San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

July 24th, 2009
Narvaiz addresses Downtown Association

 

San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz addresses the Downtown Association. Photo by Sean Wardwell.

By SEAN WARDWELL
Managing Editor

The San Marcos Downtown Association heard from San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz Wednesday night as the mayor highlighted the various incentives already given to downtown. Her comments came in the wake of several complaints by association members over the city’s handling of various Springtown Center redevelopment proposals.

Narvaiz gave an update on downtown, which was originally presented at Tuesday’s San Marcos City Council meeting. In it, she pointed out a total investment of more than $11 million during the last 15 years, including Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) expenditures, re-modeling of the LBJ Museum, sidewalks around the courthouse square, downtown water systems improvements, the establishment of a police sub station and the continued presence of emergency services.

Among the figures given were $7.1 million for the Main Street Program since 1986, and nearly $1.5 million in incentives to downtown businesses for redevelopment in the past three to five years. Of the the latter figure, $175,000 were cash incentives, while $1.3 million were in tax abatements and fee waivers.

Narvaiz then turned her remarks to the controversial Springtown incentives, explaining her goals with the project.

“The ultimate goal, at least for me, was increased revenue,” Narvaiz said. “Anything that increases sales tax money goes into the general fund, and what happens is then everyone in the city says ‘oh, we have more money.’ So, it automatically gets appropriated into departments. It’s just a natural thing.”

Continued Narvaiz, “What we were trying to do, was at the increased level of revenue that could have been received at that particular, potential project, to commit the increased revenues to fund the downtown master plan.”

After giving her presentation, Narvaiz did not take questions, choosing instead to converse individually with association members during a break.

After the mayor left, members discussed the problem of downtown parking. The city is proposing a shuttle service from the various parking sites downtown, including 75 available spaces at Sanctuary Lofts, the parking lot of Jack Brown Cleaners on Edward Gary Street and the parking lot across from the San Marcos Post Office. The spaces at Sanctuary Lofts are part of a six-month trial program.

There was a lack of enthusiasm about using the spaces at Sanctuary Lofts. Association members cited poor ingress and egress, bad lighting, employee safety and distance from the square. Many preferred using the Hays County Justice Center parking lot, instead.

The association plans to send a survey to each of its members asking specifically about employee parking. Several business owners expressed frustration at the parking limits on the courthouse square, after seeing their employees either get tickets for violating the two-hour time limit or having to continually move their vehicles. Allen Shy, who owns three downtown businesses, said he has 45 employees at his various establishments who struggle to find convenient parking.

The association also heard from a representative of the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) who presented an update on the effects of  2 a.m. bar closings. SMPD has seen an increase in public intoxication arrests since bar hours extended, and is planning on working with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to increase enforcement when Texas State begins its fall semester. Specifically, SMPD and TABC plan to conduct more checks for identification checks and in-bar intoxication.


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12 thoughts on “Narvaiz addresses Downtown Association

  1. Narvaiz’s speech reminds me of one given recently by the Kyle City Manager. We weren’t impressed either.

    Funny how they have to reach so far back into time (1986) to elevate those figures to prove just how much they are doing to revitalize our downtowns. But compare those figures to what our cities our doling out to bring new developments to town – and it really pales in comparison. Guess that’s why they never mention those numbers.

  2. Are they really thinking about creating a shuttle to move people three to four city blocks?

    I have visited Valentino’s Pizza, the Hays County Courthouse, Allstate Insurance, Sean Patrick’s, The Humidor and the Root Cellar during the day and in the evening in the last three weeks and I have always found a parking spot on the square itself. I’m not sure how you can legally create city parking for employees of businesses near the square and keep others from utilizing those same parking spaces.

  3. Finding a parking space to hit one or two stores is no problem. Finding a place to park so that you can spend an afternoon downtown is impossible. People who don’t live within walking distance of downtown, or who are coming from out of town, like those who visit the Outlet Mall, can’t come into town, get lunch at The Root Cellar, visit some of the shops, walk around campus and then come back for a beer and some ribs at the Tap Room. Many spaces won’t even let you park long enough to see a movie at the dollar theater, much less dinner and a movie.

