CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — CORRECTION (11:14 a.m. Wednesday): This story previously stated the Corpus Christi Downtown Management District is proposing a Corpus Christi City Council investment of $3.3 million from downtown property taxes to incentivize business owners to setup shop Downtown. This is incorrect. According to Downtown Management District Executive Director Alyssa Barrera Mason, the proposal is to invest $400,000 into an incentive program it hopes will generate $3.3 million in private development.
If you take a walk or go for a drive in downtown Corpus Christi, you’ll notice a lot of empty lots and vacant buildings.
Maryann Vargas has lived in Corpus Christi for over 40 years and said in the 70s, downtown looked much different. She said it had a lot of retail stores and she enjoyed going downtown because there were a lot of options when it came to things to do. She now works in downtown Corpus Christi and described the current state of downtown as “plain”.
“Nobody wants to see a vacant lot. You want to see something that looks nice. You want to be able to sit down, enjoy a meal, and see that something across the street looks nice and not a vacant lot where it seems awful,” she said.
In order to fill those vacant buildings and empty lots, the Corpus Christi Downtown Management District is proposing to the Corpus Christi City Council an investment of $3.3 million from downtown property taxes. This money would go towards a rebate incentive program that will give new businesses coming to downtown up to $400,000 if they fill vacant lots and buildings.
“We’ve been able to activate a lot of vacant buildings since 2016 through our vacant building program and we’re at a record low number of vacant buildings,” said Alyssa Barrera Mason, the executive director of the Downtown Management District.
When asked how many vacant buildings had been filled up since 2016, Mason did not provide an amount.
The vacant Hoover Hotel on Chaparral St. will soon be turned into an apartment building with 14 units. It will be called 'the Preston', and will also have a restaurant downstairs. The name was inspired by Santana Perez's son.
She said she knows moving into a vacant building downtown is risky and a big project, but she said the incentive program is motivating her and helping with finances.
“From a lending perspective, it was difficult to actually get the project financed but we were really betting on the City of Corpus Christi and the Downtown Management District to really support our project,” Perez said.
Another business called 'Retrocade' is currently planning to move into the Aria Nightclub that was downtown years ago. It will also be located on Chaparral St. It will be an arcade with a bar at the top and they will also be using the incentive program.
Residents like David Repasky think new businesses will help revitalize the downtown area. He was showing his friend around downtown who was vacationing from the Midwest. He said he really enjoys downtown because it’s near the ocean.
“They have plans to beautify things here so I have a lot of faith in the city’s plan and what’s coming in the future,” he said.