Council to vote on funding new downtown program

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

March 31, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 30, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.

A new Main Street program is set to receive about $35,000 in hotel and motel occupancy tax dollars if the Victoria City Council approves the final reading of an ordinance Tuesday.

The program uses reallocated hotel tax dollars from Main Street's contract with the city to help downtown building owners restore their property's original outside appearance through a facade loan program.

During the ordinance's first reading, councilmen Gabriel Soliz and David Hagan voted no.

Councilwoman Denise Rangel, an ex-officio member of the Main Street Association's board, said she is confident it will pass the final reading.

However, Soliz said he was swayed by Councilman Paul Polasek's argument that the program is "a solution looking for a problem."

Polasek voted for the ordinance.

Soliz said business owners can already enter a 380 agreement with the city, which allows for improvements without having to turn in a set amount of sales tax.

Rangel said the program has support.

"The whole idea is having public and private come together to make something happen," she said.

She anticipates being able to partially fund about seven projects.

"We want downtown to be a gathering place and to have these buildings look like they did before - make it an entertainment area, a shopping area, a fun area," she said.

With street dances, informal concerts like Friday's Tunes at Noon, the Victoria Independent Film Festival and other events, Rangel said downtown is increasingly becoming the center and heart of the community.

Mike Sigg, Main Street manager, said two people are already showing interest in the program.

"Any building in the main Street area would be eligible," he said. "However, it has to be a building that would likely be entered by a tourist or someone entering town - law offices are not eligible, but restaurants, speciality shops, someone who wants to get a building and fix it up, we would put some money into restoring it."

Sigg said Main Street is allowed to receive their unspent HOT funds and reallocate the dollars to new projects.

"We appreciate the cooperation with the city in getting this," he said. "We've had nothing but cooperation and enthusiasm since we got the program running."

Many historic buildings were once "slip-covered," where someone went in and put sheet metal over brick, he said. Restoring building's facades improves the property's' value and the aesthetics of the area.

"You look at the top and the bottom and it's like plaids and stripes, you've got a formal shirt with shorts and it doesn't fit," Sigg said of "slip-covered" buildings. "But you take a look at a building in its existing state and it's beautiful."



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