Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Kennedale Looks to Town Center For Boost

KENNEDALE -- Kennedale is launching plans for a town center that officials hope will give the city an economic face-lift.
For years the city's identity has been tied to auto salvage yards, racetracks and sexually oriented businesses. But city leaders want to set a new tone for development, adding a mix of commercial, residential and recreational uses to a roughly 30-acre site that already includes city government buildings.
"What we're trying to do is get a place that is an attraction that people want to come to, a destination," said Mark White, the interim city manager.
The key is finding one or more developers who will work with the city on a shared vision for the area over several years, he said.
The site of the proposed TownCenter Kennedale -- bordered roughly by Kennedale Parkway, Bowman Springs Road and Third Street -- is already home to City Hall, the police station, the senior citizen center and the new public library.
Mike Soab, the city's economic development director, is talking with several developers about bringing in restaurants, stores, offices, town houses, a park and other attractions.
If successful, officials say, the town center could influence development in the drab business strip along Kennedale Parkway and in other parts of the city.
"We have to make our main thoroughfare reflective of the values of our community," Soab said. "We start doing that by creating a heart of the city, and that's a town center. It raises the bar of expectation of what can be done on Kennedale Parkway."
The city is also considering creating a tax increment financing district to help pay for roads, utilities and other infrastructure for the project. Such districts capture tax revenue generated by new construction or property value increases within the project site.
The motivation: The city's main guide for the project is a 2003 redevelopment study conducted for Kennedale by the University of Texas at Austin's School of Public and Urban Affairs. The study said a town center would "strengthen the sense of civic pride and identity" in the city of 6,150, which has grown more than 50 percent since the 1990 census.
"Currently, there is no 'urban core' to create a unique image for Kennedale," the study authors wrote. "With no other competition, the most indelible impressions one may derive from Kennedale may be those of sexually oriented businesses and racetracks."
Kennedale never had a town square or other well-configured economic center. Its business district sprang up along a railroad track in the late 1800s. After a fire destroyed all but one building in 1908, business migrated to what is now Kennedale Parkway, or Business 287.
Most residents work outside Kennedale, and many do their shopping in Arlington and other cities before they get back home, the study said.
"We need manufacturing, we need retail, we need grocery stores, we need a balance," said Robert Mundy, vice president of the Kennedale Economic Development Corp., which administers a half-cent sales tax for business projects. "We need something that will support the citizens' needs."
Role model: Kennedale follows the lead of several area cities that hadn't had downtown squares but are creating economic focal points.
Soab, who was Colleyville's economic development director before he came to Kennedale seven months ago, helped create The Village at Colleyville with developer Realty Capital Corp. The 30-acre town center, which opened its first building in 2002, has completed about half of its planned 750,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, offices, government buildings, town homes and lofts, Realty Capital President Richard Myers said.
Myers said The Village has a property tax value of about $60 million so far. His advice to Kennedale is to let the market dictate what goes into the town center -- how much retail versus residential, for example.
"The city needs to give the project a little bit of freedom because they're complicated," Myers said.
ONLINE: www.cityofkennedale.com

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