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Corpus Christi North Beach Plans Include Canal, Flood Mitigation

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

North Beach improvements have moved up in priority in Corpus Christi, especially now that construction of the new Harbor Bridge is underway and a major developer has partnered with a local businessman on plans for a retail and residential community.

WETLANDS PRESERVATION

About 17 acres of North Beach in Corpus Christi soon might be dedicated to a wetland preserve as part of a project to offset the environmental impact of the new Harbor Bridge construction. The City Council approved on first reading an ordinance designating the property and establishing deed restrictions at a meeting April 16. Second reading is expected to be April 23 or April 30.

Bridge builders Flatiron Dragados LLC told the council the company plans to clear construction and other man-made materials. It will then add vegetation and other amenities. City parks and planning wants to include trails, boardwalks, observation decks, and other resources.

Plans have been in the works since 2014, when the city first committed to the mitigation project — long before construction even began. Wetland mitigation is required for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

So far, the city has declared the area an eco-park and has been working with the National Park Service to develop specific plans.

CANAL AND DEVELOPMENT

In the weeks before the first reading of the wetlands ordinance, the City Council directed city staff to do a cost analysis on a $40 million canal as proposed by Dallas developer Jeff Blackard. The canal would be dredged through the middle of North Beach, allowing boats to come inland to slips, restaurants, and homes he hopes to build there.

Blackard partnered with Lynn Frazier, owner of Fajitaville on North Beach. Their plan includes building barrier islands to protect the beach, which regularly erodes.

The plan is backed by the North Beach Community Association, which issued a media release about a public unveiling of the plan in early April.

“Instead of building typical subdivisions, he (Blackard) specializes in building ‘villages,’ with the aim of recreating an old world culture in a modern day development environment,” the media release reads.

Blackard told the community he wanted to avoid developing an area that would segregate homes by cost.

He is behind another development in Corpus Christi, which has been stalled in court for several years. Barisi Village in Pharaoh Valley had been blocked by a 2016 court case that was dismissed by a federal court judge in February. Barisi Village is an Italian-style development that would replace the Pharaoh Valley Country Club, which closed in 2010. Once the case is finally settled, Blackard said he will begin construction. Engineering for the project is already in process.

As for the North Beach project, Blackard said his goal is to complete the canal by 2023. He said he has money lined up for the development from several sources but would not reveal them.

According to Frazier, the idea was borne of the North Beach Infrastructure Task Force, which was set up by the City Council in 2018. The three members are Blackard, a city staff person, and then-council member Carolyn Vaughn, who is now a Nueces County commissioner. North Beach is in the council district she represented. Frazier pointed out that building the canal is something the city will eventually have to do to fix the area’s drainage problems.

Blackard’s proposal includes an amphitheater, entertainment venues, and a series of artificial islands that would serve as water breaks and environmental habitats. The canal itself would be 60 feet wide and stretch for more than a mile. The barrier islands would be constructed from the dredging materials.

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