It’s been more than a decade since Ron Appletoft helped craft a vision for Mission’s central business corridor as a member of the city council.
Now — after rolling off the council, coming back on in 2015, and then being elected the city’s new mayor in November — he’s in a position to see much of what he and his peers on the governing body envisioned in the 2000s come to fruition.
With the new five-story Mission Trails apartment and retail project planned for Johnson Drive near Lamar, and a development agreement in place for the long-stalled Mission Gateway project, the city could see an influx of new residents in its downtown in the coming years. Those projects alone would go a long way toward the concept of a vibrant Johnson Drive where people live, work, shop and dine.
“Whenever you have a vision, it’s never a short thing,” Appletoft said last week, a day after he was sworn in to succeed Steve Schowengerdt as mayor. “You have to figure out what you’re going to do, how you’re going to fund it, and make sure people see where you’re trying to get.”
Appletoft acknowledges that the path to put the city in the position it’s in today hasn’t always been easy. The renovation of Johnson Drive during Laura McConwell’s tenure as mayor was needed to set the stage for the regreening of the area, but it caused its share of frustrations for business owners and Mission residents. The fits and starts with Tom Valenti’s plans for the Gateway project have tried the patience of citizens, but the proposal approved by the city last fall has the potential to be “the jewel we’re looking for,” says Appletoft.
“Nothing happens overnight,” Appletoft said. “I just want to continue our momentum. Any successes we may have in the next few years, those are built on things the city did when Laura was mayor, and when Steve was mayor, and the work the council was doing.”
With the Gateway project, in particular, Appletoft said, Mission has the opportunity to create something special that would make it stand out.
“If [Valenti] builds what he proposed to us, it will be a spectacular project,” Appletoft said. “And I think it will be a metro, regional draw.”
Of course, Valenti still has to make good on his end of the bargain. Appletoft said he hopes the developer will be able to come to the city in the coming months and announce the tenants he’s signed for two buildings reserved for “entertainment” uses in the project. If the project become reality, Mission will soon have two major new developments on either end of Johnson Drive, bringing new residents and shoppers to the area.
“When that happens, you’ll see the business are going to do better, the businesses are going to be more valuable, and you have this energy of everything working together,” he said.