Good Things Happening in Abilene!
Is it just me, or are we in the middle of one awesome summer? Or would that be “awesummer?” Great weather, good rain, things outside are still green, people are out and about…that’s a big deal!
Hello AYPeeps! It’s been awhile since I reached out to you, and I have a lot of things that have come across my desk that I want to share with you.
First, let me give you a quickie update on what’s up downtown.
As you know, the bills we advocated for in Austin have passed and became Texas law on June 18. Those bills, introduced in the House by Representative Stan Lambert and in the Senate by Senator Dawn Buckingham, redirect Hotel Occupancy and sales tax revenue normally collected in Abilene and sent to Austin to stay in Abilene. We get to keep it for 10 years.
Of course, those funds would be generated only by the downtown hotel project, and we estimate the value to be in the neighborhood of $14.5 - $18 million to be used by the city to help bring the hotel – and the Festival District – to life.
I can tell you this. I’m a member of the hotel development team and our city manager is doing it right. I’ve watched Robert work long hours and communicate the vision both locally, in Austin as well as with the hotel developer. We’re lucky to have him as our city manager. If you see him, give him a heartfelt “thanks.” It’ll mean a lot. That guy has a tough job.
This week, the private equity provider will initiate an investment-grade market assessment that will tell us – and the developer – how many rooms, the quality level, the amenities (I’m excited about the rooftop pool!) and so on that the market will support. We expect that process to take 6-8 weeks to complete.
Also, if we do get this hotel deal done and it gets built, I’m counting on all of you to book a room on opening night and share in the excitement of this new asset in our community. Talk about a team effort!
We’re also working on a bazillion other things that will help to bolster our economy and create a better Abilene.
One of those things is having the privilege of working alongside our new Mayor, Anthony Williams. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the new Mayor several times since his swearing in. We’re lucky to have him, too. Mayor Williams gets the big picture and understands the value and importance of public/private partnership (did you get a chance to read my blog post on that subject? If not, please do – it’s here.
We all know that the City is trying to figure out how to deal with streets – and we know that a consulting firm has suggested it would take $377 million to make them all like new. But even if the city did build every street new – and there are 1700 miles of streets in our great city – how do we maintain them? Ignoring them will make them deteriorate sooner. Maintenance is key.
The city is considering a variety of options – individually and in aggregate – to create a streets maintenance fund. Proposed is a lump sum of $2.5 million from economic development funds coupled with $4.86 million collected $9 at a time from every property owner in the city. That will still leave a gap in covering the $10.3 million maintenance need each year. There’s also a business assessment that’s being considered that would close the gap.