New bayfront Christmas tree to cost $500K

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Corpus Christi could have a new Christmas tree on the bayfront and just in time for the holidays.

It’s expected to cost taxpayers about $500,000. The tree and an assortment of holiday-themed decorations would be funded by an incentive agreement from the city’s Type B sales tax fund. The request was made by the Corpus Christi Convention & Visitors Bureau during a May 21stpresentation to the board, according to a video recording of the meeting uploaded to the city’s website. The board agreed to fully fund the project if the CVB can raise an additional $500,000 in private donations to cover the remaining cost of the festival, which is estimated at about $1 million.

The Type B board is expected to take a final vote on the agreement at its June 18th meeting. From there, the agreement requires a vote by the City Council. No date has been set.

The tree and holiday decorations would be on display for the month of December – as part of a downtown holiday festival planned to kick off this year, said Paulette Kluge, CEO of the CVB during the presentation. The festival will include a Christmas lights competition among downtown business owners and a variety of family-friendly activities to attract visitors to the city. The goal is to increase Corpus Christi hotel occupancy in December, which is much lower than the summer months. In December 2016, Corpus Christi hotels were about 41 percent occupied, according to a presentation by the CVB. Additional hotel stays would bring in additional hotel occupancy tax revenue to the city, Kluge said. Those hotel tax funds cannot be spent on holiday decorations or events, she added.

The Christmas tree, estimated to cost about $480,000, is 30 feet tall and made out of LED lights, which can be synchronized to music, Kluge said during the May 21st presentation.  It would replace the annual Harbor Lights Christmas tree, which no longer exists. The city sales tax incentive also would pay for equipment and improvements needed to launch the new holiday festival. The Type B agreement would be a 5-year commitment. Private sponsorships, including HEB and Citgo, are expected to pay for about half of the festival’s cost, Kluge said in the meeting.

In 2016, voters agreed to create a Type B sales tax fund to replace the Type A fund. The Type B fund allows the city to spend about $7 million in annual sales tax revenue on economic development, affordable housing and street repair projects. It is less restrictive than the Type A fund. which is why a Christmas tree and decorations are considered a legal use, according to the city’s legal department. The CVB’s request is the first project the Type B board has considered since it was formed earlier this year.

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