4B approves $800k for Petroleum Building renovation

A nearly $1 million expenditure could help turn a downtown eyesore into dormitory-style housing for Midwestern State University students.

Property developer Will Kelty was approved Dec. 7, by the Wichita Falls 4B Sales Tax Corporation Board of Directors for a forgivable loan of up to $800,000 toward a fire suppression/alarm system for the Petroleum Building, 726 Scott Ave.

Kelty purchased the former hotel/office building in 2016, with an aim to turn it into much-needed housing for the downtown area. His first project at this site was turning a portion of the first floor into the popular restaurant and bar, the Highlander Public House, which opened in March.

The building rests on the site of an oil-boom era hotel, the Kemp Hotel, which boasted famous guests including presidents and movie stars. The Kemp was demolished in the 1960s, and the Downtowner was built. It later became a Holiday Inn, went through several owners and finally became The Crescent Plaza – a pay-by-the-week residential hotel. The spot became a hotbed of crime, with police responding to more than 250 calls about the site in a year. The Crescent closed suddenly in 2011, and all residents were evicted. It sat vacant until purchased by Kelty five years later.

In a presentation to the Wichita Falls 4B Sales Tax Corporation Board of Directors, Kelty said he would like to use the upper floors (two through nine) of this building for student and apartment-style housing for Midwestern State University students and other residents. The second through fifth floors could hold 110 housing units. The rooms would lease for $500-$600 a month with all bills paid. MSU representatives toured the facility earlier in the year and found the idea to be a viable project. If approved, the housing could be available as soon as the summer of 2018.

Kelty said downtown student housing is an option used in many cities with a college or university. The housing encourages integration of college students into the downtown area and could aid in their decision to stay in Wichita Falls after college. The arrangement could further Wichita Falls’ goal to make the city a “college town” and benefits MSU by providing housing space not possible on the land-locked campus.

With a total estimated price tag of $8.8 million for renovation, the developer said making the location livable will be twice the cost of what makes sense, financially.

Kelty said he is willing spend more than $4 million toward the project and is seeking help of 4B, the city and county for the remaining $4 million.

The portion of funds approved by 4B at their meeting Dec. 7, is up to $800,000 toward a fire-suppression system for the former hotel.

Many building in downtown were constructed before fire-suppression equipment was required. An ongoing effort by 4B has helped new businesses thrive in the area by partially or completely funding these systems in their renovated downtown properties.

As a hotel (deemed transient, not permanent housing), the building was not originally required to have sprinklers. Changing to student housing, Kelty said the building must be fitted with sprinklers and a fire-alarm system. Paying out-of-pocket for these changes, he said, would make the project “unfeasible.”

Along with 4B help, Kelty said other assistance from entities could take the form of: transportation to and from campus (through the city bus system), property tax-rate lock for up to 10 years (county assistance), or a sales-tax abatement. Kelty approached the Wichita County Commissioners Court in May about possible purchase of the Lindemann building to use the garage for resident parking, but no decision was made.

Kelty said he expects the project to be completed in two phases. The first phase would be installation of the fire-suppression system, renovation of floors two through five and upgrade of the outdoor swimming pool. The second phase will be renovation of 60 units on floors six through 10, which will be larger, multi-room apartments.

If approved by city council Tuesday, the 4B funds will be awarded in a five-year forgivable loan, with conditions.

The funds will be dispersed after documentation of  costs and a certificate of occupancy for the first 110 units is provided to the city by July 2018. The project must also secure approval for a dedicated bus route from the building to MSU. There may be some further requirements which are still under review by the city attorney.

Total project funds will be released after Kelty operates the building, as stated, for at least five years. During the period, 20 percent of the loan will be forgiven for each year of successful operation.

Kelty has been a major investor in the revitalization of downtown Wichita Falls. Based in California, the investor began interest in the area when he purchased the “Big Blue” building and has gone on to revamp many nearby properties. Kelty said he fell in love with Big Blue and all of downtown Wichita Falls and is invested, financially and personally, into making the area thrive again. Many of his projects, he said, really don’t make financial sense, but he said investing in downtown is more important to him than a purely monetary decision.

CVB shows off renovation, original mural

Mayor Stephen Santellana spoke briefly at the ribbon cutting saying the CVB is “ground zero” for many things that happen for the city.

“There only so much a city can do,” he said. “The CVB finds leads and conventions. … There’s a lot of great stuff happening and now there is a great facility to go along with it.”

When the full-service hotel to be built in the MPEC parking lot is complete, this office, Santellana will be within walking distance for hundreds of visitors to discover what is happening in the city.

The main lobby area is designed in black, white and grey with a few pops of color, such as a bicycle hanging from the ceiling donated by Chip Filer, executive director of the Hotter’H Hell Hundred Committee, and a cow-skin run on the floor.

