It’s a common refrain in discussions about government: “Why are we focusing on problem X when we should be focusing on problem Y?”
To use a local example, we often hear residents say that the City ought to fix the roads before working toward other goals. The truth is, it’s not an either/or decision: The City is spending more on road projects than ever before, but we’re also working on many other necessary projects that will help to make Victoria a better place.
When it comes to community development—the process of building a community that’s attractive to residents as well as outsiders who might like to visit, live or do business here—it’s important to recognize that people make judgments about a community based on many different factors, even those that aren’t always at the forefront of residents’ minds. What’s more, many projects come with specialized funding sources (grants, incentive programs, etc.) that, if used correctly, can help us avoid pulling resources away from other important initiatives.
Here are a few examples of ongoing City efforts that will help our community thrive in the long term:
Residents who are tired of driving down ramshackle roads will surely be glad to hear that the City is planning to spend a record-breaking $34.37 million on street repairs and other capital improvements next fiscal year.
This increasing focus on streets is based on residents’ feedback and internal data that backs up common concerns about street conditions. (If you’re curious, you can visit our Public Works page to learn the Pavement Condition Index rating of the streets in your area).
As this year’s budget demonstrates, street projects can be expensive, especially if the street needs to be fully reconstructed. How does the City decide which streets to fix each year? Available funding, the condition of the streets and the condition of utilities beneath the streets all play a role in the decision-making process.
You can take a look at this map to see which streets the City has repaired during the last five years and which have been scheduled for repairs so far during the next five years.
If you’ve ever cashed a paycheck just to turn it over to your landlord, you’re not alone. According to 2018 American Community Survey data, more than half of Victoria renters fit the federal definition of “rent-burdened,” spending at least 30% of their income on rent.
The City of Victoria and the Victoria Housing Finance Corporation are seeking to address Victoria’s shortage of low-income and starter-level housing by leveraging state and federal incentive programs to attract developers. Because of these efforts, the City this year announced two new housing complexes that will add 482 units priced for working families: Enchanted Gardens Apartments and Odem Street Apartments.
In addition to providing relief to rent-burdened Victorians, these projects benefit businesses by helping them to attract workers: Prospective employees are more likely to move to an area if they know they can afford to live there.
The concept art that was released this month as part of the downtown master planning process created a stir. Could downtown Victoria really look like that? It looks expensive—is it really worth the investment?
Statistically speaking, yes. In 2019, Main Street America programs like the Victoria Main Street Program created 32,316 new jobs and 6,466 new businesses, with about $30 worth of new investment generated for every dollar spent on the programs.
That being said, the importance of investing in downtown goes beyond raw numbers. A thriving downtown can play a big role in helping a community stand out and giving it a unique character. Building up downtown will provide an additional resource to attract residents and out-of-towners for dining, entertainment and more.
The proposed downtown master plan includes a list of potential incentive programs that are designed to attract developers and generate a positive return on investment. Other possible funding strategies include the creation of a tax incentive reinvestment zone, in which tax revenue from new investments is dedicated for further investment.
If you’ve been missing the duck pond, hope is on the horizon. After receiving a $621,508 grant toward the cost of restoring the pond earlier this year, the City on Sept. 21 approved a contract with Texas Parks and Wildlife for the duck pond project. Construction of the new duck pond is expected to begin in early 2022 and take 10-12 months to complete.
These types of grants and strategic planning will come in handy as the City works to implement the Parks & Recreation master plan. The City Council on Sept. 24 heard a presentation on the new master plan, which is scheduled to be adopted later this year and which draws on input from hundreds of residents about changes they’d like to see to Victoria’s public spaces.
Investing in our public spaces will go a long way toward making our community an attractive place to live. The Recreation and Amenities section of our community-driven Plan 2035 sums it up: “Parks, open space and recreation facilities are an essential part of a healthy and sustainable community … and often among the public services most valued by residents.”
The colorful flowers springing up in Victoria’s public places send a clear message to people driving through: Victoria is a community that takes pride in itself.
That spirit of community pride is inspiring residents to take action—and Keep Victoria Beautiful provides an outlet for them to do just that. During the Fall Sweep last Saturday, more than 240 volunteers gathered to pick up litter all over town. These types of ongoing beautification efforts will only help to cement Victoria’s status as a place residents can be proud to call home.
Meanwhile, KVB is continuing to seek out beautification opportunities as well as grant programs that could help to fund future projects, like the $3,000 grant the group received to replant the flowerbeds outside the Utility Billing Office and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. While KVB operates with some oversight from the City, its nonprofit status makes it eligible for a variety of non-governmental grant programs.