating the business, arts and culture district described in the Tyler 21 downtown vision.

The donated space is across the street from the existing courthouse and has alley access for secure parking. It would be entirely possible to tie into the existing tunnel system for secure transport between the two buildings.

We are grateful to the Genecov Group for this kind gesture. It is an investment in the future of Smith County and its citizens,” Commissioner Bill McGinnis said.

The County had been interested in acquiring this same space for a time, due to its location and convenience to the public. Genecov took this into consideration when making the decision on how to donate the property.

“It is important to hold our court facilities to a certain standard. Historically, courthouses represent the heart and soul of a fair justice system. By creating a justice system in the heart of Downtown Tyler, we will establish a facility that will not only satisfy a space need for our courts, but will also make our citizens proud,” Commissioner Jeff Warr said.

The Genecov family has played an enormous role in the East Texas oil and gas business and real estate industry and contributed graciously to the citizens and well being of Smith County over the years. This gift of land in the heart of downtown Tyler is one of the most generous gifts Smith County has ever received.

“We are extremely thankful for this generous gift. This property will be used for the benefit of all citizens in Smith County. This is an opportunity to turn a tragic loss of historic property into a new and beautiful public facility,” Judge Baker said.

Although the brick store fronts are all still standing, the structures on the property were severely damaged during the fire and will be removed for safety purposes. According to a study by a structural engineer, it would be costly to stabilize, and there would be no guarantee that the work would hold.

“We will salvage every historical component we can and find a way to incorporate them into future plans for the site. It is a tragedy that these buildings were lost, but whatever is built in their place, we want to make sure the architecture and theme honor and reflect the time period of the buildings we lost,” Judge Baker said.

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