Further establish Downtown Wichita Falls as a vibrant, mixed-use destination to create a major quality of place amenity for current and prospective residents.
Economic development frequently happens at the intersection of free enterprise and public policy. This is especially true with issues of downtown development. In the past few decades, private investment has flowed into historic downtowns around the nation as market preferences have shifted away from purely auto-oriented development patterns and toward walkable neighborhoods with a mixture of uses. The public sector has also played a significant role and many downtown revitalization success stories might not have happened at all without leadership and financial backing of local governments and related entities such as re-development authorities.
This trend holds true in Wichita Falls, where public support has leveraged an influx of private investment and creativity. As a recent example, a private developer is revitalizing the Petroleum Building on Scott Avenue with housing geared toward Midwestern State students and ground-floor retail. The project would not have been workable without an $800,000 investment from the Wichita Falls 4B Sales Tax Corporation, which the organization’s board approved in December 2017. The public and private sector are also working together around the Downtown Development Steering Committee, a city-led group dedicated to addressing a wide range of issues impacting downtown redevelopment – regulations, incentives, streetscapes and so on. In October 2017, the group retained a consulting group to assist with its planning activities.
Downtown Wichita Falls already has significant private-sector momentum and public-sector support. This portion of the strategy focuses on additional public and private efforts that are needed to complement ongoing efforts in Downtown Wichita Falls and advance the community toward becoming the type of live-work-play environment that residents desire.
Stakeholder feedback revealed that while the community has strong capabilities to support the marketing and event programming of Downtown, there is not a staff position dedicated solely to pursuing and supporting actual downtown development. It has been proposed that a new staff position is created to serve as the “point person” for attracting new investment in Downtown Wichita Falls.
Public input also revealed that many of the logical “next steps” for Downtown Wichita Falls will involve capital intensive projects including public infrastructure such as streetscapes, and new housing and supportive neighborhood retail that would likely require some level of a public-private partnership in order to be economically viable.
CONNECTIONS TO COMMUNITY GOALS
Attract and retain residents and businesses: Stakeholders identified sustaining downtown momentum as a top community priority. In the economic development world, vibrant mixed-use districts are seen as a crucial factor in attracting and retaining talent and businesses.
Increase prosperity for all residents: Over time, a more vibrant Downtown will help boost the community’s competitiveness and, in turn, create more prosperity-increasing economic activity.
Enhance the quality of life and quality of place: This aims to directly improve the community’s vibrancy and aesthetics through new housing and amenities, infrastructure upgrades, etc.
Promote inclusivity and equity: A vibrant, mixed-use Downtown provides a space where people of all types can gather.
Improve internal and external perceptions of Wichita Falls: Recent progress has already boosted community pride and further progress would positively influence the first impressions of visitors.
Support the Downtown Development Steering Committee’s work to create a favorable environment for investment in Downtown Wichita Falls
• Continue to build community support for the work of the Downtown Development Steering Committee
• With the Committee and other downtown stakeholders, evaluate whether participation in the Main Street America program would be advantageous for Downtown Wichita Falls
• Enlist a wide range of downtown stakeholders and community partners to amplify the group’s findings and recommendations and build a “business case” for why investment in Downtown Wichita Falls is important for the entire community, not just the neighborhood itself
Create professional “economic development” staff capacity dedicated to grow investment and increase quality of place in Downtown
• Identify or create a staff position devoted primarily to promoting development, redevelopment, and private investment in Downtown Wichita Falls to complement existing marketing staff capacity
• Retain an individual with significant experience in leading a downtown or community development organization; task the new staff person with serving as the “point person” for all things related to downtown development
• Seek to incentivize the development of new housing and supportive neighborhood retail (e.g. pharmacy, grocery, dry cleaning, etc.) in Downtown Wichita Falls; continue work with the Downtown Development Steering Committee to optimize zoning and development regulations and examine all available incentive options to support this development
• Work with economic development staff and others to identify developers interested in creating
• Create an inventory of all “second-floor” spaces (essentially, all space available in downtown buildings above street level) to identify opportunities to create new residential spaces in existing buildings; this would ensure that potential developers are connected to all available incentive opportunities, including historic tax credits, etc.
Establish a business improvement district (BID) to fund downtown infrastructure upgrades
• Convene representatives from City of Wichita Falls and downtown property owners to establish a BID (sometimes referred to as a public improvement district) to fund infrastructure improvements; this could potentially also fund services such as public safety and beautification
• If appropriate, leverage BID revenue to catalyze redevelopment by defraying development costs associated with hardscapes, parking infrastructure, utility upgrades, and/or relocations, etc.
– Note: the Downtown Development Steering Committee’s finance subcommittee is evaluating a BID as one potential option for funding improvements in Downtown Wichita Falls identified through the Committee
Continue to pursue the development of a hotel adjacent to the Kay Yeager Coliseum and MPEC to further activate the facilities
• Continue to convene relevant stakeholders including elected and appointed officials, economic development professionals, and representatives from the Wichita Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau to seek the development of a hotel that would make the community and its facilities more attractive for meetings, conventions, and other events
• Continue to work with accommodation industry experts and development professionals to identify potential private-sector partners and evaluate the need for public participation in the project
Launch a multi-faceted marketing strategy for Downtown Wichita Falls
• Convene partners including the Downtown Wichita Falls Development organization, the CVB, downtown business
• Retain a communications firm with significant experience in place-based marketing to craft a brand identity for Downtown Wichita Falls and develop and execute a multi-channel marketing strategy for Wichita Falls; potential components of the strategy could include social media, targeted online advertisements, and advertisements in traditional media outlets in nearby markets
• The campaign should also include an earned media component that seeks to seed positive stories about Downtown Wichita Falls in respected media outlets; earned media is
• Work with the CVB to pursue conventions and meetings that would likely increase patronage of downtown businesses