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By Margaret Toal
For the 

Orange brings new businesses with long-range plan

 

Last updated 12/26/2023 at 7:50pm

More than 20 years ago, leaders in Orange had a vision to expand commercial business and the tax base along Interstate 10 at 16th Street. After years of negotiations with the state highway department and railroad companies, the dream is coming true as businesses have filled up land along a new interstate frontage road.

The project also involved about $2.5 million in city investments with the money coming from the special half-cent per dollar economic development sales tax that voters approved in 2002. Properties in the acreage development are valued at about $14 million.

The businesses along the east side of 16th Street include Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and Dollar General, plus a new Whataburger finishing construction. Also planned are a Whitewater Car was between Whataburger and Dollar General, and a Take 5 oil change franchise to the south of Dollar General.

City officials through the years convinced the Texas Department of Transportation to build Interstate 10 frontage roads across railroad tracks instead of having an overpass take interstate traffic to avoid the tracks. To get the highway department to construct the frontage roads, the city had to get the Union Pacific Railroad to agree to two new railroad crossings.


The original Interstate 10 designed through Orange in the 1950s put an overpass to cross the tracks. That mean that westbound traffic had to exit west of 16th Street. Eastbound traffic leaving the interstate before 16th Street could not get back onto eastbound lanes in a direct path.

Railroad companies are notoriously hard to deal with, but city officials announced in 2008 that Union Pacific had agreed to add two railroad crossings for the interstate. But in exchange, the city had to close several railroad crossings. The city agreed to close several in the Old Orange Historic District, plus the Rebeck Crossing at Bob Hall Road and Church Street.


The city also had the railroad create a "quiet zone" with no train horns with the closed crossings.

TxDOT had long planned expansion of Interstate 10 and city officials, working with state leaders, convinced TxDOT to add the extra frontage roads at 16th Street. Even in January 2012, the city was still negotiating to get the frontage roads.

Once the highway project was underway with the extended frontage roads, the city had to prepare for expanding property along 15th Street and adding more land that had been along the railroad tracks and 15th Street.


On old building, once a longtime Cody's restaurant where 15th Street curved into 16th Street, was demolished. A redesigned 15th Street was constructed to expand the property wide enough to allow Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and Whataburger room for buildings, parking, and drive-through kiosks.

The city also moved water and sewer lines to accommodate new businesses at the added land.

JADCO, a development company based in Houston, acquired several of the acres, including a Quick Stop gas station-store that had originally been a Billups. The city gave JADCO a $350,000 economic development grant to demolish the gas station and remove the underground tanks.

Dollar General built a new store in the development area in 2012, but it took a few more years to get the other projects moving. Chick-fil-A opened in April 2020 with Starbucks opening in July 2020.


The new Whataburger is now hiring employees and is expected to open soon. Construction has not started on Whitewater Car Wash or Take 5.

 

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