Retail items created by local merchants are available in the lobby, including T-shirts and hand-painted postcards.

On the back wall, visitors can browse a timeline of the city from the founding fathers to present time.

The interior offices flow with a common decorating theme and a personal touch from accents that the staff brought from home.

A subtle yet striking feature of the lobby is a floor-to-ceiling mural on the back wall featuring the Littlest Skyscraper on the left and the Wichita Falls waterfall on the right with cyclists riding over its bridge.

Barker said mural artist Audra Lambert was recommended to her for the job.

Lambert said she has been painting murals since 2013. She has completed several murals on commission for organizations, doctor’s offices and museums, including one she co-painted with another artist at the Museum of Art at Midwestern State University.

The artist and Barker discussed the color scheme and design, then Lambert went to work in September. She said the process took three weeks to finish.

Lambert said the Littlest Skyscraper is a gem of downtown with a quirky history unique to the city.

The waterfall, she said, had to be included, with it being such an iconic image.

And, cycling is an important part of Wichita Falls, with both the world-famous HHH race and MSU’s award-winning cycling team.

Claire Kowalick, Times Record News
Published 3:56 p.m. CT Dec. 13, 2017

TRN Article

P&Z approves food truck court at King’s Grocery

Parikh told the commission there are about 400 customers per day at the grocery store. He said the store does not provide prepared, ready-to-eat food. Many of his customers, he said, do not drive and have few options for hot, quick meals. This food court will fulfill that need for this part of town.

P&Z member Matt Prouty said the food court idea was well received by the commission. He said the planned area could hold up to 12 food trucks, but there will probably not be that many parked there on a regular basis.

For bigger food truck events, outside vendors could come in with a temporary permit.

Prouty said the owner’s plan to start small, see if the food court is a match for the neighborhood and, hopefully, grow from there.

Claire Kowalick, Times Record News
Published 2:43 p.m. CT Dec. 17, 2017

TRN Article

WPT Corp. Honored With Safety Award

The worker’s comp commissioner of Texas honored a Wichita Falls business, WPT Power Corporation, and its employees with the Lone Star Safety Award Wednesday.

The award recognizes them for creating a safe work space and maintaining low rates of on-the-job injuries and illnesses.

WPT Power was also praised for prioritizing the use of protective equipment and getting employees involved in a health and safety policy.

By Angie Lankford, Producer

Copyright 2017 RNN Texoma All Rights Reserved

KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Wichita Falls Among Most Affordable Cities

If and when you move from one part of the country to another, there are so many things to consider: not the least of which is cost of living. If you live in our area, there’s some good news.

That good news is that the Council for Community and Economic Research shows Wichita Falls is among the most affordable places in the country to live, ranking 6th out of 10. The city is also the fourth cheapest when it comes to grocery sales, something Tom Teffeteller, who moved to town three years ago, really appreciates.

“I had to move down here. My wife has some health problems. The cost of living in Washington is a lot higher than what it is down here. Plus, she told me I could ride my bike at Christmas time,” said a smiling Teffeteller.

According to www.bestplaces.net, housing is almost 60 percent cheaper in Wichita Falls, compared to Washington state.

“It’s good for us.” But, the president of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, Henry Florsheim, explains having a low cost of living doesn’t just happen. He says a city needs enough companies offering enough jobs, enough housing and more. But, when it all comes together, ” You see a city with a low cost of living, that means, typically you can get more house for your money.”

Though the cost of living is considered inexpensive right now, Florsheim says nothing’s permanent. “It’s not anything we can control. The market dictates the price based up supply and demand. Whether you’re talking about a gallon of milk or a house,” Florsheim stated, and even those gallons of gas: which for know, Teffeteller says, are at an affordable price.

“Plus, the people down here are friendly too,” Teffeteller added.

As you can imagine New York, specifically Manhattan, ranks highest for places to live, followed by San Francisco at number two. Also, no surprise, Honolulu has the most expensive groceries, with an average gallon of whole milk costing about $9 a gallon.

A look at grant funding benefiting Wichita Falls

Several city of Wichita Falls departments are benefiting from grant funding that was awarded recently.

The Wichita Falls City Council will hold a regular meeting Tuesday, and accepting grant funds from various state and federal agencies is part of the agenda.

Health grant of $250,000

The Wichita Falls-Wichita County Health Department received $250,000 in renewal grant funding to continue their effort to lower the impact of obesity and related chronic disease.

The grant is from the Department of State Health Services for the Community and Clinical Health Bridge Project (CCHB).

