Expanding the reach of downtown revitalization

By Moses Leos III

A program meant to assist in revitalizing downtown Kyle will be expanding, giving more businesses in the corridor a chance to participate.   

That’s the goal for the Kyle City Council, which voted 6-0 on March 3 to expand the Downtown Business Revitalization Program beyond the Central Business District (CBD). 

City Manager Scott Sellers said the expansion will provide a chance for the city to further enhance downtown. 

“It’s a good demonstration of the city’s commitment to our core downtown district, which is the heart of any community,” Sellers said. 

Expansion of the current scope was initiated when Mayor Todd Webster and Mayor Pro-Tem Diane Hervol received inquiries from interested business owners about the grant.  

Webster said he was approached by three businesses interesting in applying. One of the businesses, Down South Railhouse on Center Street, was located beyond the original district boundaries. 

That led Hervol to bring the idea of expanding the scope to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee in February; discussion soon followed to the council dais. 

Under the new rules, council can approve a grant application outside of the CBD if, “They are likely to benefit the revitalization of the downtown area.” 

For Webster, who said he has supported the grant since its inception, it provides the city an opportunity to incentivize beautification projects on public property. 

“I’m excited that the council supports it and Economic Development supports it,” Webster said.

The program, which dates back to 2005, was revived in October after a five-year hiatus. It focuses on providing reimbursement for businesses that seek to improve their façades in the downtown district. 

Kyle’s program provides up to $25,000 in matching grants, provided businesses follow certain guidelines, and can provide proof of their expenditures. Only businesses with a capital investment of under $1 million can apply. 

A lack of funding forced the city to shelve the program in 2009. Kyle brought the program back during the fiscal year 2015 budget session. A total of $50,000 was appropriated, with the primary focus on the CBD-1 and CBD-2 areas. That was added to $50,000 held over for the program from 2014.

According to Hervol, two applicants submitted grant proposals. One of those is Desperados Dance Hall. 

Webster and Hervol hope to spur more applications with the expansion.  

But will that mean increased funding for the program? 

Hervol said she would like to see an increase, but only if the city receives enough eligible applicants. Webster said he’d be open to increases, but factors such as quality of projects and whether a project can “improve the way people perceive the community,” will be taken in to account. 

“I’m willing to move money to make that happen,” Webster said. “I’d support an increase if the volume of projects is there, and the projects are worthwhile.” 

Tightening criteria will also be looked at in the future. 

“We will revisit those guidelines, especially those that are specific to zoning,” Hervol said. “Whether or not they are more stringent, that will be decided on by council.” 

According to Hervol, increasing the boundaries will provide a chance to make downtown Kyle more “inviting and appealing.” 

City Manager Scott Sellers said the grant, which is common in many cities, goes hand-in-hand with his idea of finding what makes Kyle a destination. 

It’s one of several programs the city is implementing to spur interest into downtown. Those ideas include having a point of contact for downtown merchants with the city, to reviving Kyle Market Days and other events. 

For Colleen Naumann, who co-owns Down South Railhouse, she welcomes the expansion of the program. She hopes to use the grant to build a pavilion and outdoor decks. 

“I think it will help dramatically,” Naumann said of the expansion of the grant program. “Anything is good, but to make it better, it’s going to make a huge impact.” 

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