Support Everybody’s Downtown by Connecting it to Town Creek
Below is a guest post by Bob King, a long-time resident of Town Creek. It is his open letter to the City regarding the upcoming discussion of a Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.
As the city discusses the idea of creating a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) for the downtown district, the residents of the Town Creek development – just across Dry Comal Creek from downtown – are expressing support for the idea and the desire to be a part of it.
New Braunfels recently created tax incentive agreements to build public infrastructure for the Creekside and Westpointe Village developments. Those agreements have obviously been a successful element of the rapid growth that has stretched the “suburban” edges of our city. It seems only logical that a city that values its history, charm and cultural heritage would also want to continue to encourage investment in what truly makes New Braunfels special – our historic town center.
The 65-acre Town Creek project has the potential to attract a “new urban” mix of residents and businesses that want to be a part of a vibrant downtown New Braunfels scene. The first of four phases of this project, the one nearest Walnut Avenue, is well underway and has already attracted new residents and new businesses to New Braunfels. But the realization of the vision of a vibrant extension of the downtown community – shared by a previous City Planning Commission and the City Council, and now enthusiastically supported by Town Creek residents and business owners – depends on the city approving the construction of a vehicular and pedestrian at-grade crossing of Dry Comal Creek that physically connects Town Creek to downtown.
It’s obvious why the Town Creek residents want the connection. We invested in proximity to downtown, and in the mixed-use, sustainable development nature of phases two through four. It’s a quality of life issue for us. It’s why we are here.
But why should the rest of New Braunfels also support the idea?
First, if there’s going to be a TIRZ district, the downtown should want to capture the incremental taxes generated by the build-out of the Town Creek project. It will easily be the single biggest source of incremental taxes for the district. The financial rate of return (tax increment gained versus investment in the connection) to the city for connecting downtown to Town Creek is more than compelling. Over a 20 year period, the Town Creek increment will contribute millions of dollars to support downtown development projects.
Second, downtown businesses will benefit from a development that will ultimately attract 600+ residents, all of whom will have located in Town Creek precisely to take advantage of downtown amenities and businesses. Downtown businesses will thrive because Town Creek residents will support them.
Third, the city will attract numerous new businesses that want to be in the kind of “new urban” development that Town Creek will uniquely offer. And new businesses mean new jobs for New Braunfels citizens.
Fourth, the expansion of the New Braunfels commercial and residential property tax base will help to hold down property tax rates for everyone.
Fifth, all of this can be done with virtually zero impact on traffic patterns to the east of San Antonio Street. There just won’t be any losers in this project.
The physical connection of Town Creek to the downtown district is a no-brainer. The tax increment that is coming from the development of Town Creek will reinforce the development of the downtown district – the center of what makes New Braunfels culturally unique. It’s a win/win for everybody, because it’s everybody’s downtown.
It’s great that New Braunfels is expanding both northward and westward. But if we neglect to give the downtown district the same tax advantages, we risk turning our town into just another suburb. I encourage all citizens to get behind the idea of connecting Town Creek to downtown in upcoming TIRZ discussions. The boost provided by Town Creek will keep our downtown vigorous, healthy, and unique.
Bob King, his wife Julie and chocolate lab Nellie are Town Creek residents.