In Coastal Bend, communities are investing to boost livability for longtime residents and new arrivals – making their environs more walkable, bikeable and shoppable.
Developer Jeff Blackard summarizes what many others are thinking and feeling about the current boom at the heart of the Coastal Bend of Texas.
“Corpus Christi is, without question, the jewel of Texas right now – the hidden secret few people know about,” says Blackard, Chairman and CEO of Blackard Global Inc. and Building Villages LLC.
While Blackard speaks to the region’s construction sector – his company is planning Barisi Village, a $300 million village along Oso Bay where 1,500 to 1,800 residents will live within about three years – the Coastal Bend is growing by many other measures as well.
Throughout the 12-county region, population is rising, businesses are opening, housing is in high demand, and communities are investing in boosting livability for longtime residents and new arrivals by making their neighborhoods more walkable, bikeable and shoppable.
Bold Plans for the Future
At the nexus of the region’s progress is Corpus Christi, whose heritage as a commercial port and crude-oil crossroads is blending with its emerging qualities as a connected, sustainable, healthy-lifestyle destination.
To help guide its growth, Corpus Christi leaders have developed a 20-year blueprint known as Plan CC, which is focused on making the city even more appealing to residents, visitors and business leaders.
The plan’s vision, developed with significant resident input, includes a diversified economy that provides opportunities for all; modern city services and systems to support growth and vitality; high-quality, safe, connected and diverse neighborhoods with a variety of living choices; and stewardship of unique green spaces, according to Larissa Brown, Technical Project Director for Plan CC.
“It’s all about making the city a great place to live, work, learn and play,” Brown says.
Shopping, Dining and Building Boom
Livability also means plentiful options for residents and visitors to shop and dine. The news on that front is nothing but positive. Areas like the La Palmera Shopping District, which includes the 1-million-square-foot La Palmera mall and The Shops at La Palmera, are bustling year-round and welcoming new additions at a steady pace.
“As the only enclosed mall in the Coastal Bend region, La Palmera has seen a significant sales increase over the past five years,” says Fred Walters, General Manager for La Palmera and The Shops at La Palmera.
“With the addition of The Shops at La Palmera, the district provides a truly unique concentration of retail and dining, which is convenient and therefore desirable to shoppers,” Walters says.
The shopping center is home to 20 tenants, many of which have entered Corpus Christi for the first time, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Jared The Galleria of Jewelers, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Corner Bakery Café. The adjacent La Palmera features 100-plus retail and dining options ranging from Dillard’s, Forever 21 and Pandora to P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, LongHorn Steakhouse and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.
In addition to the village development along Oso Bay, other growth indicators include a $90 million, 74-acre outlet mall under construction near U.S. Highway 77 in Robstown, with 70 store spaces set to open in September 2015.
A Tide of Vibrancy
The Coastal Bend’s positive vibes extend to its smaller towns and villages, where growth is fueling a rise in home values, investments in quality of life, and overall optimism in communities like Three Rivers and Beeville.
In Beeville, which was recently designated a National Main Street program, officials are “committed to strengthening the heart of the community,” says Michelle Clark Trevino, Main Street Director for the city. “Our leaders and citizens have recognized the significance of preserving historic buildings while beautifying and revitalizing downtown Beeville to increase economic development.”
Beeville saw more than 25 new businesses spring up in 2014, including two new hotels and a shopping center, while the population is growing 3.3 percent annually, Trevino says.
Whether it’s her own city or other locales along the Coastal Bend, Trevino is bullish on the future of an increasingly vital part of Texas. The region is “filled with diversity, culture and heritage,” she says, “and we can deliver the family-friendly communities, employment opportunities and lower costs of living that many are seeking.”