Leander City Council on March 6 voted to move forward with plans for marketing its nameless transit-oriented development, or TOD, district after hearing from M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates Inc., an architecture, design, planning and consulting firm.
Leander City Council hired Gensler in December to market the vacant 2,300-acre TOD district surrounding the Capital Metro train station. The firm held workshops with stakeholders, developers and residents in January and February to understand the best use for the land, where City Council and staff have envisioned a unique, mixed-use retail and residential destination.
Alan Colyer, director of planning and urban design for Gensler, said feedback from developers indicates a name for the TOD is not necessarily needed to market the area.
"It was important for us to hear from developers from around the region," Colyer said. "As we go forward to market this opportunity [near the] Leander Station, we have to know what that audience sees as being the opportunities and the strengths."
Colyer said City Council could choose for Gensler to move forward and brand the TOD with a name or allow an initial or anchor developer to have a stake in the naming rights. Council members unanimously voted to direct Gensler to continue working on a marketing and branding campaign, including a website.
"[Leander] is the only city outside of Austin that has its own rail station," Colyer said to council members. "We would have [that] as a part of our collateral. There will be taglines that we hope to capture the spirit of what it is you want [the TOD] to be. And then let the developer, the one who goes in and starts something, have a say in the name."
In meeting with eight developers, Colyer said he and city staff learned that many have questions about Austin Community College's vision for its 100 acres within the TOD district. The ACC board of trustees has not determined whether a bond election will be held in November or if a Leander campus would be included in a bond package.
Some developers also asked what incentives were available from the city through the existing tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, which overlays the current TOD district. Within the TIRZ, 50 percent of the taxes collected by both the city of Leander and Williamson County on new property value goes into a tax increment fund. That money can be allocated to fund reimbursements for infrastructure and major projects identified by the city within the zone, Leander city staff said.
A previous attempt by a different consultant to name the TOD district Leander Legacy in August 2012 propelled City Council to include funding for a marketing firm in the fiscal year 2014 budget.
Gensler is designing the branding to target specific developers, not the eventual residents and tenants, Colyer said. Gensler's timeline for completion of the project and final presentation to City Council is early May.