Magnolia City Council members unanimously voted Aug. 14 to adopt a resolution creating the city’s first neighborhood empowerment zone, a tool to spur economic development by providing incentives to prospective businesses.

“It’s a [tool] to allow you to designate an area to provide incentives to spur economic growth,” City Attorney Leonard Schneider said during the meeting. “It’s very flexible, in fact.”

The neighborhood empowerment zone—also called Magnolia NEZ 1—will roughly span the downtown Magnolia area bordered by FM 1774, Nichols Sawmill Road, Unity Park Drive and FM 1488, said Tana Ross, economic development coordinator and planning technician for the city of Magnolia.

Schneider said the creation of a NEZ stemmed from a development agreement between the city of Magnolia and PHP-314 Equities, a firm developing Magnolia’s first mixed-use complex slated for Commerce Street, that the city would create a NEZ.

The mixed-used, multistory project proposes retail space with apartment units located above.

According to the Texas Local Government Code, a city may create a NEZ if the city determines the creation of one would promote the creation of affordable housing; an increase in economic development; an increase in the quality of social services, education or public safety; or the rehabilitation of affordable housing.

Council members moved Aug. 14 that creation of a NEZ would promote an increase in economic development in the area.

“They seem to be pretty prolific throughout the state of Texas,” Schneider said. “A lot of small towns are using them; a lot of mid-sized towns are using a NEZ as the ability to try to attract economic development to the cities.”