Construction has started on a $2.5 million sanitary sewer line along Interstate 35 in Lorena in a move city leaders believe will stimulate development and economic growth.

Lorena Mayor Pro Tem Bill Coleman said the 3-mile sewer line will stretch from the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System treatment plant on Cooksey Lane to I-35, adjacent to city hall.

Retail development is expected to start in the area served by the line as early as next year, and housing development is expected to follow by 2020, said Coleman, who is also chairman of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 1 East board of directors.

Officials established the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone in 2014 to take out a bond to pay for the new public sewer infrastructure. A portion of tax revenue from new development will be used to pay back the bond.

By 2036, the initial phase of the TIRZ is expected to attract more than 367 new homes, 85 acres of new retail and restaurant development and 320,000 square feet of office and light industrial development to a 300-acre area, Coleman said.

City Manager Joseph Pace said his predecessor, former City Manager Billy Clemons, was instrumental in getting the project going before his retirement in January 2016.

“We’re a small city but we’re very progressive here in Lorena,” Pace said. “That’s something you don’t find very often.”

This project will provide an economic stimulus for the city, County Commissioner Kelly Snell said. Snell’s precinct includes Lorena, and he was reappointed to the TIRZ board in January.

Mundo and Associates Inc. is managing the project. Kasberg Patrick & Associates designed the line, and Bruce Flanigan Construction is serving as the contractor.

The TIRZ board members and the city council are all volunteers and have put in long hours of hard work to get the sewer project this far, Mayor Chuck Roper said.

The new sewer line will be a shot in the arm for economic growth for the area, Roper said.

“It’s really going to open Lorena up,” he said.

The TIRZ has already received recognition. The Texas Economic Development Council in 2015 gave the zone a Community Economic Development Award for communities with fewer than 5,000 people.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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