I moved back to my hometown of Tyler in May to begin a brief, post-grad-limbo summer. Since I arrived, I have made it my hobby to explore the city, imagine its potential, and write a series of posts on my ideas. I called this, “Connecting-the-Dots,” because I believe that Tyler (like many cities) suffers from a lack of cohesion and identity. On the micro level, we lack special places (“dots”) fully enhanced with the cultures, traditions, and organizations that comprise our civil society. On the macro level, we lack the connections of transportation and urban design that unite the disparate pieces of what we consider to be a singular unit. I’ve been primarily guided by the question, “Where is Tyler?”
In my attempt to answer this question, I’ve spent my time looking for what I believe makes this city unique: what someone can find here that is not anywhere else in the same way. The places that I love the most are sometimes the places that are most unloved. In other words, the Rose Garden may not be as sexy as Chuy’s right now, but it is unique to Tyler unlike the Austin import. Business in North Tyler might not be as lucrative as its cousin on South Broadway, but it’s more creative, local and artisan. It’s the difference between Janie’s Cakes and the WallMart bakery, Stanley’s and Spring Creek, the Rose Garden and Faulkner Park, Balance and World Gym, La Favorita and Pasado’s.
Unfortunately, all of those places that I believe represent Tyler do not reside together in one awesome, dense, and diverse place. In my opinion, a visitor to this city needs a guide to properly experience what this city has to offer. But suppose there were such a singular place comprised of all the unique Tyler attractions. It would be remarkable. People would come from all over the region to be a part of it’s energy and excitement. Now, suppose there were two. Or three and a street car connecting them. Suppose you could go to one for dinner, the next for a concert and the third for coffee, dessert and drinks and never get into a car or leave your friends. Suppose everyone in East Texas heralded this as the “Tyler experience.” Suppose we leveraged what makes us unique in order to make us uniquely great.
Our city is positioned as a regional powerhouse in oil & gas, the processing of roses, healthcare, higher education, retail, banking, legal and financial services. Suppose we were also known as a creative and innovative community that supports new ideas local aspirations. That is a dream many in this city have been fighting to realize. I believe it’s a dream worthy of this place called Tyler.