Corpus Christi, Texas
The Gulf Coast Capital
With a view to residential and commercial growth, Corpus Christi provides the economic roadmap
Known as the “Gulf Coast Capital,” Corpus Christi, Texas has a lot to be proud of. Already a popular tourist destination, the city is fast becoming the place to be even when compared to its larger neighbors.
Blessed with an idyllic setting, outdoor activities to keep residents busy and an impressive array of city initiatives to keep up with its rapid growth, Corpus Christi is a city to watch.
The city also boasts a fascinating history that has led to the enviable position that it enjoys today.
Originally the province of the Karankawas people, an indigenous nomadic tribe that lived along the Gulf of Mexico’s western shore. Corpus Christi can trace its roots back to the Spanish conquistador and cartographer, Alonzo Álvarez de Pineda who explored the area in 1519, and named the semi-tropical bay, Corpus Christi (body of Christ), in honor of the Roman Catholic Feast Day.
Further Spanish explorations took place in the mid-18th century, but the first known permanent settlement, a small trading post, was established in 1839 by Colonel Henry Lawrence Kinney. In 1845, Kinney’s Ranch, as it was known, was temporarily occupied by U.S. troops commanded by General, and future President, Zachary Taylor, in preparation for America’s war with Mexico. In 1852, the city was incorporated as Corpus Christi, in commemoration of de Pineda’s first discovery of the sparkling bay over 300 years before.
By 1926, the Port of Corpus Christi had opened for business. Today, the port is known as “The Energy Port of the Americas” and is the third largest in the U.S. in cargo tonnage with deepwater facilities for bulk liquid and dry cargo, as well as agricultural products. The city’s economy centers around the petrochemical industry, but other economic drivers include large-scale fabrication, marine research, aerospace, and, most especially, tourism.
The area is known for its beautiful beaches; its hunting, fishing, boating, and water sports opportunities; its bird and wildlife sanctuaries; and its rich cultural offerings. The city is also home to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, which was first commissioned in 1941, and today is one of the city’s largest employers.
While the petrochemical industry is still central to the local economy, over the last few decades, many oil and gas companies moved their headquarters from Corpus Christi to Houston and, according to the city’s Redevelopment Officer, Jason Alaniz, the situation presents both a challenge and an opportunity. “Since about 1985, we’ve had a struggle,” he admits.
“So, right now, we’re working to help reposition the market for some of those vacant office towers into mixed-use, with a big component of that being housing, whether that’s apartments or condos,” Alaniz explains.
“It’s also about repurposing things closer to the city core so that we can better utilize city infrastructure. Recently, we offered a new incentive program for the downtown area for office-to-residential conversion and we’re recruiting for state and national developers. We’ve also noticed vacant and underutilized properties and we want to see how we can better repurpose those into their highest and best use, whether it’s infill projects or greenfield construction.”
Assistant City Manager & Director of Economic Development, Heather Hurlbert, agrees. “We’re probably about 3-4000 units short on residential housing,” she notes. “So, being able to move several hundred residential units into the greater downtown area and other targeted infill areas would be beneficial.”
In other housing news, Hurlbert reports that two large, master-planned communities are in the offing. Ashlar Development’s Whitecap Preserve on North Padre Island is an $800 million project on 240 acres.
When complete, it will feature 600 residential offerings, including single-family homes, villas, condos, and cross-generational housing, many of which will have access to the area’s canals. Individual yet interconnected neighborhoods will be created within the residential community by utilizing island enclaves, bridges, boardwalks, and various walking paths.
The development will also include a town center, a mixed-use area, and dining, entertainment, and retail options.
Lake Padre is another master-planned project that will be built in phases over the next dozen years on 102 acres of canal-based land with a total estimated investment of $700M. It will include a mixed-use residential and entertainment district, a boardwalk, homes, and apartments, hotels and shops, and a marina with a two-mile-long public waterfront promenade. Multiple areas of open space will be available for outdoor gatherings, such as concerts, farmers’ markets, and public events. Phase One construction is scheduled to begin this fall with an investment of $188 million.
Meanwhile, the city is also working to enhance its downtown and Hurlbert says that it works closely with the Downtown Management District (DMD), established in 1993 by property owners and stakeholders within the area. The DMD is responsible for providing enhanced cleaning, beautification, and safety services; developing and improving the district; marketing and promoting the district’s events and businesses, and addressing critical issues that affect the success of the district and the greater downtown area.
“They keep their finger on the pulse of what’s going on downtown and what the needs are,” Hurlbert says.
“We help them with strategic plans and the needs of the downtown area, like parking, and what type of infrastructure is needed to support the residents and businesses. They have been able to activate some vacant spaces over the last two or three years even in the midst of COVID. Our downtown really saw a steep downturn in the mid-‘80s and is just starting to come back. We are looking at how to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, and connect it to our bayfront and marina.”
A requirement for attracting new businesses and residents to a city is a robust public safety component and Hurlbert touts Corpus Christi’s effective police and fire departments. “The City Council works to make sure they are appropriately staffed and equipped,” she reports.
“Regarding the fire department, in the budget initiative that we’re taking to council this year, we want to move up from a three-person to four-person staffing on trucks to make sure that we are properly covered. We also work with the specialized fire department that is based in the area of the refineries. It’s privately-run and with the amount of refineries and pipelines in the area, we have to be cognizant and ready for any type of disaster. Any type of incident around petroleum, our teams are highly-trained and qualified to handle it.”
