Georgetown leaders prepare for future growth with $214 million in capital projects underway

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Updated Nov. 15 at 1:50 p.m. A previous version of this story said the new Downtown West development will house 1,000 employees, when the actual number is 60. The story has been corrected with the accurate number.

Originally posted Nov. 14 at 11:11 a.m.
With $214 million worth of capital improvement projects in the works, the city of Georgetown is preparing for the future by investing in city infrastructure and resources.

Georgetown’s growth rate is the driving factor behind the improvement projects, Mayor Dale Ross said.

“We want to get ahead of the curve [of growth],” Ross said.

The best way to prepare for the growth Georgetown will face in coming years is to invest in the city’s infrastructure, City Manager David Morgan said. The city’s position on I-35 means it will only continue to grow.

“We can’t slow it down or stop it,” Morgan said. “Stopping growth is not a viable option when you’re in a corridor like we are.”

Capital improvement projects refer to any long-term infrastructure improvements, Morgan said. Projects can range from water and wastewater lines to roads or city buildings and parks.

Typically, the projects are funded through debt dollars because capital improvements tend to have long periods of use, he said. One such project is the Southwest Bypass, which when completed will link I-35 to Leander Road in Georgetown.

“It makes sense for the people using the Southwest Bypass in 10 years to help pay for it,” Morgan said. “You want to make sure the people paying for the asset enjoy it.”

Making connections

In 2015, Georgetown voters passed a $105 million transportation bond referendum.

“There’s high public support [in Georgetown]for infrastructure, especially for transportation,” Morgan said.

Several large-scale transportation projects that were included in the bond will come to fruition within the next few years. The Southwest Bypass is the largest transportation project the city is developing, according to Morgan.

The bypass will be completed in several segments. The first segment, which is currently under construction, includes a half-mile-long roadway from I-35 to west of the railroad tracks in Georgetown and will be complete in the summer. The city of Georgetown is managing the project, and Williamson County will pay the $5.6 million it costs.

Construction on the second phase will begin once the first is completed this summer. It will be the county’s responsibility and will stretch from where the first segment ends to RM 2243, and it is anticipated to be complete by early 2020. The design for that segment is already completed, and construction will cost $14.2 million.

The three next largest projects are all connected, Morgan said. Rivery Boulevard will be extended to Northwest Boulevard, at which point an overpass  will connect Northwest Boulevard with FM 971 over I-35. The projects were designed to ease congestion on other thoroughfares in town.

“Those projects will absolutely make an impact in taking traffic off of Williams Drive,” he said. “We’re trying to respond as fast as possible to [people’s concerns].”

The Rivery extension will cost $4.5 million and should be completed by early 2019.

It will also connect Rivery from Williams Drive to Northwest Boulevard and improve the designs of sections of Park Lane from Rivery to Clay Street. The design of the Northwest bridge is more than 60 percent complete, and the city’s goal is to complete the project by early 2020, Systems Engineering Director Wesley Wright said at an Oct. 24 City Council workshop. The city has budgeted $10.5 million for the project. Construction on the $3.9 million FM 971 project is expected to begin in mid-2018 and should be wrapped up by early 2020.
Downtown West city offices

The $13 million Downtown West project will consolidate city offices into a civic center just off the Square, Morgan said.

Under the project plans the city will expand and renovate the city’s  former library at 808 Martin Luther King Jr. St. to repurpose it as a new City Hall. At the same time the Georgetown Communications and Technology building at 510 W. Ninth St. will be renovated to house the municipal court and City Council chambers. Combined, the buildings will house more about 60 staff members, according to a March 2016 city analysis.

When the new city annex opens in 2018, 18 additional offices and cubicles will have been built for City Hall staff, and the municipal court will house seven additional employees. The new council chambers will have 167 fixed seats, which is a nearly 70 percent increase from the current chambers.

Park improvements

In city surveys, parks are consistently rated as being of high importance to Georgetown residents, Ross said.

“Parks are certainly a quality-of-life issue,” Ross said. “I attribute the quality of life, including the parks, to the growth we see here.”

In 2008, Georgetown voters passed a $35.5 million bond for parks and recreation projects with 58 percent of the vote.

Garey Park, located north of 2243, is one of those projects. With a $13.5 million price tag the completed project will be 1.5 times the size of Zilker Park in Austin. Garey Park will feature an events center, splash pads and a playground. It will also include 6 miles of equestrian trails and 3 miles of hiking trails, Georgetown Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly Garrett said.

“It’s a destination park for the city,” she said. “It’s great for the citizens, but it’s also an attraction for visitors coming to the area.”

The city will contribute $8.5 million, and an additional $5 million will be paid by Jack and Cammy Garey, two long-time Georgetown residents who donated their home and land for the park.

“Garey Park is going to be a gem for our region for decades to come,” Morgan said.

Garrett said the park is expected to open in April. The opening of Garey will also mean less crowding at San Gabriel Park, one of the city’s oldest. San Gabriel will be renovated in two phases. The first phase will cost $2.5 million, and the second phase will cost $3 million to build, Garrett said.

The renovations will give the park a face-lift, she said. New picnic pavilions, playgrounds, swing sets, renovated parking areas, bathrooms and improving access points for the river will all breathe new life into San Gabriel Park, Garrett said. Construction on the second phase is slated to begin in May and take up to a year to complete.

“We are very committed to our parks and not letting them get rundown or let the equipment become outdated,” Garrett said. “It makes the citizens feel proud of where they live, and hopefully they feel like their tax dollars are well-spent.”

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