NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Just under 100 Main Street directors from across the big state of Texas are in Nacogdoches learning how to keep their downtown areas vibrant.
The first topic on the agenda was how to address downtown vacancies.
It's an issue that all Texas cities and towns have to deal with, no matter their size or location.
“It's a challenge in rural communities that are losing population, but it's also a challenge in urban communities that are gaining population because that population tends to be out in the suburban areas along the strips,” said Mark Wolfe, the executive director of the Texas Historical Commission.
Main Street directors are learning the City of San Antonio began a vacant building registration program. Failure to keep the properties in a similar standard of care as an occupied building can result in a $2,000 fine per day, per offense.
“The idea is that people should not be able to simply own a building and let it deteriorate and harm others around them,” said John Stevens, the buildings program manager for the City of San Antonio.
A vacant building can diminish the quality of a downtown area says Lufkin's Main Street director Barbara Thompson.
"When you see a vacant building, it looks like you have an owner that's lagging and that is the case,” said Barbara Thompson, Lufkin's Main Street director.
It's Main Streeters' job to help property owners and potential buyers to think outside the box and concentrate on what potentially could occupy a vacant or underutilized property.
“If you have cleaned up the building, you've put signage on it, you've given it some TLC, not only does it lift up the whole district, but it also puts a vision in people's minds of what the building could be for them,” said Beverly Abell, Tyler's Main Street director.
The state is helping out. On January 1, a 25 percent state franchise tax credit began in Texas. The incentive will encourage the rehabilitation of buildings where they have a good commercial potential.
The new state franchise tax credit may prevent century-old buildings from being knocked down by wrecking balls.
Main Street directors shared their successful attempts to combat vacancy Wednesday afternoon.
They'll continue to meet through Friday in Downtown Nacogdoches.