The city of Wichita Falls is pushing full steam ahead with plans to improve downtown. Right now officials are working to create a Tax Incremental Funding District, or TIF District, something downtown hasn't had in a few years.
Wichita Falls Downtown Development Executive Director Cynthia Laney says the TIF District incentive is to get people to open up businesses. If a TIF District is created, property owners may apply for a grant that will yield a percentage of the money they need for the investment. Laney says the funding comes from the taxes residents pay.
She says there are TIF Districts on the East side of the Wichita Falls railroad tracks, in the Quail Creek shopping area on Lawrence road, and both are helping businesses grow; something she wants to see happening downtown. Laney says, "Renovating, restoring and rehabilitating businesses. It also helps investors to see that the need is there. Because once you create that TIF District, they are interested in possibly doing mixed use buildings where you have residential on the upstairs and retail on the bottom floor".
Laney says there used to be a TIF District downtown, but it ceased to exist in 2008, after a 20 year run. She says in that time it raised more than $20 million in taxable improvement, and helped fund the Multipurpose Events Center and Coliseum. Wichita Falls Resident Mitchell Davis says, "Back in the day it wasn't really a place where people wanted to go. But nowadays, I come down all the time eat at restaurants. And it's a lot of fun ".
And new restaurants are opening all over the area. When asked about Randal's Café, Wichita Falls Resident Karen Reavis says, ""It's great. I've been here once, and I'm coming back for second time". Randal's Café Owner Bob Doan says, "Business has been very good here. We've enjoyed it; we've been meeting new people down here. We've been here about 3 months now". And new businesses mean more customers for everyone. Pizza Caliente Owner Julia Moreno says, "I would like to have and see a lot more businesses in this town, downtown ".
Everyone is looking forward to have a downtown full of entertainment, arts and culture, residents, and businesses. Laney says, "Festival atmosphere, it's what we want downtown to be; where everybody is walking around and visiting and going in to stores. And then as the community sees what these stores have to offer. Then, they come back".
Laney says their Citizens Advisory Committee is meeting with the city next Thursday to discuss and establish boundaries for the new district downtown. They hope to have it in place by the end of the year. There have been more festivals and events hosted downtown to attract people to the area. In fact tomorrow, there will be a Cajun Festival starting at noon at the Farmers Market.