COPPERAS COVE — With construction of the U.S. Highway 190 bypasses continuing, several city officials said development and revitalization of what will become Business 190 will remain a key city issue.
“We want to make sure that the land stays utilized, because we have infrastructure that is going to support businesses,” said Chris Stewart, with Stewart Consulting, the city’s planner. “If any one of those (businesses) goes vacant, that is a lost opportunity for the building and the city.”
Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Polo Enriquez said bypasses are typically bad news for commercial areas such as the current U.S. 190 corridor, but he believed the two bypasses — State Highway 9 and U.S. 190 — will be a benefit for the roadway and its commercial businesses.
“In most instances, people in my business don’t like hearing the word ‘bypass,’” Enriquez said.
Historically, a lot of commercial developments shift growth and traffic to the areas surrounding new roadways.
“But in the instance of U.S. 190 and Copperas Cove, you have people who can’t access those businesses; you can’t turn left,” Enriquez said. “People can’t get in and they can’t get out. In this instance, the bypass is going to alleviate a lot of that traffic (causing the problem). I think the bypass will actually benefit the business.”
Traffic is a major issue for businesses on U.S. 190, said Frank DiMuccio, owner of Cove Feed and Seed Shoppe. The traffic is backed up on U.S. 190 every day between 4 and 6 p.m. DiMuccio said he didn’t think the new highways were going to steal much of the traffic, as traffic counts leaving the city to the west were very small. He did, however, wish the city would focus more on traffic lights to reduce congested hours.
Limited access to the new highways also would continue to keep traffic inside the city using the current U.S. 190 and reduce the possibility of a larger commercial district setting up along the bypasses, Enriquez said.
“The people that want to shop in Copperas and have to shop in Cove have to use 190,” DiMuccio said about the current roadway.
But regardless of the traffic, DiMuccio said keeping the future Business 190 viable has another problem — retaining and attracting businesses to the city.
DiMuccio said he counted 60 empty store fronts throughout the city before he stopped. And while the city and the economic development corporation have worked on attracting several businesses, he said it is not enough.
“If the city has focused on business retention or on the businesses on 190 at all, it is not obvious,” he said.
Recently the Copperas Cove EDC worked with Black Meg 43 to repurpose an older restaurant for its new location, and it also provided infrastructure improvement to ensure Starbucks was located in an unused service station. It also has a full-time business retention specialist, who focuses on every area of the city as well as the U.S. 190 corridor.
The city also aided CVS Pharmacy in purchasing several lots on the corner of Avenue D and U.S. 190 that will redevelop nearly five acres of older buildings. Three businesses that were in the lots all said they were going to relocate and stay open.
City Manager Andrea Gardner said the city doesn’t want to see empty store fronts on U.S. 190 now or after the bypasses are complete.
“I think the best way to do that is continue to pursue revitalization,” she said. “We don’t want to lose focus on Business 190. We need to pursue it as much now as we have in previous years.”
Gardner said a revitalization plan may be in the area’s future, which would provide an outline for what the city believes Business 190 should look like. That plan also could serve as a marketing tool to attract businesses to the area.
There are several ways the city can continue to revitalize the area, Stewart said. Some of those may be seen by residents as the city updates its zoning ordinance.
The city could attempt to add sidewalks, require landscaping, change driveway access or update a building’s facade as new tenants move and remodel existing buildings, Stewart said.
But the city can’t handle that burden alone, he said.
“It has to be a joint effort of the city and private development,” Stewart said.
For Stewart and the others, the current U.S. 190 and its existing businesses will continue to be an asset for Copperas Cove.
“I definitely think retail land use and places that offer high employment are going to be the preferred type (of businesses) along the current 190,” Stewart said.