Take a drive along the newly opened Placido Benavides Drive from Navarro Street to Ethel Lee Tracy Park. As you do, look around at the wide-open fields and imagine the possibilities for this blank canvas – new neighborhoods, a Class A office space or another large-scale business, all reflecting a high design standard that’s been crafted to attract developers and new residents alike.
The name of the project was chosen to reflect our local history. City officials asked Victoria Preservation Inc. for help selecting a namesake, and they chose Plácido Benavides, a Victoria resident and hero of the Texas Revolution, marking the project as a truly Victorian endeavor.
Although Placido Benavides Drive itself still is in the final stages of construction, it soon will stretch from Navarro to Salem, opening swaths of land for new development – but with a purpose in mind.
Placido Benavides Drive is entirely funded by Type 4B sales tax revenue, which legally must be used to enhance economic opportunities and quality of life in the city. When the City committed to investing in the new drive, we realized that we had a chance to elevate the area to become a premier development district for Victoria.
It’s important to note that Victoria already has implemented certain development standards in other areas of the city. Our downtown area has a consistent aesthetic (think about the special streetlights and pavers, for example), and we don’t allow manufactured homes in the historic district. Placido Benavides sets even more innovative standards, such as requiring utilities to be underground (no more overhead power lines) and monument signage as opposed to signs mounted on poles.
I’ve worked in city planning in four cities, and I’ve learned that the most effective city planning strategies embrace the idea of area plans. A large industrial business with an equipment yard facing the street might be all right on U.S. 59, but it wouldn’t necessarily make sense on Main Street. By setting clear development guidelines in a small part of the city, we can create a wholly new type of environment.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that developers want certainty, and that includes being certain that the standards set for their development also will be adhered to in surrounding developments. This is especially important for certain types of developments, such as master-planned neighborhoods and some large-scale businesses. My office frequently receives calls from residents who are frustrated about changes taking place in and around their neighborhoods. The standards in the Placido Benavides design district will give peace of mind to business owners as well as residents.
As Victoria grows, we will have more opportunities to try new things when it comes to design. I’m confident that once the new design district takes off, residents will see the benefits of planning that ultimately will attract new businesses and enhance livability in our city.
Julie Fulgham is the director of Development Services for the City of Victoria.