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This map shows the future residential and commercial land use of the 711.2-acre Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (outlined in red) which covers largely undeveloped land east of I-35 in Lorena, McLennan County and Lorena's extraterritorial jurisdiction. Public infrastructure projects totaling more than $54 million have been identified in the area.

Courtesy of McLennan County

Lorena has secured the initial funding for a project aimed at boosting economic activity in a largely undeveloped area off Interstate 35.

County commissioners Tuesday reappointed Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell, whose precinct includes Lorena, to the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board of directors.

“It’s going to be a really, really nice deal once we get it kicked off and off the ground,” Snell said.

He said the TIRZ board has received the money from a $2.3 million bond it issued, allowing work to progress.

The city of Lorena established the 711.2-acre TIRZ in November 2014 to allow for financing of public improvements of property generally located east of I-35 at Old Temple Road and Cooksey Lane. The property largely covers pastures, three commercial locations and three residential spots.

Snell said a lot of the initial work in setting up the zone involving general negotiations and working with landowners is complete. The TIRZ issued a bond to cover initial costs to develop the property to make it suitable for potential developers.

City leaders expect the TIRZ to bring in 4,000 new jobs, hundreds of new homes and several new businesses during the next 30 years.

The initial project is a 12-inch sewer line from I-35 to the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System treatment plant on Cooksey Lane. The zone aims to finance public improvements by encouraging development and associated increases in appraised value, boosting property tax revenue over time.

TIRZ expenditures will not increase debt in the city’s operating and capital budgets. This is the city’s first time to use one.

Construction on the sewer line could start this year and be complete in 2018, said Pamela J. Mundo, with Mundo & Associates Inc., an economic development consulting firm assisting the city.

Project design and environmental studies of the area are ongoing, Mundo said.

“That’s a significant project,” she said.

Developers waiting in the wings will start to move on projects once they see dirt turn for the sewer line, she said.

“That’s why the start of construction is as important as the end of construction,” Mundo said.

City leaders expect that once the sanitary sewer line is complete, commercial and residential development in the zone will start to generate property and sales tax revenues sufficient to pay the principal and interest on the bond.

Snell said the TIRZ impact will take several years, but it’s going to be a good thing for the city.

“They pretty much know the commercial development will first be right there where the overpass is by (Brookshire Brothers),” he said. “That land will probably be the first development we see go up.”

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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