By Betsy Dolan
Mother’s Day was fast approaching and the owner of the ‘Ol Railroad Cafe in downtown Rosenberg, Daniel Ornelas, wanted to make a big splash. The restaurant he had opened just five weeks earlier was the first he had ever owned, despite being around cooking his entire life, first in his hometown of East Austin and then later working for various restaurants around Houston.
“I decided that if I was going to spend 80-hours a week working in a small kitchen I wanted to spend that time in my own restaurant being my own boss”, Ornelas recalled. “I did my research and discovered that Rosenberg is on the cusp of something great. This town is just waiting to take off.”
Ornelas and other business owners in downtown Rosenberg are banking on the cooperative effort between the Rosenberg Development Corporation (RDC) and Imperial Performing Arts to transform the struggling historic downtown into a vibrant and thriving destination center for the arts. The RDC, which approved the plan in February, is in the process of meeting a June 1 deadline to apply to become a Cultural District by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
“The designation is key for us,” said Matt Fielder, Rosenberg’s Economic Development Director. “Rather than each business marketing itself, the Culture District designation allows the merchants to form a collective which then allows the entire downtown area to advertise itself as a destination area.”
Imperial Peforming Arts (IPA), which had been based in Sugar Land’s Town Center since 2010, is also moving forward with plans to begin offering theater performances in downtown Rosenberg as early as this fall.
The IPA is relocating their operation, which includes the Imperial Theater and gallery, to the old bookstore building in downtown Rosenberg. The IPA has received an unexpected naming gift for the building which will be announced in the next couple of weeks. In addition, the IPA is working to acquire the Cole Theater which will undergo a massive historic restoration to return it to a 1930’s art deco style. The plan is to reopen the Cole Theater for live performances, theater, opera, concerts, films and community events in 2014.
“The city of Rosenberg has made a clear choice to invest in the infrastructure and to invest in culture,” said Edward Crowell, Executive Director of Imperial Performing Arts. “There is a fabulous synergy between the city, the merchants and the arts organizations. I’ve been searching for that kind of dynamic and I found it in Rosenberg.”
So did Daniel Ornelas who decided to take a chance on Rosenberg’s historic downtown area for his new restaurant and maintains that the energy surrounding the area is real and lasting.
“On Mother’s Day I had 100 reservations with just two days of advertising,” Ornelas said. “Everyone has me so excited for what the future holds here. I needed to find East Austin again, that sense of home and I found it in Rosenberg.”