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Corpus Christi Approves TIRZ for North Beach

Standing in front of a packed house, developer Jeff Blackard presents a conceptual video illustrating the solutions for drainage and shoreline protection for North Beach. The ideas from the North Beach Infrastructure Task were presented at a stakeholder meeting at the Texas State Aquarium in early April. Photo by Carrie Robertson Meyer/Third Coast Photo

Corpus Christi’s North Beach is one step closer to having its own reinvestment zone, which would provide money needed to improve its infrastructure and encourage development. The City Council voted unanimously to implement a tax increment reinvestment zone for North Beach at its October 29 meeting. A second vote November 12 is needed to seal the deal.

“This will be a real game changer for us as a community,” District 5 council member Gil Hernandez said before the vote. “I encourage everyone to support this TIRZ.”

The area, which is home to two of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, has suffered from neglect for decades. It historically floods, even without rains. Seasonal high tides often cover streets and block entrance to the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay.

If approved, the TIRZ would be in effect for 20 years. It does not establish a new tax but instead dedicates a portion of property taxes from new development to fund public improvements. A TIRZ created in 1983 helped pay for construction of the aquarium. It expired in 2002. The new TIRZ will cover 410 land parcels over about 2,400 acres.

A promise of improved infrastructure could lead to a great deal of new development, according to North Beach resident and business owner Lynn Frazier. Owner of Fajitaville, a beach-front restaurant and hotel, Frazier and Houston developer Jeff Blackard previously announced plans for a $24 million hotel and residential development called LaVista Pointe.

Based on a rugged seaport village, the site would include a 164-foot lighthouse. If a $40 million canal proposed to solve the area’s drainage problems becomes a reality, Frazier said the village would, too, creating a tourist attraction similar to the Riverwalk in San Antonio.

Failure to take a first vote on the issue earlier in October brought criticism from supporters, including Blackard and Frazier. Mayor Joe McComb asked why the rush to push through a TIRZ or make a decision on the drainage system.

“We want to know if we need to pack up our bags and leave,” Blackard said.

Frazier reiterated that the development would not happen without the canal.

The proposal for a canal comes from the North Beach Infrastructure Task Force, which was appointed by the council in 2018 to study the area’s long-standing drainage issues. The committee suggested the canal over a drainage ditch, which would be almost as expensive but would not promote development. Included in the task force’s proposal are plans to create artificial islands and bird habitat designed to prevent erosion.

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