The department will use these funds to coordinate with community health partners to improve health information technology, develop a referral system for improved obesity and other related chronic disease treatment, create more training and education for health care providers and patients, and encourage health lifestyles through health promotion and outreach.

During the first grant funding cycle, the health department said they made progress in laying the foundation for working with facilities and physicians.

Next, they hope to develop a database for health and wellness resources called Live Well Wichita County (LWWC). Some facilities will have kiosk or loanable tablets to access LWWC.

Funds will also be used for a media/public awareness campaign about the LWWC program.

WFPD gets $59K for facial recognition software

The Wichita Falls Police Department received a $59,000 grant through the Office of the Governor’s Homeland Security Grant Program.

The grant pays 100 percent without a cash match required. WFPD will use the funds to purchase facial recognition software and associated camera equipment.

4A puts $1.5 mil toward SAFB Main Gate upgrade

In hopes of future grant funding for the city, the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation (WFEDC) is dedicating $1.5 million in their budget toward the Sheppard Air Force Base Main Gate upgrade.

About a year ago, SAFB received $2.7 million in military funds for the upgrade to the gate area. In July, the Department of Defense issued increased requirements for anti-terrorism or force protection that increased the cost of the gate project. The expected total is $5.7 million.

The city can apply for a state grant on behalf of the base through the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant program. They are requesting $1.5 million and should know the outcome of the grant request by Dec. 14.

The WFEDC funds will assist the base with the gate project and safeguarding the areas on base and the surrounding area. The group decided this project will help the Wichita Falls area retain primary jobs and promotes and supports Sheppard.

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Three new buses with FTA funds

Free money is always good, and the city is getting nearly $1.3 million of it from the Federal Transit Administration to purchase three new buses.

Bids were open Sept. 22 for purchase of the buses and Gillig was the only company to respond. Transportation development credits of $275,200, along with FTA funds, will pay all of the cost of these buses for the city.

These new units could be used to replace existing buses, or the transportation department could determine if additional routes are needed in the city.

The custom-built buses are expected to be delivered sometime during fiscal year 2018-19, so the determination of additional routes will be made in FY 2019-2020.

Claire Kowalick, Times Record News Published 10:00 p.m. CT Nov. 5, 2017

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Working together to build businesses

KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

A brother and sister duo, who come from a family of entrepreneurs, will be celebrating a first this Saturday.

Brenna Pohlod, Owner of Clinkers, and her younger brother Rayce Pohlod, Owner of Texoma Tech Solutions, began their home-based businesses from the ground up.

Saturday, they will host a grand opening for their first storefront on Kemp Blvd.

“Making the step by yourself is really hard to do financially, emotionally. (It’s) time consuming, all of it. And then when he was looking for a bigger space I was like let’s try this. Let’s see if we can do this together,” Brenna said.

The dual space provides plenty of room for Rayce to repair electronics we use every day. There is also a back room that allows Brenna to host parties and store her personalized works of art.

The idea is to scratch each other’s back. Customers who come in to have their phone fixed can also buy a hand painted glass or vice versa.

This journey began several years ago for both Brenna and Rayce. They are both excited to see it come to fruition in the city they call home.

It also helped to have a family full of business owners to guide them along the way.

“It’s an adventure to have all of us doing our own thing so if we have a question we can ask another family member and they probably have an answer,” Rayce said.

It’s a stepping stone in the sibling’s separate business goals. But it is a move they are happy to make together.

“If you just have a passion for whatever you are doing as long as you put your heart and soul into it then whatever it is is going to be great,” Brenna said.

The storefront is located at 4216 Kemp Blvd. next to Discount Tire. The store is open Monday thru Friday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

A grand opening celebration is set to kick off at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 11. For more information about Clinkers click here. For more information on Texoma Tech Solutions click here.

By Samantha Forester, Digital ReporterCONNECT
Copyright 2017 KAUZ All Rights Reserved

Local Businesses Set Up Pop Up Store

On Jacksboro highway a group of small business owners turned an empty building into a pop up shop for the day. Amy Thompson put together the pop up store because she knew a lot of people who had small businesses on the side and wanted to give them a place to sell their products

“We just kind of came up with it because of small business Saturday,” Thompson said. “We have lots of people that come into Karma that sell stuff on the side or make stuff. We just finished remodeling this space and we are going to rent it out for pop up shops. So, I thought why don’t we have a bunch of pop up shops for small business Saturday. “

Angela Solorio started her business, Paparazzi Accessories, in April of this year and says she is grateful for opportunities like this to set up her business.

“It’s very important. It’s very important. It’s a great thing to have the opportunity to do this,” Solorio said.

