Revamping their mission statement, finishing upgrades at Memorial Park, and forming incentives are among the the Hollywood Park Economic Development Corp.’s priorities for 2022.
EDC board members met with Mayor Oscar Villarreal and City Council members on Jan. 11 at City Hall to discuss goals, and ongoing and potential projects.
During the two-hour meeting, EDC and council members built a consensus around a handful of objectives.
Meeting participants agreed that the EDC’s mission statement could be changed to help the organization refocus mainly on luring businesses to Hollywood Park and keeping them in town.
“I want to see how we can bring in businesses and retain businesses,” EDC Board Member Kristi Maxwell said.
Maxwell said she would like for the EDC to improve engagement with Hollywood Park business owners, especially newcomers, and ask how the EDC could best help to support them.
Additionally, Maxwell proposed providing a list of active Hollywood Park businesses on the city’s website.
Meeting participants also agreed that the EDC and the city could promote incentives, possibly including forgivable loans.
EDC board President Andrew Moon pitched other ways that his organization could provide support, including helping merchants to decorate their storefronts during the holiday season.
Attendees at the meeting said its vital to not only regularly communicate with current Hollywood Park business owners, but to engage owners and brokers for local commercial properties that hold vacant spaces.
“We should do more to incentivize businesses to go into Galleria [Oaks],” said Sean Moore, council member and EDC board member, regarding the retail center that fronts US 281 North.
According to Moon, the owners of a billiards bar, a cocktail lounge and a restaurant all have their sights set on existing retail spaces along US 281.
Moon said an office building at Loop 1604 and Sterling Browning Road, most recently vacated by Texas Trophy Hunters Association, would be ideal for prospective tenants seeking prime professional/sales space inside Hollywood Park. TTHA relocated across Loop 1604 to Stone Oak.
Another mission for the EDC and the city is to provide bathroom facilities at Memorial Park.
The city has for years sought to upgrade the triangle-shaped park, giving the EDC the lead on developing bathroom infrastructure there. Memorial Park currently has one portable restroom.
Local leaders have also hoped to see other improvements at Memorial Park to accommodate regular recreational programming, including organized athletics.
Villarreal said the realization of Memorial Park improvements is long overdue.
“We’ve wasted too much time on this,” he said.
Meeting participants agreed that letting the city fully take the reins on the Memorial Park project could speed up improvements.
According to City Secretary Patrick Aten, many residents have used a local park use survey and other means to say they want a permanent bathroom facility at Memorial Park. Local officials indicated that some of the money Hollywood Park is receiving from the America Rescue Plan Act could be used on the park improvements.
Additionally, council members said they would like to see some EDC financial support for the fire truck the city has under construction at Wisconsin-based Pierce Manufacturing. They said they would also like to see support for for a planned extension of the existing fire station bay to accommodate the new fire engine.
City Attorney Ryan Henry said some EDC money could be spent only toward specific additions ordered for the new fire truck. Henry added, however, EDC funds could help to support the fire station bay project.
While city and EDC officials look to refocus on building up commerce in Hollywood Park, Moon initially asked whether it was worth it to pursue dissolving the EDC.
Moon said he felt the EDC has grown to be a mere extension of City Council, given that the mayor is the corporation’s executive director, and that EDC boards typically butt heads with city councils, which approve the organization’s budgets and projects.
Moon added it is a challenge to get residents to volunteer for the EDC board, much less show up for monthly board meetings.
“It’s hard enough to get people involved with the city as it is,” he said.
The Hollywood Park EDC receives a portion of local sales tax revenues; the organization is budgeted to collect more than $171,000 in fiscal year 2021-22.
Henry said, if the city wishes, it could let voters vote to dissolve the EDC and the city could redirect sales tax revenues to another restricted city fund, but not the general operations fund.
Villarreal agreed with Moon that having residents consistently participate with the EDC is a challenge. But Council Member Debbie Truman said the EDC does help to bring in and retain businesses that form the town’s commercial base.
“The money is more important than participation,” she said.
Later in the discussion, Villarreal said he does not want to see the EDC and its money as mere tools to advance certain initiatives.
“I don’t want the EDC to be a checkbook. It shouldn’t be a checkbook for city projects,” Villarreal said.
Moon said the EDC can be a vehicle for positive community development. He explained how the organization executed its first Hollywood Park Restaurant Week event in 2021, when several local eateries offered multicourse meals for a fixed price and other specials.
According to Moon, the Restaurant Week participants were at first reluctant and doubtful because—as he put it—they did not see the EDC as a proactive force in previous years.
Following Restaurant Week, the participants appreciated the EDC’s efforts, Moon said.
“The restaurants understand now that we’re here to help them,” Moon added.
By end of the joint council and EDC meeting, Moon and other attendees said they looked forward to the EDC pursuing their new priorities.
“I do see a benefit in having [the EDC],” Maxwell said.