PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

February 27, 2013

Group looking at ways to market the riverfront

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES — PORT NECHES — Development of 80 acres of land along Port Neches’ riverfront is once again a hot topic in the city as members of Port Neches Riverfront Development Authority look at ways to market the site.

The group met on Wednesday at city hall to share their ideas of ways to garner attention to the acreage which lies along the banks of the Neches River and adjacent to the city’s popular riverfront park.

A 23-page document dating July 22, 2008 was sent to potential developers, a copy of which is available on the city’s website. The document, or Request For Qualifications, includes a slice of the community with photos, geographical information, background of the property, riverfront vision and master plan as well as implementation tools such as tax increment reinvestment zones and tax abatements as well as how to submit the RFQ.

But a lot has occurred since the summer of 2008, mainly Hurricane Ike and the economic instability that has gripped the nation.

Lance Bradley, chairman of the PNRDA, told group members that maybe the thick bundle of information could be consolidated in some form or fashion to be sent to prospective investors as opposed to the volume of information that was sent before.

Board member Eric Sullivan agreed the current lengthy RFQ is a bit much.

“I think it’s a little too much info. We need to condense it down but I don’t think that’s possible in a page or two,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also suggested the updated information include area wide attractions.

“I think we need to show what’s in southeast Texas and all we have to offer in the area,” he added.

Sullivan displayed a photo of Beaumont’s riverfront area bustling with activity while pointing out that all of the people in the busy photo were not residents of that city.

There is interest among Port Neches residents for development of the property as evidenced at a recent city council meeting in which 12 citizens spoke about the potential use of the property following the executive session.

At the meeting a motion was made and approved to not pursue Sterling Shipyard’s proposal for an industrial site along the property. According to  a draft of the Feb. 21 minutes, some patrons did not understand that state statute allows the council to discuss the sale or lease of property in executive session, which is closed to the public, and that council cannot make a decision on the topic until the meeting is reconvened into open session. The topic was on the agenda for executive session.

Comments at the council meeting showed citizens were in favor of some sort of development on the riverfront property but not in favor of an industrial site.

“After the recent city council meeting it seems a good percentage of people want something,” Sullivan said.

Board member Kim Dyer told the board of a recent trip to Lafayette, La. and of a recent development in that city called River Ranch.

“It was residential, retail, nice restaurants and amenities for the area,” Dyer said. “It’s a happening place. Everything they have they have on their website.”

The website for the Louisiana development is www.riverranchdev.com

Dyer said the development was so popular that it expanded to Sugar Mill Pond in a neighboring small town.

“In my opinion, they’re doing exactly what we want here,” she said.

No formal action was taken at the meeting.

Riverfront development in Port Neches isn’t a new topic and began in 2000 when Erikson Refinery was sold by the city to Transglobal Solutions. The following year the city acquired the 17-acre former site of Coastal Marine.

TGS, which had been cited with several city code violations as well as fire code safety violations under the International Property Maintenance Code in 2004, was given a year to dismantle its now deserted refining unit. Near the end of 2004 Port Neches officials came up with a strategic plan for the city and one of those goals was riverfront development.

The city purchased TGS in 2005 for $5 and four town hall meetings followed between 2005 and 2006. RFQ’s were later sent to attract interested investors but responses were minimal.

During this time the city worked to bring the land up to residential codes and adhered to Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Hurricane Ike struck the coast in 2008 and by December 20009 the city decided to place the development plans on hold citing nationwide economic downturn and Hurricane Ike as possible reasons for the lack of response to the RFQ’s.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews