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.