Mayor emphasizes redevelopment in State of the City address

February 9, 2012

By Christina Lords

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NEW — 5:45 p.m. Feb. 9, 2012

Newcastle Mayor Rich Crispo stressed financial responsibility and smart economic development — and redevelopment — during the city’s 2012 State of the City address.

The address, given before residents and the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce at its monthly luncheon Feb. 8 at Tapatio Mexican Grill, laid out big-picture goals for the city for the upcoming year and beyond.

The city must find a balance of opening its doors to new growth and redevelopment without losing its sense of identity, he said.

“The first thing we have to do is let people know Newcastle is open for business,” he said. “That may sound kind of trite, but when you think about the 17 years of this city and how many new buildings have been put up here in a commercial sense … you have Valley Medical Center, you have the library that is in construction right now, and you have the professional building.  That’s it.”

Crispo cited the City Council’s work to revamp Newcastle’s downtown business code last year as ways the city has tried to entice new developers to town.

Few major developable properties are left within city limits, he said. Instead, larger opportunities loom with a chance for redevelopment of existing properties, such as Mutual Materials brick plant site off of Coal Creek Parkway.

Mutual Materials President Joe Bowen has said while the 52-acre site has been a cornerstone property for the company since it opened in 1959, the area may be redeveloped after the depth and duration of the economic recession was too much for the plant to withstand. Environmental studies outlining developable acreage at the site is expected into the city sometime this month.

While the new use of that property is still yet to be determined, the city must maintain an open door policy for developers looking to set their sights on Newcastle, Crispo said.

“We are trying to create an environment where they have some flexibility, where they can build and go ahead with projects that will be profitable not only them for the residents who live here,” he said. “We’d all like to see more amenities.”

Facilitating open conversations about developable properties is one way to ensure financial stability as the city aims to maintain a balanced budget in the long-term, Crispo said.

“We’re in the middle of the road,” he said. “We’re stable right now, but when we have economic growth come back and everything looks good with the country, it’s not going to help us very much. We don’t currently have the kind retail or amount of land available to build on that will really let us take advantage of that.”

Crispo said while the city’s debt load is thankfully low, long-term revenue projections for the next four years look bleak.

“By 2018, we’re in the red, which means in the general operating budget, we don’t have the money to pay for what we have to do for our general services,” he said.

Residents of the city should be commended for their loyalty to Newcastle businesses, he said. That trend will be essential as redevelopment takes place on the Mutual Materials site and elsewhere, while more should be done to pull residents from other towns to draws that already exist in town such as The Golf Club at Newcastle and Lake Boren, Crispo said.

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