Facade grants turn bricks into gold
Rehabs and restorations case study
The Texas city of Lewisville, located north of Dallas, has turned an investment of $400,000 in facade grants into a gain of $193 million in the city’s tax base in roughly six years. Now, other North Texas cities are hoping to duplicate Lewisville’s success.
As part of a comprehensive development plan to revitalize the city’s Old Town area, Lewisville (est. pop. 100,000) used hotel occupancy tax revenues to fund a three-year grant program (2004-2007). The program provided grants of up to $40,000 to help property owners in the Old Town Center area – about 10-12 square blocks – restore old facades. The primary material used was masonry, mainly brick, due to the existing beautiful old brick buildings in the Old Town area.
The Old Town Center sits in the heart of the Old Town Design District, which encompasses about 300 acres. The city requires that building exteriors along its gateways including Main Street be 80 percent brick or stone. The facade grant required that building facades be restored to their original condition which was mainly brick masonry. The grants helped property owners comply with the masonry requirement.
With a budget of $400,000, the city funded 20 grant applications for Old Town Center. Three other applications were approved, but funding is not yet available. Largely as a result of this relatively small investment by the city, the property valuations of the Old Town Design District have risen from $67 million to $260 million and officials expect the valuations to continue rising for years to come, according to Nika Reinecke, Lewisville’s director of Economic Development and Planning.
“We expected that real estate values would rise with new construction and redevelopment in the area. The use of brick and masonry makes the buildings timeless and low maintenance and helps to hold its value,” she says. She notes that new public buildings, including a new City Hall and a 35,000 sq ft visual and performing arts center also have 100 percent masonry exteriors.
Since Old Town is designated as a tax increment financing district, the additional tax revenues will be returned back to the district for more improvements and enhancements. Although the grant program has expired, the city is continuing to approve requests for grants on a case-by-case basis, Reinecke says.
“Our goal is to promote historic preservation and to revitalize the Old Town District,” Reinecke says. “It’s still a work in progress, but the façade grant program has been a huge success.”
Lewisville was one of the first cities in North Texas to offer facade grants, but others have followed suit. These cities include Denton, McKinney and Roanoke.
The Lewisville experience is consistent with research findings showing that masonry requirements are good for towns and cities, said Rudy Garza, executive VP of the Texas Masonry Council.
A University of Michigan study of masonry ordinances in four Illinois towns concluded that such ordinances result in: 1) higher overall property values; 2) growth in the tax base, lessening the tax burden on residents; 3) continued population and housing growth, and 4) no significant impact on affordability for either renters or buyers of housing.
Research also has shown that masonry (brick, stone, concrete block) provides greater protection than non-masonry siding products against fire and windstorms, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.
“Texas has a rich history of building with long-lasting masonry products,” says Garza. “Masonry is part of the Texas heritage, and by embracing masonry planning, local officials and civic leaders, such as those in Lewisville, are helping to build a strong legacy for their communities.”
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Gregory Graze is a spokesman for the Brick Industry Association-Southwest.
Photos courtesy of City of Lewisville