Selling Katy

With the August announcement that the city of Katy will soon have a privately-funded water park, and plans for the city's boardwalk still underway, the area is adding tourism dollars to the local economy. The water park is under construction near Katy Mills and is expected to open in May of next year. The city’s boardwalk district is also slated for the Katy Mills area, along with two new hotels coming online in 2015.

Outside the city, LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch is gearing up to build its final phase of retail and office space.

“I would say Katy is trying to become more of a destination city—we are moving forward with the boardwalk. We’re [being] methodical because it’s [a] big [project],” City Administrator Byron Hebert said.

Selling KatyAmong other duties, Hebert helps coordinate and manage city partnerships and projects, such as the boardwalk district and the Typhoon Texas water park.

“We’re in competition with Sugar Land and The Woodlands [for destination projects that attract tourists],” Hebert said. “We do understand our traditional area in historical Katy. We know where our traditions lie, and we’re going to protect that.”

One way the city aims to protect its history is with the development of heritage-themed mosaic street decorations around the existing City Hall. When the city moves to the new facility under construction across the street, Hebert said the existing City Hall will eventually be torn down to create a park or community space that will honor the city’s past.

Typhoon Texas

At a Sept. 3 regional economic development forum, the Katy Area Economic Development Council estimated the city would receive more than $400,000 in annual tax revenue from the water park. The project is estimated to bring roughly $50 million in capital expenditures to the area during the construction, which will wrap up in May.

“What I want to say about the water park—we’ve had several others approach us—but this time [the owners] had the finances,” Hebert said. “They didn’t ask for any money. We’ve had every kind of proposal [offered to us]—from people who wanted the city to put everything up front. The citizens were not asked to put up any funds [for the project].”

KAEDC President Lance LaCour said he worked with several water park developers over the years prior to the current owners, and financing for a park in Katy was a recurrent problem. LaCour estimated a water park would generate as much a $5.9 million in tax revenue over the next 10 years.[polldaddy poll=9093780]

“The Katy area is now larger than Pittsburgh,” LaCour said. He said increased retail and entertainment venues will continue to bring jobs into the area.

To further increase tax revenue brought in by visitors, the city is launching a new website,, to provide a tourism portal.

Kayce Reina, the city's director of tourism, marketing and public relations, said the site will launch as soon as the end of October.

"[The new website] will be a guide to all the [city's] amenities, hotels and restaurants," Reina said.

Selling KatyBoardwalk and hotels

Tax dollars will also be generated from new hotels in the Katy Mills area, which will service the water park and the city’s boardwalk district project. The boardwalk district will bring a 2-mile boardwalk, convention center and additional dining options to the retention pond adjacent to Katy Mills, according to Katy Mayor Fabol Hughes.

The city released renderings of the boardwalk district project in January. The approximately $10 million project will be completed in phases over as many as 10 years, beginning with the boardwalk itself. City officials have not yet released a timetable for construction.

“With the boardwalk, we’re gearing up to be competitive,” Hebert said. “We’re going to compete at a very high level to make sure we get good conferences here in the city.”

Hotel occupancy taxes provide the city with HOT funds that are used to fund arts and culture programs and to further support the city’s tourism efforts.

“Up to 15 percent [of HOT funds] can be used for the arts. The rest can be used for tourism-related projects like the Rotary Club['s] Wild West Brew Fest, the Rice Harvest Festival and the Jazz Festival,” Hebert said.

Hebert and Hughes said they expect the water park to bring more regional visitors to the area and further increase the amount of HOT funds available. Katy Mills General Manager Don Massey also expects the shopping area to benefit from the water park.

“Big things are happening in and around Katy Mills. Dynamic additions like Typhoon Texas only strengthen the appeal of an already booming area,” Massey said in an emailed statement. “The community is hitting its stride with all of the new development, and we’re excited to be a part of that progression as we announce more premier brands in 2016.”

Selling KatyDestination shopping

LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch has also seen several specialty retailers open their doors in the last year, including Trader Joe’s and Sephora. Houston restaurants Dish Society and Bernie’s Burger Bus have opened locations at LaCenterra in 2015.

Vista Equities Group, the management group behind LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch, announced in August it would begin the final phase of development in the first quarter of 2016.

President Woody Mann said he expects completion of Phase 4 in late 2016 or early 2017.

“A lot depends on what happens with the oil sector,” Mann said. “It’s slowed down—unfortunately we’ve seen this before, and we will see it again. We’re not under the gun; we don’t have a time deadline. We’re talking to different retailers to gain the pulse of what they need.”

Mann said LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch was conceived as a lifestyle retail area that would encompass office and residential space. Retailers such as Chico’s and Trader Joe’s were sought out for their brand loyalty and a lack of presence in the Katy area.

“We really had in mind just to bring in retailers that weren’t in the area. There’s just been such a lack of high-end retail in the Katy area,” Mann said. “Before we developed LaCenterra, people were having to travel to Town and Country [Village in Houston] or Memorial City. It was more to bring people [back] into the community.”

“We’re in competition with Sugar Land and The Woodlands [for destination projects that attract tourists],” Hebert said. “We do understand our traditional area in historical Katy. We know where our traditions lie, and we’re going to protect that.”

Vista Equities Group has made a point of developing community partnerships with organizations like the Willow Fork Drainage District, which operates a park out of LaCenterra, and the Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, Mann said. The development is intended to be a community center as well as a shopping destination.

“Our philosophy is to do as much as we can to reach out to [community] organizations,” Mann said. “The community treats [LaCenterra] as their own [place] … all our tenants benefit from that. They benefit from all that support, and we have monthly tenant meetings to talk about things that are working and things that aren’t. We try to create a family atmosphere.”

No announcements have been made on which retailers will fill the final phase. Mann said the $30 million to $40 million project will be in the same design style as the rest of LaCenterra and will feature the same mix of retail and office space.

Mann and city officials said they are interested in preserving a sense of community through the region's growth.

“There’s always a concern that if you have so much growth so fast that you won’t be able to control it. That’s why we’re in the front of this to control that and make sure that what’s going in is a good fit," Hebert said.



(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
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