For small businesses events like small business Saturday are invaluable for people who own those business

“I think it is really important because you wouldn’t know about a lot of small businesses unless you came out to where we are all set up,” Thompson said. “You might not know that someone makes wreaths out of their house. Or someone does custom decals or really cute cupcakes.”

“It helps tremendously. It gets our name out. It gets our product out. And it just lets people know to buy local,” Solorio said.

The small business development center has a giveaway going on to promote shopping local.

Video Link

By: Landon McBride
Posted: Nov 25, 2017 05:36 PM CST
Updated: Nov 25, 2017 10:37 PM CST

Copyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Lake Wichita efforts heating up

KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) –

Greg Aultman grew up on Lake Wichita and has fond memories.

“Back in the 1960’s on Saturdays and Sundays this place was full,” Aultman said. “You would have to watch out when pulling somebody skiing.”

Now he’s retired and spends a lot of his time play music at the park. It’s a spot near and dear to his heart.

That’s why he’s so excited about Wichita Falls’ efforts to revitalize the lake.

“I think a lot of people would have good times out here,” Aultman said. “It would be cool. You could get out on the pier at night and walk your sweetheart across there. Steal a couple kisses. It would be pretty nice.”

On Tuesday, councilors accepted a $500,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to expand the boat ramp to four lanes, add a boat dock, seawall, restrooms, and a sidewalk.

In June of 2016, they accepted a separate $500,000 grant from the TPWD for a boardwalk and other shoreline improvements.

Deputy City Manager Jim Dockery said the city is considering a bond issue to pay for some of the shoreline improvements.

In the meantime, the Lake Wichita Revitalization Committee will need to raise $666,000 to match both of those grants or they will have to be paid for by the city. However, the committee said they will be able to raise the funds.

Dockery said accepting these grants is just one piece of the puzzle.

“It’s really just a matter of prioritization,” he said. “A matter of deciding whether or not the public is interested in these types of improvements, how much private funding we can raise, and how much we can do at one time.”

“Anything we can do for the quality of life issues in Wichita Falls, things for families to do, things for kids to do, we want to enhance those,” Mayor, Stephen Santellana said.

Mayor Santellana believes the improvements will also help when recruiting businesses to the Falls.

“We can say look we have Castaway Cove, we have a golf park, a 20-mile walking trail,” he said. “All these beautiful parks, plus look at Lake Wichita and all the shoreline improvements with the boardwalk and Veterans Plaza.”

In the meantime, Aultman will continue to play his music at Lake Wichita Park and wait for the city’s vision to come to fruition.

Wichita Falls and Burkburnett Recognized by TEDC for Vitro Expansion Project

John Ingle, Times Record News

When it comes to economic development, there are no guarantees that a specific project will go through.

That was certainly the case when the cities of Wichita Falls and Burkburnett were putting together economic development incentive packages for Vitro Architectural Glass, formerly PPG. Their collective hard work not only landed a $55 million expansion project from the Mexico-based company, but the cities were also named the Texas Economic Development Council’s Community Economic Development Award for communities with a population 100,001 to 250,000.

The Wichita Falls City Council approved a $3 million incentive package developed by the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corp., or 4A board, and the Burkburnett City Commission approved a $300,000 package to be paid over three years from the Burkburnett Development Corp.

 “The Community Economic Development Award program recognizes exceptional contributions of TEDC member cities toward the economic vitality of their communities and the state of Texas through creativity, leadership, and partnership in the achievement of business retention, business recruitment and community improvement,” the TEDC said in a release.

Wichita Falls competed with Frisco, Mesquite and Round Rock for the top honor in their category.

Henry Florsheim, president and CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Vitro project was a local business expansion as well as a recruitment effort that was many years in the making. He said the could have chosen another location in the company to build as state-of-the-art jumbo coater, a machine that puts layers of metal into glass to make energy efficient windows.

 He said they started working on the project when the facility was was still under the PPG banner. A need had existed at the Wichita Falls plant for the new machinery, but PPG wouldn’t pull the trigger on it.

“We stayed engaged with Bill Haley, the plant manager, and so Vitro, when they were doing their due diligence, they knew this as well,” Florsheim said. “As soon as they took over the company, we were already ready. We had already submitted our proposal for support for the project.”

He said it didn’t take long for Vitro to make the decision that the Wichita Falls facility would be the site for the jumbo coater.

Vitro broke ground on the new project in May and should be complete by the end of the year. The plant had been limited to producing sheets of glass of 12-feet tall, but the new machine will create larger pieces, which is what designers and builders want.

“This is an exceptional testament for why companies should bring their businesses to Wichita Falls and Burkburnett and why this is a great place to do business,” Haley said. “The infrastructure is very good, the labor force is excellent for producing high quality products in a safe and efficient manner, and you can’t beat the support that the city and county leadership provide.”