From eye-care to restaurants to brand-new cars, economic development is going strong in the North Buckeye district of Abilene.
Within the past year, two businesses relocated to the district, two businesses underwent renovations and another broke ground for a future expansion.
“Any new development within the city is obviously a good thing because it provides new tax base to the city,” City Manager David Dillner said. “I think it shows that the business community’s investing in the community and investing in their businesses, which, invariably, will make their businesses more successful in terms of profit opportunities.”
While this new activity is taking place in the northern sector of the city, Dillner said the development cannot be discussed without taking into account the North Buckeye district’s relationship to the downtown district.
The accounting offices of Hettenbach & Langdon and the optometry office of Dr. Jarad Waite will move from the downtown to the north.
“They’re larger office spaces than what they had downtown, so they’re going to be able to see more patients and increase their base,” builder Mike Wilson said. “I think both of these office buildings, Hettenbach & Langdon’s and Waite’s, their businesses are growing, so they need better facilities.”
Wilson, owner of Mike Wilson Builders, said the 15th Street office complex was also a smart choice for the office owners because the complex provides ample parking.
By far, the largest North Buckeye renovation is Holm Automotive’s three-part upgrade: an update after 19 years of the same look; a 3,000 square-foot enlargement of the showroom and service area and submission to General Motors’ new standard image — a silver exterior with a blue tower. The business celebrated its 30th anniversary and new renovation with an open house Thursday night.
M&R Grill recently remodeled its kitchen and expanded its dining area to accommodate large groups. This renovation is the restaurant’s second remodel and the largest one to date. The restaurant re-opened Thursday. The re-opening unveiled several changes to help employees and guests, according to the business’ Facebook page.
Both Holm Automotive and M&R Grill took advantage of tax incentives under the city’s neighborhood revitalization program. Dillner said the relocated offices were not eligible for the tax breaks because they are not in the defined boundaries of the district area.
To encourage local business, the city offers 10-year property tax rebates of 75 percent to businesses whose expansions or remodels meet several requirements, including investing at least $25,000 and increasing the property valuation by 10 percent or more. The rebate only applies the increased value of the business after an expansion or renovation.
Sonic tore down one of the houses next to the drive-in and has already re-seeded the lawn. Owner Chris Roberts said he plans to eventually tear down the current drive-in building and rebuild a larger restaurant. Sonic already owned the adjacent lot.
“As of right now, we just got the house torn down and we’re trying to make it look a little nicer,” Roberts said. “It’s just going to be grass for now.”
These Abilene businesses are taking action to support one another for a stronger community.
For example, Mike Wilson Builders purchases 95 percent of its lumber and windows locally and uses local heating, plumbing and electricians in its building projects.
Holm Automotive offers guests “Linger Longer” cards with discounts to a variety of local businesses, from restaurants and motels to Impact Sports & Fitness. Holm said he also plans to support the community by growing his business to employ more Abilene residents.
“I think a big thing is, you hear a lot about the fact that there’s a downtown and there’s a business district north of 14th street, and to some degree that’s true, from a geographical standpoint,” Dillner said. “The businesses that are north of 14th are different than the businesses that are downtown and vice versa, but the city doesn’t necessarily view them independently.”
Dillner said he thinks the best opportunities are found when the city views the business community as a whole, rather than separating the North Buckeye district and the downtown district from one another. He said viewing the geographically separate districts as one community can help the city to capitalize on the potential and existing synergies between the areas.
“I think by working together and looking at it as one business environment, the community, stands to gain the most,” Dillner said, “rather than looking at it as two different islands of businesses activity.”