By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
February 26, 2015
South Padre Island Mayor Barry Patel gave a broad three to five year outlook on some of the goals and expectations he is hoping the city will meet at the most recent session of the SPI Chamber’s “Coffee and Conversation” held last Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn.
He covered a variety of topics and began by giving context to the priorities he had when first taking office, stating that though the security of the community and its visitors were a top priority when he stepped into the position, he also wanted a united city to allow for prosperity and to improve relations with Cameron County.
“What I’m about is stability and a steady growth in our vision and our plans and the foundation of that is a steady government — that we have a city that is very proactive and a government that works together with city staff,” he said.
Immediate projects include development of vacant land. SPI received a $400,000 grant and the city council approved an additional $250,000 for the City Park project, and Patel hopes to continue work on the development with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on a passing park at the grassy area that meets with the edge of the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway. The park is expected to consist of a transportation hub which has already been funded.
A long term focus will be on the construction of sidewalks on both sides of Padre Boulevard from the south end up to The Shores. Patel also emphasized the importance of the aesthetics of the main street, anticipating the implementation of barriers on the many vacant lots to prevent cars from driving over curbs to park. He cited an increase in property taxes, a growth in sales tax base and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) as methods to get funds to make these ideas a reality.
“It’s important that we have a complete boulevard that starts at the southern point of the Island, up to The Shores,” he said. “It’s uniform. People can safely bicycle, cross and walk. That encourages pedestrian traffic and so forth to a more healthy lifestyle, which is what the Island is all about,” he said.
Last week, a side street on Sunset Drive was approved for construction. He wants to see at least two or three streets similarly improved every year as the City moves forward with the present budget.
Being the leader of a city that relies so much on tourist periods for prosperity, he spoke about balancing the fluctuating level of tourism cycles in the region.
“There is a new dynamic with tourism and I think we all feel that with what’s happening in the market,” he said. “South Padre Island has always had steady growth aside from the setback with (Hurricane) Dolly… I think there will be an exponential growth in the next five years. We have SpaceX coming in and they have a big conference this month on South Padre Island. We have been very welcoming to them and they are excited about being here,” he said.
He expects to see prosperity with the influence of SpaceX, the establishment of UTRGV, and ecotourism. The Island has more than doubled its spending on internet advertising in recent years.
Finally, the impact of SPI Convention Center was discussed. The city approved a $3.8 million renovation to the center. A date hasn’t been decided, but there will be meetings with city staff and meeting planners of various hotels to brainstorm what needs to be done to have a more efficient center, which will lead to the formation of a committee that will actively be involved in bringing in business to the city and measuring the success of marketing and events on a quarterly basis.
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