City of Rockport (TX) – Fiscal Impact Analysis

ChallengeOnce a sleepy village on the Texas Gulf Coast, Rockport has experienced major changes in recent years. Increasing numbers of upscale condominiums and second homeowners, an active harbor, and a significant tourism presence have fueled demand for amenities to meet the needs of new residents and visitors. At the same time, long-time residents fear that new development will irrevocably change the city’s character. These competing concerns are highlighted by the proposed development of the Harborfront property. This 17-acre site, owned by the Bass family and the Aransas County Navigation District, is the city’s last remaining waterfront property. Concerns about the Harborfont and other area development fueled the creation of the Heritage District which will govern architectural and design standards in the city’s commercial district. To help city leaders understand the implications of the Harborfront project and its relationship to the District, the City of Rockport engaged TIP Strategies to provide an economic foundation for the downtown plan prepared by Austin-based Halff Associates.

ApproachTIP was charged with analyzing the impact of various development alternatives for the property and providing strategies for integrating it with the downtown. Development priorities included encouraging mixed use development, maintaining public access to the waterfront, and preserving the character of the downtown. TIP reviewed background information on the site, conducted economic and market research, benchmarked other similar communities, and interviewed local officials and stakeholders regarding community goals for the property. These activities informed the preparation of scenarios, which were modeled to estimate their fiscal impact. Infill and redevelopment recommendations were prepared based on the scenario modeling, findings from a retail trade analysis conducted by TheRetailCoach™, and available materials regarding the downtown.

OutcomeIn large measure, the success of the Harborfront – and ultimately the Heritage District – will depend upon creating a destination. To succeed in this task, the city and the developer must emphasize the special place Rockport occupies in Texas and on the Gulf Coast. Few communities anywhere in the state can lay claim to Rockport’s identity, uniqueness, and character. Plans for the Harborfront must help Rockport capitalize on its uniqueness, while allowing for managed growth. Balancing community goals with economic realities, however, will require the citizens of Rockport to make hard decisions. Along with a consideration of direct participation in the project (through bonding, tax increment financing, or tax abatements or rebates), the city will need to re-think its current limitations on density. If the success of the Harborfront is dependent upon creating a destination then it makes sense to concentrate on other aspects, such as sight lines, access to the waterfront, building materials, and architecturally interesting features. Finding creative solutions for blending developer needs with community objectives must be the focus of this ongoing discussion.

TIP Contact Jon Roberts

Photo credit J.D. Page

Photo credit J.D. Page

Photo credit Stuart Steeger