PORT ARTHUR — The Port Arthur City Council is looking at another way to bring more businesses to the city.
At a council meeting in late October, the elected body allocated $500,000 to engineer and design an extension to Jimmy Johnson Boulevard. The plan is to develop 275 wooded acres at the end of the street.
“We’re trying to bring in much more commercial activity that would increase the tax base, the sales tax and the property tax base,” said City Manager Ron Burton. “That’s the end game.”
It’s been a long time coming, according to John Beard, a former city councilmember. The push to extend Jimmy Johnson Boulevard has been a topic of conversation since the early 2000s when then-City Councilmember Tom Gillam suggested it.
“I think it’s some of the prime development property in terms of not just business and commercial, but real estate also in the city,” Beard said.
“And (Gillam) set forth that idea initially, but it didn’t receive as warm a welcome as it should have at the time. He didn’t have quite enough votes to get the job done.”
Now Gillam is Justice of the Peace, but the city council has finally taken a liking to that idea. The project will be called Patel Mixed-Use Development and it will be a residential, office, retail, hotel, storage and resort RV park space.
It will take 10 years to complete, but in the first three years alone, the city can expect to see 300 new apartment units as well as a 100-room hotel, according to an economic impact report prepared by Impact DataSource, an Austin-based economic consulting, research and analysis firm.
After three years, the project should yield 48 new permanent direct and indirect jobs, $11 million in taxable sales and purchases and nearly $9 million in lodging sales at new hotels. Port Arthur can expect more than $4 million in revenue in that time alone.
When the projection goes out 20 years, an estimated 939 jobs will be created, and the city can expect to see more than $1 trillion in taxable sales and purchases. These benefits will spill over into Jefferson County as well, offering the county more than $26 million in property taxes and more than $5 million in sales tax because of an additional 4,200 residents.
According to Burton, construction in this area might not start for up to four years. Right now, the city is focusing on the concrete tasks necessary to physically expand the area.
“Long before you even anticipate the construction of a street, you need to take into consideration the design and engineering, land acquisition, surveying and all those things,” Burton said. “All that comes before construction.”
Burton said that scheduling engineering of the area and determining if city engineers will perform all of the tasks or if private, contracted engineering firms will assist in the process is one of the first steps the city is taking.
They also need to have a wetland study done of the area and ascertain whether or not the land will be a donation from the property owners or an acquisition for the city is important as well.
Even still, present priorities don’t stop anyone from imagining what the city could make of that area. Beard, whose non-profit works for environmental justice and community development, believes that bringing eco-friendly businesses to the area would be a very good idea.
He also thinks a Veterans Affairs hospital would be a good idea.
“We do have quite a few veterans, and they have to travel to Houston and even farther sometimes to get the help they need,” Beard said.
“So why can’t we have a VA hospital right here, right in Port Arthur?”
Written by Rachel Kersey