    A walkable downtown needs places where people can park for the day and visit the downtown area.

    That being said, a shuttle from the Outlet Mall to downtown *might* be interesting, if it ran regularly and was well publicized. At least then, some out of town visitors might come to the square for lunch, without worrying about parking, since the Outlet Mall understands how to be pedestrian friendly.

    You might even try using the shuttle from the Outlet Mall to downtown as a means to educate tourists from the Outlet Mall about the rest of the things that make the city a great place to visit, like the barges on the Riverwalk. Give the passengers a little information and show them some points of interest on the way into town.

  4. The city can build the parking lot and then lease spaces to the businesses.

    What downtown needs more than anything is good quality sidewalks and streetscapes to create a safer pedestrian environment. Parking spaces are available throughout the edges of downtown, but people don’t use them because they don’t feel safe/don’t enjoy walking beyond the square. Unfortunately, the city hasn’t done a thing for downtown sidewalks in about 10 years. Despite promises, the downtown sidewalks have been bumped further out every year in the capital improvements plan.

  5. I would love to see the same sidewalk and landscape design that is around the square be extended up and down LBJ from MLK to University. Improving inferstucture is a legitimate way for the city government to spend money. Giving loans to businesses is not.

  6. Sounds like the downtown owners just want a subsidy under a different name.

    For downtown San Marcos to succeed, it needs to get rid of about 50% of the existing bars and bring in some speciality shops and artists studios. Then maybe it will attract out of town visitors like Fredericksburg, Boerne, etc.

    But….even then, all you are creating are those minimum wage jobs you despise so much.

  7. I believe we should only spend our taxpayer money on economic development when these five questions can be positively answered:

    1) Will it raise or lower the average household income?
    2) Does it expand the diversity and vibrancy of our local economy?
    3) Will it attract the kinds of businesses and industries we have identified for our long-term economic sustainability?
    4) How does it stack rank to the plans and projects we already have developed?
    5) Is it a good deal for everybody involved?

  8. Steve, I think those are great guidelines. Now, who gets to be the judge to determine the suitability of those items that might be considered vague or arbitrary ?

    It seems that most of those who comment don’t feel our elected officials are qualified, so how is a consensus ever reached ?

  9. government hack, I think your idea of the merchants leasing the parking spaces is a great one. Let the downtown merchants master lease the garage to the extent that is services its debt service.

    Unfortunately, the reality is that it will take them longer to determine an equitable formula for the master lease than it will take to repay the bonds !

    But sorry, can’t agree with you about the sidewalks. The majority look great, after a small fortune was spent on them not that many years ago.

  10. Interesting conversation. My basic feeling is the government should create through policy, infrustucture and occasionally tax breaks, not so much through gifting or loaning money to businesses. There are many businesses here in town that have provided jobs and income to the city for years and years and have never had so much as a “Thank you”. Understandabley there is some resentment with these folks.

    In my opinion the key to downtown vitality is creating a sensible combination residences and offices in the downtown area. Like the new apartment complex near Wells Fargo and the Court house annex. Something like the Justice Center is a good example of office space but one about four stories high with parking would be better.

    I would be curious to see the “master plan” to see if any areas are planned for high density development. The high density development should be extended south past the railroad tracks between and along N. LBJ and Guadalupe.

  11. Robert, in response to your comment and question (“those are great guidelines. Now, who gets to be the judge to determine the suitability of those items that might be considered vague or arbitrary?”), this is where we need more transparency from our leaders (and less closed doors meetings); and greater opportunity for citizen participation (and less kowtowing to developers).

  12. Wait until the county government moves into its new expensive government center. Then there will be plenty of parking on the square, but fewer folks (other than students) looking to park. Lots of new office space available too. Of course your property taxes will increase to service the bonds commissioners’ court has already and intends to issue for special interest roads, new government digs and a new jail (in the neighborhood of $320 million plus…not including interest on the bonds). But think of all the out of county jobs and profits these public projects will create!

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