orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

June 15, 2014

Project manager answers questions at public forum

ORANGE — The time to build is now according to Brazos Urban Managing Principal J. Michael Wray.

Wray held a public forum Thursday evening at Lamar State College Orange as an opportunity for residents to have their questions answered.

“I volunteered to have the forum to give the answers needed and to stop the gossip,” Wray said.

Wray has answered several questions on facebook concerning a project for revitalizing downtown Orange, specifically the old Southern Printing building located at 5th and Front Streets.

In Phase I of the project, the first floor of the building located at 5th Street and Front Street would feature commercial space while the second floor would be developed into six rental units.

The total cost of the project is proposed to be $957,000.

Since the project was first discussed in an Orange City Council meeting, Brazos Urban is no longer asking the city for an advance for the project and has asked the three year tax abatement to be removed.

The funds for the project would come from the Economic Development Corporation 4B1 tax dollars.

“It is a quarter cent of the tax rate which is set aside for economic development,” Wray told the approximately 40 people in attendance. “This project is use of the money with the guidelines of what it is collected for.”

Wray said the building would increase in value which in turn would increase the tax base collected.

Wray also said the initial challenge is the lack of comparison numbers needed to acquire a loan for the project.

“Banks and accounts like to have numbers to compare,” Wray said. “Right now there are no comparison numbers for downtown Orange. There are no market rent, no market. There are not enough buys and sells to generate the numbers. This catalyst project could create those numbers.”

Wray, a 1989 graduate of West Orange -Stark, said Brazos Urban approached the council shortly after Hurricane Rita in 2005.

“Our interest has not been the last few months or years,” Wray said. “We actually looked at five or six sites in downtown Orange.”

The project would create the Riverfront District in downtown Orange.

“We have to not think of projects done in the past,” Wray said. “We need to think what can we do o make Orange better.”

Wray also said that he has already received several requests for lofts planned for the second floor of the building.

The Urban In-Fill Mixed-Use Redevelopment project includes a café/restaurant on the 1st floor, and a residential component on the 2nd floor of the building formerly known as the Southern Printers building.

The city council is expected to make a final decision for the project on July 8.

The project would create six full time positions and 20 part time positions.

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