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Facade Grants Turn Bricks into Gold for Lewisville, says Masonry Council

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2012/3/19 9:00:00 (1250 reads)

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Photos by City of Lewisville
Lewisville has turned an investment of $400,000 in facade grants into a gain of $193 million in the city’s tax base in roughly six years, and now other North Texas cities are hoping to duplicate Lewisville’s success, says Lewisville's director of planning and economic development. The program shows the importance of masonry construction in helping communities grow their tax base, according to the Texas Masonry Council.

The City has turned an investment of $400,000 in facade grants into a gain of $193 million in the city’s tax base in roughly six years, and now other North Texas cities are hoping to duplicate Lewisville’s success.

As part of a comprehensive development plan to revitalize the city’s Old Town area, Lewisville used hotel occupancy tax revenues to fund a three-year grant program (2004-2007). The program provided grants of up to $40,000 to help property owners in the Old Town Center area – about 10-12 square blocks – restore old facades. The primary material used was masonry, mainly brick, due to the existing beautiful old brick buildings in the Old Town area.

The Old Town Center sits in the heart of the Old Town Design District, which encompasses about 300 acres. The city requires that building exteriors along its gateways, including Main Street, be 80 percent brick or stone. The facade grant required that building facades be restored to their original condition which was mainly brick masonry. The grants helped property owners comply with the masonry requirement.

With a budget of $400,000, the city funded 20 grant applications for Old Town Center. Three other applications were approved, but funding is not yet available. Largely as a result of this relatively small investment by the city, the property valuations of the Old Town Design District have risen from $67 million to $260 million and officials expect the valuations to continue rising for years to come, according to Nika Reinecke, Lewisville’s director of Economic Development and Planning.

“We expected that real estate values would rise with new construction and redevelopment in the area. The use of brick and masonry makes the buildings timeless and low maintenance and helps to hold its value,” she said. She noted that new public buildings, including a new City Hall and a 35,000 sq ft visual and performing arts center also have 100 percent masonry exteriors.

Since Old Town is designated as a tax increment financing district, the additional tax revenues will be returned back to the district for more improvements and enhancements. Although the grant program has expired, the city is continuing to approve requests for grants on a case-by-case basis, Reinecke said.

“Our goal is to promote historic preservation and to revitalize the Old Town District,” Reinecke said. “It’s still a work in progress, but the façade grant program has been a huge success.”

Lewisville was one of the first cities in North Texas to offer facade grants, but others have followed suit. These cities include Denton, McKinney and Roanoke.

The Lewisville experience is consistent with research findings showing that masonry requirements are good for towns and cities, said Rudy Garza, executive vice president of the Texas Masonry Council.

A University of Michigan study of masonry ordinances in four Illinois towns concluded that such ordinances result in: 1) higher overall property values; 2) growth in the tax base, lessening the tax burden on residents; 3) continued population and housing growth, and 4) no significant impact on affordability for either renters or buyers of housing.

Research also has shown that masonry (brick, stone, concrete block) provides greater protection than non-masonry siding products against fire and windstorms, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

“Texas has a rich history of building with long-lasting masonry products,” said Garza. “Masonry is part of the Texas heritage, and by embracing masonry planning, local officials and civic leaders, such as those in Lewisville, are helping to build a strong legacy for their communities.“

Additional before and after photos can be seen in the attached presentation.

The Texas Masonry Council represents the masonry manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors in Texas. The TMC assists communities seeking to enhance their appearance and long-term sustainability by incorporating masonry planning into their development plans. Visit http://www.masonryordinance.com.

From a submitted report

Old Town Before and After

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Poster Thread
fvaughan
Posted: 2012/3/19 20:40  Updated: 2012/3/19 20:40
Quite a regular (Verified User)
Joined: 2011/2/15
From:
Posts: 142
 Re: Facade Grants Turn Bricks into Gold for Lewisville, s...
I would like to see a study on residential property values in Old Town. Has the cities commercial revitalization efforts affected the residential areas?

I do know that several neighbors trying to sell are not getting good prices, and the realtors tell them it is due several factors- low school performance, several abandoned houses, commercial encroachment into residential neighborhoods, poor infrastructure and a large number of rent houses.

Maybe the city can start investing in the neighborhoods next?
Reply

Poster Thread
Anonymous
Posted: 2012/3/20 7:29  Updated: 2012/3/20 7:54
 Re: Facade Grants Turn Bricks into Gold for Lewisville, s...
Frank, what do you expect the city to do? As has been stated many times before on this blog, it is up to the property owners to take care of their property. The city can't control that people buy houses and then rent them out. They can't control that an owner allows his property to sit empty. The commercial encroachment should be guided by zoning laws but things are grandfathered in if they existed before the law. The poor infrastructure has been the topic of a lengthy thread here as well and there are reasons why the city can't do anything in the immediate future. As far as the schools being low performing, ask the teachers there. Such a large percentage of the kids are ESL students and they typically don't do well on the standardized tests. That is what pulls the rating down along with the socioeconomic level [check all of the LISD schools and compare their rating with the % of kids that get free or reduced lunches]. You'll definitely see a trend that the city can't do anything about other than aid the businesses to help pump up the economy so jobs are available and they have done that in Old Town by making it an inviting place to shop, eat and do business.

My thought is that people that have bought in Old Town knew they were in Old Town, saw the streets, etc. and bought anyway. Aren't you on the city board that oversees grant money for projects? Why not start there?
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Poster Thread
WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/3/20 22:06  Updated: 2012/3/20 22:06
Editor
Joined: 2008/12/12
From:
Posts: 3940
 Re: Facade Grants Turn Bricks into Gold for Lewisville, s...
I'd like to see a streets program. We're about to exhaust the last $10 million of the current bond authority, finishing up the projects that were promised to the voters. I think about $50 - 100 million would probably make a big dent in it. But I won't have sympathy for those who refuse to grant the easements necessary to make it happen. I'm told that was a problem the last time.
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Poster Thread
Anonymous
Posted: 2012/3/21 9:29  Updated: 2012/3/21 13:03
 Re: Facade Grants Turn Bricks into Gold for Lewisville, s...
many houses that are on the market there in old town are asking quite a bit over "true market value"...along with other factors!
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Poster Thread
Anonymous
Posted: 2012/3/21 9:42  Updated: 2012/3/21 13:04
 Re: Facade Grants Turn Bricks into Gold for Lewisville, s...
Many of the older neighborhoods around Lewisville and the Metroplex are in decline. That is what happens to old neighborhoods. People tend to want new homes and modern amenities.

The revitalization of Oldtown has probably stalled the decline of housing around Oldtown. Had investment not been made, residential values may be much lower.

Lewisville needs to stay the course with revitalizing commercial growth in Old Town, and this includes grants and loans for brick and mortar improvements. Charm and heritage is what makes people want to come to in Oldtown environment. There is a return on this investment, including increasing the value of nearby residential properties and tax base to the City.

At some point, Oldtown could turn the corner and become a real destination for restaurants and retail. A place that people go on Saturdays and evenings to shop and have fun. We need several options for restaurants and retail for Oldtown to be a real destination.

It is going to take a proactive approach and investment from the City to make this happen. Success begets success and people will want to live in Oldtown again once this happens.

A rising tide floats all ships. The City needs to stay the course with helping to revitalize the cornerstone buildings in Oldtown. Denton, Mckinney, Grapevine and many local cities have successfully revitalized their Oldtowns by investing in them. Lewisville can too, but it will take continued and committed investment of tax dollars.
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