Visit Addison!

 

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An idea has been brewing in Addison’s Town Hall for years. A big idea. One that can, and probably will, change the face of tourism and the arts in the Corridor. Addison leadership has held a vision for creating a hub of information and local experiences – and it’s now being realized in a new visitor’s center called Visit Addison!

The idea sparked in the mind of Addison City Manager Ron Whitehead years ago. He saw the value of tourism in the Corridor and recognized a need to make information and experiences more accessible. He is also a huge fan and supporter of the arts. For years, he searched for ways to merge the two and to create a culture in Addison beyond its reputation for fine dining.

Through a long series of conversations, meetings and planning, things began to move. It was determined that Visit Addison! would open in two phases in a building at the Village on the Parkway on Belt Line Road and the Dallas North Tollway.

In November 2010, the first phase was completed.  Offices were remodeled and finished out and the Town of Addison’s Department of Visitor Services moved in. The department’s director, Bob Phillips, is at the helm. He hopes that Visit Addison! will create an image of Addison and of Village on the Parkway that exudes creativity and professionalism.

“We want to attract the creative class,” he says. “Once somebody comes in and starts something, the idea catches on.”

Along with the visitor services staff, the first phase of development also includes offices leased by the Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce. While entirely separate entities, the development of this office space has made it possible for local business and local government to be housed beneath one roof. Also included in phase one are meeting and conference rooms that can be rented for use.

Whitehead’s vision for the arts is not forgotten. Also a part of the phase one space was the inclusion of The Craft Guild, which was founded in 1948 to provide instruction and studios for artists, to raise standards of craftsmanship and to stimulate community interest in the fine arts. The guild moved into the new space at the end of March.

Visit Addison! includes state-of-the-art classrooms and workspaces for The Craft Guild, where Addison visitors and residents of any skill level can learn trades such as jewelry making, pottery, glass blowing and book binding.

Classes with The Craft Guild are already in progress, and the center is buzzing with creativity.

The final phase of Visit Addison! will be complete in a matter of weeks. Phase two will include the finish out of the main lobby and retail area for the center. Booths will be set up providing information on Addison and surrounding cities for those visiting the area, as well as information on destinations for residents planning a trip of their own.

Visit Addison! will also house a retail center where items made by the Craft Guild and its students will be sold, along with merchandise from the Town of Addison. Visit Addison! will also likely become a space rented for special events.

The completion of Visit Addison! will change the way Addison residents and visitors interact with the area and its experiences and services.

Economic Development

“Tourism is economic development,” Phillips says.

The Town of Addison has put a high value on the need for local tourism. Special events, major national corporations and state-of-the-art facilities have made the Corridor a place where business is done. To enhance the Town’s ability to create and maintain this reputation, Orlando Campos was recently hired in the newly-created position of the Director of Economic Development. Campos says that, just in the weeks he has been on staff with the Town, he has been impressed.

“A lot of cities have a lot of ideas, but don’t know how to execute them,” he says.  “Addison does it. It’s a testament to Addison’s ability.”

One way Addison is succeeding, Campos says, is by simply maintaining momentum.

“Over the last few decades, the city has done a great job of building up the community and its reputation,” he says. “There’s a lot of competition, but the Town has done a great job to maintain our momentum. One of the main reasons they decided to hire me is to maintain that edge.”

Part of Campos’ role will be working with city managers, business owners and Visit Addison! to create resources for local industry to thrive in the area. The visitor’s center will provide a concierge service for individuals or groups visiting businesses in the area, as well as assisting those local businesses hosting guests in the Corridor.

Campos says that one of the Town’s strengths is seeing opportunity in sometimes unlikely places, like in a bad economy.

“A lot of municipalities get mired down in an economic slowdown and think that nothing can be done,” he says. “Successful ones see that as an opportunity. In the meantime, we should be developing strategies to enhance the community. Addison is trying to align itself with future growth opportunities. The Town isn’t waiting for things to be perfect.”

Campos says that one of the most important things right now is to raise awareness in the community for Visit Addison!

“As I go out and meet companies, I want to make them aware of the center,” he says. “The local businesses aren’t aware of what’s in their backyard. This is a center that is funded by the community itself, so it behooves every resident and business to utilize the center.

“I think a lot of local businesses, especially those with headquarter facilities, are looking for ways to support the community,” Campos adds. “Maybe they will use the facility to host fundraisers for local non-profits. There are a lot of ways that local businesses can get involved with the visitor’s center. It’s really not your average visitor’s center.”

Campos also stresses the importance of the creative class where local business is concerned. He says the presence of The Craft Guild and the arts in general will enhance the already well-rounded business community.

