Council approves agreement with O’Reilly Hospitality for $60-million hotel/conference center

Council approves agreement with O’Reilly Hospitality for $60-million hotel/conference center

Claire Kowalick, Wichita Falls Times Record News

The largest project the Wichita Falls City Council approved Tuesday, was an agreement between the city, 4A Economic Development Corporation, and O’Reilly Hospitality.

Tim O’Reilly, CEO of the hotel-development company, said the Delta by Marriott full-service hotel plus the conference center will be a combined $60-million project.

The hotel will be owned and operated by O’Reilly and the conference center is expected to be funded by the 4B Sales Tax Corporation.

City Manager Darron Leiker iterated that there will be no property-tax dollars, or general fund dollars going toward this hotel/conference center project. The funding will come from sales-tax revenue that is approved for use by the 4B Board and council.

Something that does come out of the general fund, Leiker said, is the annual subsidy to keep the Multi-Purpose Events Center going. Every year, the city uses a portion of general-fund dollars to keep the MPEC afloat and the amount is only growing each year.

Read the complete article at Times Record News.

Downtown living on the rise

Downtown living on the rise

This summer has seen a growth in living options for Downtown Wichita Falls.

Thanks to Downtown Development’s extensive efforts to bring life back to the area, more living spaces have begun to pop up and they are eclectic and cozy!

Austin School Lofts, The Holt Hotel, LaSalle Crossing, Travis Crossing, 9th Street Lofts, The Landmark on Lamar, and City Center Apartments are listed on the DowntownWF.com website. They cater to many demographics, from senior citizens to college students. There are luxury lofts and charming floor plans inside these historic buildings.

The Downtown Wichita Falls Development team recently moved into their own new location on Indiana and painted their facade a beautiful blue! You won’t be able to miss it when you’re walking around the area. This welcome center is perfect to go in and get information on businesses, upcoming events, or living spaces.

Downtown continues to show growth in foot traffic as the After Hours Artwalk brings more visibility to the area and more things to do. Artists all over the city have flocked to the area to showcase their skills, from traditional art to henna tattoos and live music on every corner. The Artwalk begins in April and ends in October occurring the first Thursday of the month.

Artwalk gets an encore!

This year, the community asked for an encore in November and the DWFD agreed. Get your jackets ready for November 7th, 2019 and join in the festivities for the After Hours Artwalk Encore!

There’s so much happening downtown!

The Midwestern State University newspaper “The Wichitan” posted an article listing five hotspots in the area. Read here.

You can’t forget the wineries! Hook & Ladder and 6th Street Winery are open to serve you their own special blends. Wichita Falls Brewing Company brews its own specially crafted beers (which you can take with you as you walk downtown). The nightlife is abundant and so is the shopping with places like Ramble & Company who sell Wichita Falls branded items, perfect for gifting yourself or others.

There is also plenty of vintage/antique shopping available, and when you need a bite to eat, you have a plethora of options! Gypsy Uncorked, Half Pint Taproom, Karat Bar & Bistro, Ganache Cupcakes, Zeke’s BBQ, P-2, Scratch Kitchen, Progress & Provisions, B Cocoa Artisan Chocolates, and more! Check out the list of businesses downtown here.

When you’re ready for live entertainment, look no further than Backdoor Theatre, Wichita Theatre, and Iron Horse Pub! The theatres offer numerous shows throughout the year and the casts are local entertainers. The Iron Horse Pub recently celebrated 19 years in its location and boasts the best live music in the area with bands from all over the world playing in their Irish pub atmosphere.

With so many things to do, it’s no wonder more housing options are on the rise in Downtown Wichita Falls. You’re invited, too!

Downtown Live-Work-Play: Support the growth of Downtown Wichita Falls

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.

ACTION TEAM

Downtown Wichita Falls Development

Jana Schmader, Executive Director
Jeanette Charos, Marketing Director

Support the Downtown Development Steering Committee’s work to create a favorable environment for investment in Downtown Wichita Falls

Recommendations:

• 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

Recommendations:
• 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 residential product in Downtown Wichita Falls

• 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

Recommendations:
• 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

Recommendations:
• 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

Recommendations:
• Convene partners including the Downtown Wichita Falls Development organization, the CVB, downtown business and property owners, and others to advance the effort

• 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 generally coverage that is “won” as opposed to “bought” and is regarded as highly credible – and in many cases more cost-effective than other forms of external marketing

• Work with the CVB to pursue conventions and meetings that would likely increase patronage of downtown businesses