Growing Pains: Lubbock's Expansion Comes at a Cost

LUBBOCK, TX - The Hub City continues to live up to its nickname, being a central location for activity across West Texas. Experts are thrilled with Lubbock's expansion, but challenges come with that growth.

"Big businesses started taking a look at us and seeing that they could really make money here," said Diannah Tatum, Chairwoman of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, and Co-C.E.O. of Sanford and Tatum.

"We have a lot of different people that will come in and use our services, our restaurants, the stores, the physicians. So a lot businesses benefit off of that," Tatum said.

Tatum said there are several draws to the Lubbock area, like first-rate schools, like Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian. Other factors include larger shopping centers.

"That West Side came in," Tatum explained. "Milwaukee, you know that big shopping center came in. And it's just like it keeps multiplying it's almost the domino effect. You start one thing and then 'boom,' here we go we've got lots of businesses surrounding it. So, it's just great business expansion, more people, more houses, more buildings."

"There is just a lot more here than those smaller towns can offer," said Lubbock City Council member Karen Gibson. "This is a healthcare hub and we have wonderful facilities here and I believe that's where a lot of that is coming."

Gibson also cited the weather as an attention-getter. She also referenced a minimal cost of living "compared to other places."

"Lubbock is a very nice place to live," she said. "It looks really good from the outside looking in even when you're looking for somewhere to go."

An interactive map furnished by Google shows the increase in Lubbock's development from 1984 through 2016.

"I don't think Lubbock is going to stop growing. We do grow at a one and half to two percent rate seems like every year, which is a healthy rate to grow," Gibson said.

According to the City of Lubbock, a record amount of money was spent by investors, contractors, and home owners on building in the Hub City.

Data provided by the Building Inspection office showed new building construction projects totaled $664,159,752 in 2016, and $574,880,188 in 2015. The other notable high in recent years was in 2005, when $405,249,425 was spent, according to records.

"We're on pace to set another record this year. At least that's what the first quarter is telling us," said Lubbock's Chief Building Official, Steve O'Neal. "We are absolutely on the grow."

O'Neal said that permits were issued at an increased rate as well. He said 404 building permits were issued in 2016, compared to 355 permits in 2015, which is a 13.8% change.

"Lubbock is healthy, its economy is strong, it's growing," O'Neal mentioned. "I think it's going to continue to. I'm not an economist, but I listen to them and I think we are in good shape for quite some time to come."

"I think that all of our business sectors are doing pretty well and that translates into a whole lot of demand for housing, a whole lot of demand for multi-family, a whole lot of demand for restaurants and service businesses and things of that nature," O'Neal explained.

Gibson, who represents most of Southwest Lubbock, acknowledged some challenges with her region expanding so quickly.

"We're having growing pains, there's no doubt," she said. "Not only trying to keep up with what we already have, downtown, East Lubbock, the older infrastructure that we have."

She added one of the biggest issues was keeping up with road work.

"We've got 98th, which is a major street going East and West, part of that is a dirt road. Well, we've got houses, housing developments coming in on a dirt road," she said. "We've got sewer systems that we've got to get in just to keep up."

The expansions to Lubbock are most noticeably to the South and Southwest. Gibson said growing in East Lubbock proved to be more difficult, because of industrial projects.

"I do think that's something future councils really need to start looking at because it's such a pretty part of town," Gibson said. "We do have infrastructure over there that needs to be fixed, that needs to be updated."

With so many reasons to stay in and around the Hub City, Tatum said each time she leaves for business or vacation, she finds herself wanting to come back home.

"The first thing I think is, I cannot wait to go home and be back in Lubbock," she said. "Lubbock is great, five minutes to get here, 10 minutes to get there. People are so friendly and if you need something they are always willing to help you."

Perhaps Reagor-Dykes Auto Group was on to something when the company branded Lubbock the "Friendliest City in America."
 


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