Downtown, Texas – we hardly know you!
In the past, downtown was either a busy area – the thriving heart of business and commerce – or a largely unpopulated section where windows and doors were boarded up and crime was rampant.
The increase in suburban malls, grocery chains, restaurants, recreational areas and apartment complexes lured citizens away from downtown. The exodus left cities with unattractive and unproductive sections that became problematic quickly. Today, however, all that has changed. Cities throughout Texas are breathing new life into main street areas and residents are choosing to live there again.
These downtown revitalization efforts have bolstered property value and produced new tax revenues for cities. Jobs have been created and economic development officials are again successful in their efforts to attract new businesses to downtown. The shift in direction has been significant throughout the state.
As old buildings were torn down to make way for new ones, enthusiasm increased. A new way of thinking emerged and downtown areas became destination stops. Public transit routes wind through main streets and green spaces attract locals, events and tourists. The benefit to city coffers has been significant – not to mention the stimulus to local economies.
The city of Dallas invested $44 million into the landmark Statler Hilton Hotel which had been in a continually declining state for more than a decade. A developer is converting the old hotel into a mixed-use complex. Another $175 million will be spent as the facility is converted into residential housing. City officials say it’s likely that Dallas will invest $1 billion over the next few years into other downtown revitalization efforts.
Lofts are being developed in downtown Waco and the city recently approved incentives to encourage residential housing. The city council authorized a $750,000 payment to a developer to add 96 new residential units. The first phase of the project, in 2012, resulted in 63 residential units with incentives totaling $1.36 million. The developer’s investment of $11.6 million will add significantly to the tax roll and provide a much-needed parking garage as well as new retail space.
On the Texas Plains, the city of Lubbock has been methodical in bringing new life to downtown. Almost $40 million has been invested and economic development staff are billing the downtown area as a “city within the city.” Officials say the downtown revitalization investment value will likely exceed $1 billion. Single-family town homes, condos, hotels, restaurants and shopping centers are all part of the overall plan.
The old county courthouse in downtown Midland will soon be demolished. City officials are seeking input on how the property might be used. One option being discussed is a hotel that would attract visitors to downtown. Whatever results, the downtown revitalization has started and the city will ultimately change the face and culture of its main street area.
Downtown has become “hot” again. That’s a very good thing. Private investment opportunities are abundant and public officials are looking for creative and innovative development partners. Hats off to the good work…the results will benefit all Texans!