“We also operate a regional EMS system, and our public health system (Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District) is very active. During COVID they supplied testing, vaccinations, and informational updates. We also have local clinics that provide services. And our 311 call center is up. Until about a year ago, we did not have a 311 system. It has been wonderful to have a central place for residents to go with concerns, issues, or just the need for information.”
In order to attract tourists, Hurlbert points to the Corpus Christi Convention & Visitors Bureau, whose mandate is to promote the city as a year-round destination with marketing campaigns with state, national, and international coverage.
“Brett Oetting, our new Executive Director since 2020, has really increased the productivity and visibility of our Visitors Bureau,” she states. “We’re getting more visitors from the middle of the country as it takes about the same amount of travel time to get to our beaches as it does to get to Florida or California. So, we’ve identified some areas outside of Texas that have a strong draw down here – Kansas City, Denver, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans. And during COVID, everybody wanted to come to the beach so we almost had to start turning people away. Our visitor count and our hotel occupancy tax generated continue to grow on an annual basis.”
Going forward, Alaniz’s agenda includes getting more housing developed with a focus on workforce housing and infill development. Another item is quality of life development, including entertainment and targeted retail. “I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, so I love it here,” he affirms.
“I’m very bullish on it. I’ve been in commercial real estate for over 12 years now and I’ve never seen this level of quality developers looking at our city. We’re at the beginning of what Corpus Christi has to offer.”
Hurlbert talks about expanding and renovating the city’s convention center and hopes to see it include a headquarters hotel. She also wants to continue to develop the Marina Arts District, created by the DMD as a bridge between the water-focused activities in the marina and the creative culture of the lower downtown area.
“It will complement our downtown, right on our bayfront, and be a unique environment to stay and play,’” she relates. “I also want to continue the momentum of quality development like the master-planned communities with retail within their footprint so people can walk or bike to things that are close.”
“I was recruited to come down here in 2020 and so I am relatively new to the area,” Hurlbert says in conclusion. “It is a beautiful location, the people are wonderful, and there are a variety of things to do. And right now, we are on the edge of seeing so much exciting development and additions to the city. There is so much potential that we are just beginning to realize.”
Click The Cover To View Or Download The Brochure
AT A GLANCE
Corpus Christi, Texas
WHO: a dynamic city with an impressive lineup of commercial and residential development
WHAT: A city of 330,000
WHERE: On the western shore of the Gulf of Mexico
Huden Partners – www.hunden.com
Hunden Partners has enjoyed working with the City of Corpus Christi and Visit Corpus Christi (VCC) on a master plan to transform the American Bank Center complex into a vibrant new expansion of downtown. This expansion features a mixed-use entertainment and event district that will connect downtown to Whataburger Field and the rest of the ABC Complex through an activated urban trail. Recognizing the need for a new headquarters hotel for the convention center, Hunden led a study which recommended the flagship hotel to be a minimum of 600 rooms and flanked by three surrounding hotels. The convention center itself will be renovated and expanded to include a new, state-of-the-art 40,000-square foot ballroom, one of the largest in Texas (and the U.S.), an improved exhibit hall, and several new breakout meeting rooms. This evolution will allow the convention center and Corpus Christi to compete and win business throughout Texas and nationally. But a convention center and compelling hotel package are not enough to attract sustainable success. Visitors, event planners and attendees want a vibrant destination to walk to from their event and hotel. Texas’ most successful event cities like San Antonio and Austin have paved the way for Corpus Christi to attract a private developer to create such a vibrant and authentic district and new neighborhood of its own. Corpus Christi also has a natural gem few other markets have…a beautiful beach and waterfront right outside the front door of the convention center and surrounding district. Putting all these pieces together will result in a destination package that surprises newcomers who have yet to discover Corpus Christi and delights residents with a vibrant, new neighborhood. Hunden Partners is thrilled to be a part of the inspired placemaking that Corpus Christi is creating for the next generation of the City’s development.
Partlow Properties & Investments – www.partlowproperties.com
Imagine a home or retreat where the sights and sounds of the Texas coast are right in your backyard, accessible by both land and sea. In the morning, embark on an offshore fishing adventure chasing blue marlin or explore the intercostal searching for elusive redfish and trout. As the sun sets, indulge in some shopping, take a leisurely boardwalk stroll, or have a glass of wine and a savory dinner shared with lifelong friends and family under the starlit Texas sky.
At Gulfpoint, we embrace an outdoor, unhurried Texas coastal lifestyle.
Located on 100 acres adjacent to Packery Channel on North Padre Island, Gulf Point is a dynamic mixed-use destination that will be centered around a first-class, full-service marina. Baffin Bay’s trout fishermen and the Gulf’s offshore enthusiasts will find everything they need to accommodate a day on the water. Integrated into the untamed beauty of the Texas coastal landscape, boardwalks will connect you to the water and to newly introduced boutique shopping and dining opportunities, representing new concepts and thoughtfully curated brands. Gulfpoint represents both the grit and grace of this unmatched region, offering a new way to experience the Texas Coast.
Port of Corpus Christi – portofcc.com
The Port of Corpus Christi is the largest port in the United States in total revenue tonnage. Strategically located on the western Gulf of Mexico with a 36-mile, soon to be 54-foot (MLLW) deep channel, the Port of Corpus Christi is a major gateway to international and domestic maritime commerce.
Whitecap NPI – whitecaplivingnpi.com
Experience coastal living at its best in Whitecap NPI’s dynamic community. Imagine a vibrant town center with shops, dining, a resort hotel, yacht club, and marina, seamlessly integrated with canals, parks, trails, and homes. Here is where nature meets contemporary living for the ultimate coastal lifestyle.