Renaissance 1960 wants to pump life back into FM 1960.
The nonprofit organization, which organized to revitalize Northwest Houston’s “main street,” is working with local residents, businesses and legislators to recreate a booming commercial strip from Hwy. 249 to I-45. Renaissance 1960’s board members spent time exploring different solutions, talking to businesses and analyzing trends to develop possible solutions to the gradual market slowdown on the road.
On Oct. 14, Renaissance 1960 presented its findings, complied by Spillete Consulting, to the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, and it recommended moving forward with the creation of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.
“I’m doing this because I care about this area,” said Neal Rackleff, a board member and a local resident. “We need to do everything we can to make progress.”
Steve Spillette, consultant for Spillette Cosulting, identified the major problems along FM 1960 as demographic changes, poorer school performance, increased competition with other commercial areas, abandoned properties, poor aesthetics and increased crime rates.
“Businesses are deterred from locating here,” Spillette said.
He also pointed out that there is no official authority to help attract and entice businesses to come and stay along the 1960 corridor.
Although 1960 has hit a downward slope, Spillete offered some solutions to the area’s problems.
Spillette devoted most of his presentation to discussing the benefits of creating a TIRZ. A TIRZ is an agreement with a city or county. In this agreement, the city or county agrees first assesses the property value in the area where the TIRZ will be applied. Once the base property value and the property tax revenue are determined, the city or county agrees to put any additional property tax revenue raised in the future—increased tax value minus the base tax value—into a separate fund. All of the additional money in this fund can be used by the TIRZ area to pay for area improvements or to reimburse developers.
In order for a TIRZ to be successful, the area that it is in has to increase in property tax value. However, developers are often attracted to areas with TIRZs because they can be reimbursed for high-quality buildings there and increasing the property value.
Spillette said creating a TIRZ is not a quick-fix for FM 1960 because it takes many years to accumulate significant amounts of money. However, it is a start to a larger solution.
He also recommended that Renaissance 1960 look into gaining more money from limited purpose annexations, or agreements that allow the city of Houston and a Municipal Utility District that includes commercial property to split the revenue from a one percent increase in retail sales tax.
Most commercial areas along FM 1960 have limited purpose annexation agreements. Spillete said of Houston agreed to give more of their revenue to MUDs along 1960 for improvements, it could increase the number of customers, and gradually create more sales tax revenue for the city and for the MUD.
Renaissance 1960 is now looking into discussing TIRZ and limited purpose annexation agreements with the county and the city.
“We have been trying to win the game with the 12th man alone,” said Rackleff. “We have to put a team on the field. They need more resources. We need full-time focus [on improving FM 1960].”