The Tyler Loop’s pedestrian scorecard: Fair Plaza garage to Don Juan on the Square

The Tyler Loop makes a trip to a destination to decide: "How walkable is Tyler?"

Tyler is a growing city in population and area, boasting about 115,000 residents to date. That number swells to about 250,000 people who enter Tyler daily to work, shop, receive medical care and attend college and university classes. As more drivers are using city streets and highways, traffic inevitably increases. 

Most of Tyler is geared toward travel by car. But how do pedestrians experience the city? 

The Tyler Loop is seeking to answer that question with our Pedestrian Scorecard series, where we join Tylerite walkers through neighborhoods, shopping districts and destinations. 

Each guest will rate their experience on an A-F scale, based on factors like safety, sights, sounds and access to destinations. 

Downtown with Kiara

Our first walk takes us through the heart of downtown Tyler. Beginning at Fair Parking Garage, we go around the block to Art Alley’s murals; then to the new Visit Tyler office and Andy’s Frozen Custard; across Tyler’s memorial square; and finish for a bite at Don Juan on the Square. 

The path emulates a typical visit to downtown Tyler by tourists and locals and measures nearly a half mile in distance. 

Kiara Hawkins’ walk took her through about a half-mile of downtown Tyler. 📷 all photos and video by Carter Mize

Kiara Hawkins, Jim Hogg Middle School theater teacher, joined us on this walk, which she had never experienced before. 

We began at the corner of Broadway and East Elm streets, around the pedestrian entrance of the Fair Parking Garage. Kiara had enough sidewalk space to walk comfortably down Elm and up the brick-lined College Avenue toward Art Alley. 

As the name implies, Art Alley is nestled between the Bank of America Building at College Ave. and Mucho Burrito on the square, lined with hand-painted murals by local artists. 

“I know an alley would make you feel kind of, like, put off, but it seems pretty good,” Hawkins said. “I think it’s better to make this trip in pairs. That would make me feel a little safer, walking with people, but it’s definitely a sight to see. It’s one of those hidden gems of Tyler.”

The alley led us to sidewalks along Bois d’Arc Avenue, where Kiara took a right and walked around a row of buildings lining Erwin St. She noticed several painted roses on the concrete leading toward the square. 

Erwin Street opened into the main portion of Tyler’s downtown square, with access to multiple shops and restaurants. Kiara made her way to the newly-renovated retail spaces around Plaza Tower, including the Visit Tyler office, Andy’s Frozen Custard and Cafe 1948. 

The area around Plaza Tower had ample sidewalk space for pedestrians, as well as patio seating for restaurant patrons and walkers. Pedestrians can also enter an indoor lobby section of Plaza Tower with art galleries, restrooms and that all-important air conditioning. 

Plaza Tower sits directly in front of a veterans’ memorial and greenspace with fountains. They gave Kiara an easy and pleasant path toward our final destination, Don Juan on the Square. When we needed to cross the street, neighboring intersections had slow traffic and guided pedestrian crosswalks.

“For a person who’s not the best at crossing, the crosswalks just tell you exactly what to do,” Hawkins said. “It’s a little more scary to cross because of all the traffic, but overall, it’s not that bad.”

“My experience on this walk was pretty great. There was a lot to see,” Hawkins said. “I feel like downtown Tyler is very up-and-coming. They’re starting to bring a lot of cool things that attract a lot of people. I definitely would spend my Friday or Saturday night here.”

Safety is as important to Kiara as cool destinations. “I wouldn’t want to take this walk by myself in certain areas downtown, maybe like in closed off alleys or things like that. But overall it felt pretty open and safe.”

Kiara gave her walk an A+.

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Carter Mize is a lifelong Mineola resident and current student at the University of North Texas in his senior year. Carter has reported local news for the North Texas Daily, UNT's student paper and now contributes to The Tyler Loop. When he's not working on a story, Carter enjoys drumming for his local church, biking around East Texas and trying to brew the best coffee possible.