WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The Wichita Falls city council approved a plan by city officials to apply for a grant to improve downtown infrastructure.
The “Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development” Grant is supplied by the U.S. Department of Transportation. If the city can obtain this grant, it would greatly improve downtown Wichita Falls.
“There’s a billion dollars available. The city of Wichita Falls is looking for 25 million dollars,” Wichita Falls director of aviation, traffic and transportation Joh Burrus said.
With $25 million, the city can continue work to make downtown Wichita Falls everything that they want it to be.
“What we’re looking at specifically for the downtown area is to rebuild the intersections. Rebuild the sidewalks. Make it more pedestrian-friendly. Rebuild the street lighting, traffic signals and such. There’s an opportunity here with very little risk to the taxpayers of Wichita Falls,” Burrus said.
Usually, with grants, no money needs to be paid back. But the BUILD Grant would require a 10% match by Wichita Falls.
“Since 2016, there have been 38 new businesses downtown. Well, that’s an increase in property tax and such. That’s money that’s being put into the tax increment finance district,” Burrus said.
Funds from the tax increment finance zone, 4B sales tax corporation and stormwater and drainage fees will be looked at to pay for the local match. Taxpayers would not have to pay anything for this grant that has been worked on by several different groups around the city.
“It’s definitely a collaboration between city departments, downtown development, chamber of commerce. So we’ve all been taking portions of it and just working together to make sure we can turn in the best application possible,” Downtown Wichita Falls Development executive director Jana Schmader said.
There is no guarantee that the city will obtain this grant because of competition but everyone involved is working to make sure they are above the rest.
“Every major city has a great downtown and we know that’s what it takes to build a great city,” Schmader said. “So I think this will be such a positive thing for our community and such a great step in the right direction.”
City officials are working to turn their application in by the deadline of May 18.
If the city were to obtain the grant, the work would be phased over several years.