“The Craft Guild and visitor’s center combination is a critical component in attracting the creative class that many communities strive to attract,” he says. “This is a major element in diversifying companies in the area, and having a location for artists to display their work is very important as well. This is very well thought out, in terms of being able to offer a one-stop shop where people can get information on community but also get an idea of Addison culture.”

Hospitality

City government isn’t the only group excited about the partnership. The visitor’s center will give a boost to local hospitality as well, namely, hotels. Jack Murray, director of sales and marketing at the Hotel InterContinental in Addison, is looking forward to the solidification of the Corridor as a destination.

“It is our hope that the center will be another reason for the local community to both visit and patronize Addison and also add a new dimension to our destination for out of town visitors, virtually adding value to choosing our area as a destination unto itself,” he says.

Murray says Visit Addison! will be a great tool in getting and keeping return guests to local hotels.

“The center has a unique opportunity to bring to life several different programs from cooking to art exhibits and even live interactive glass blowing demonstrations,” he says. “And from the hotel’s perspective, allowing visiting conventions or groups to experience these things and even create special events especially for visitors helps to leave an indelible mark that ultimately brings people back. It certainly helps visitors become advocates when they go home and talk about the positive, fun experience they had.”

Mark Brooks, general manager of the Marriott Quorum hotel, says the Town of Addison has kept the hotel community apprised as talks began about Visit Addison! Brooks is excited about the many opportunities the visitor’s center will bring to the area and how it will enhance the services he is already offering.

“Hopefully we will be able to bring some customers there and show them opportunities that exist in Addison,” he says. “They will be an extension of our concierge offerings to help our guests understand what to do in Addison.”

The Town hopes that it will be able to partner with local hotels to help book personal and group event accommodations on behalf of visitors. The intent of the service would be to help both visitors and those in the hospitality industry to get connected.

The Arts

One of the largest and most dynamic elements of Visit Addison! is the presence of The Craft Guild. The guild has been active in the North Dallas Corridor since its foundation in 1948. Several years ago, the arts group was looking for a new place to call home, and Suzy Badger, president of the board, ran into Whitehead at their annual art sale. A light conversation turned into a relationship between the Town of Addison and the arts.

“The Town understands the importance of reaching out to the community and offering this type of education,” Badger says. “The guild wants to maintain the traditional arts. The type of art we do is getting lost because so much is mass produced these days.”

Angela Howell, vice president of the board, agrees and says that Addison truly does see the value of art in city culture.

“They appreciate us as being unique and being a life-enhancing organization,” she says. “The council wants to have a high quality of life for their residents, and they recognize that the arts are very important in that quality of life. They were willing to act on that perception.”

The Craft Guild will offer classes and workshops in craftsmanship that many wouldn’t have the chance to study otherwise. Look for book and paper art workshops, glass workshops, clay classes, drawing and painting classes, beading classes and metalsmithing and jewelry workshops this summer from beginner levels to master craftsmanship levels.

The guild also hopes to continue bringing guest instructors from all over the world to teach short workshops in their area of expertise. Badger hopes that special guest artists will attract event more from the Addison community to come out and experience the arts.

Phillips says that part of his hope for The Craft Guild is that individuals and groups from all over the country and world would come to Addison to tap into the expertise of the teachers. He hopes that the experience offered at the guild will draw more tourism to Addison.

In the main section of Visit Addison! there will be a gallery full of art not only from The Craft Guild artists but from all over the country. The gallery will give local artists the opportunity to display their work and be a part of the visual arts culture of Addison.

“Every human being needs a creative outlet,” Badger says. “We are a creative species. To be able to have this kind of life enhancement availability, it’s a great opportunity for people to be able to get away from their everyday stresses. It’s a blessing to be able to have a place like this. It’s my bubble. I come here to have fun and be creative and commune.”

Addison Experience

With more than 170 restaurants and 22 hotels in its 4.35 square miles, Addison is known for its hospitality and special events. The area is also home to some of the nation’s largest companies and a huge number of local businesses as well. None of this is changing, but Visit Addison! will be the new face of the Town and its tourism.

Teeming with everything from art exhibits, business meetings and special event ticketing, the visitor’s center will likely become home base for many, whether residents or visitors to Addison.

Phillips says that Visit Addison! will often be staffed by volunteers from the community, something he sees as very important to his philosophy of tourism.

“Everyone has their own home-spun story about what it is to live here,” he says. “And tourism is all about stories.  The volunteers that visitors encounter at Visit Addison! actually live here. And they’re not going to be working here unless they love the place.”

Phillips hopes that, in the near future, Visit Addison! will be a community hub with art shows, cooking demonstrations, business conferences and seminars and, ultimately, community cooperation.

-By Michelle Deveraux

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