The AAUW Corpus Christi Branch held a meeting on February 4, 2023, at the YWCA, starting at 10:30 a.m. We had 28 members in attendance, plus one guest and three members who joined by Zoom. President Catherine Cox opened the meeting with an introduction of new members and guests. Program Vice President Mary Sherwood introduced our guest speaker, Alyssa Barrera Mason, who is the Executive Director of the Corpus Christi Downtown Management District. Alyssa spoke about being a first-generation college student, having attended Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in public administration. Alyssa also mentioned her gratitude to have had the opportunity early in her career to work with other female leaders, such as former city manager Margie C. Rose.
Alyssa described the Downtown Management District as a municipal district established to ensure the safety, security, beautification, and marketing of the downtown area. She also explained the overlap with the Downtown Tax Reinvestment Zone which is a powerful tool that reinvests the taxes from the local downtown properties and uses those dedicated funds to make improvements to the area. She explained that in order to reduce the problems associated with land speculations, the current levy on the downtown properties have been adjusted to increase the levy on the land valuations while decreasing the levy on the improvements. The strategy has been successful, with 26 private projects, representing $72 million in private investments, underway in the downtown area.
The vision for downtown Corpus Christi is to make it the most vibrant downtown on the gulf coast. Alyssa said that they have looked at Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and New Orleans as potential role models for what could be accomplished in Corpus Christi.
A primary focus recently has been to increase security and lighting downtown. They are also focused on beautifying public spaces, with an aim to significantly increase shade coverings, such as planting trees around no parking zones. The renovation of Chaparral Street has been completed, and it is now treated as a “main street.” Next, they are focusing on a major renovation of Water Street. However, they have discovered that renovation of that street will require a major overhaul of the infrastructure, with new underground utilities which will cost more than $20 million. Increasing the “walkability” downtown is another major focus. A Hawk signal was installed at Shoreline Drive, and they plan to add more Hawk signals to improve safety for pedestrians in the area.
Alyssa summarized the accomplishments of the Downtown Management District, stating that over 20,000 square feet of space has been rehabilitated, and they have about $2.2 million in funding annually to reinvest for new developments. The number of residents living in the downtown region is around 1,200 today, and they are targeting to increase that number to 5,000 or more. The District is also pleased to welcome the presence of Texas A&M University Corpus Christi in the downtown area.
Vice President Mary Sherwood thanked Alyssa for her lively presentation that she accomplished under unusual circumstances without the use of a computer, and Mary presented Alyssa with a speaker’s gift.
— Story and Photo by Dr. Vickie Natale