Georgetown city staff are planning to implement a new Downtown Master Plan before the end of 2022 to help steer the city’s future planning and growth of the downtown area.

The plan, which was last updated and adopted in 2014, is designed to guide city staff in the development and preservation of the downtown area through departmental collaborations and a contract with a firm to help work on projects planned for the downtown area.

Georgetown City Council and staff have begun the process of setting goals for the new plan. Some of those goals include promoting a positive economic environment, and providing infrastructure and amenities to ensure safety, mobility and accessibility, interim Economic Development Director Kim McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe said the growth of and future uses for the downtown area are forecasted through the plan.

“This important tool helps to guide our growth while also helping us to maintain the unique character of downtown,” she said. “With the fast growth we are seeing in the community, it is important to keep adapting to the ever-changing environment we have downtown.”

Mayor Josh Schroeder said the plan will help preserve the Square.

“The Downtown Master Plan is a blueprint for preservation, redevelopment, and new projects to help ensure they maintain the character of what makes our downtown unique and vibrant,” Schroeder said.

Projects under the plan

Historically, the Downtown Master Plan focuses on several key areas, including parking, pedestrian access, business prosperity, attracting tourists and preservation.

Under the 2014 plan, the city created additional downtown housing districts; developed new sidewalks and parking spaces; and converted public buildings into restaurants, wineries and retail.

City Council members and business owners said the updated plan will continue to guide downtown growth.

Still, Council Member Jake French said he hopes the plan focuses on preserving the character of downtown.

“What I hope to see from this plan will be a plan that preserves the character and enhances the character of Georgetown,” French said. “The Downtown Master Plan will also incorporate the efforts of several other plans that we’re working on now, including the Austin Avenue corridor study.”

He said the plan also promotes the economic vibrancy of downtown.

“If you go downtown on most any given night, you’re going to have a hard time finding parking; restaurants are going to be full; you’re going to see a lot of people walking around, visiting the different shops and wineries and the toy store and the ice cream shops,” French said.

He said the Austin Avenue Corridor Study may help in dealing with traffic flow through downtown Georgetown. The study will provide community-based ideas and concepts the city could use in developing future corridor designs for both avenues, and unify the growing west side of town and the established east side of town with the Williamson County Courthouse, retail and restaurants along with a vibrant Old Town residential community.

“I expect that the Austin Avenue Corridor Study will come back with recommendations on a variety of issues and suggestions regarding traffic and traffic flow around, and up and down Austin Avenue,” French said.

Council Member Ron Garland said this will be his first time working on a Downtown Master Plan as a council member in Georgetown.

“As a new member of council, since May, this will be my first experience with a Downtown Master Plan renewal process,” Garland said. “The previous plans have helped make our downtown beautiful, attractive and a place people want to visit.”

Melody English, who owns Prima Dora, a gift shop, on the Square in Georgetown, said she thinks the city is doing a good job in preserving the downtown area.

“I think keeping a quaintness of the Square was my biggest notice or opinion. I think people like to come to Georgetown and come to this Square because it is kind of like stepping back in time,” English said. “I know people are drawn to that, and I think the city is doing a good job of keeping the quaint feel of the Square.”

Seeking support

While the updated Downtown Master Plan will not be completed until October or November, City Council is already brainstorming ideas and seeking a consultant to carry out the plan.

The city solicited a request for proposal, or RFP, from May to August, and McAuliffe said eight firms were selected as potential contractors. City Council will award final contracts by the end of October.

An RFP is the process by which the city solicits bids for upcoming projects from qualified contractors, McAuliffe said. The city uses the process to help it find the best vendor to complete the desired project.

McAuliffe said City Council will act as the advisory committee for the Downtown Master Plan project providing policy direction on stakeholder engagement as well as other elements of the plan.

City Council will help guide the update of the plan, represent the community and encourage their participation through the stakeholder engagement process.

McAuliffe said key stakeholders include Georgetown residents and neighborhood associations.

“We will be working to gather stakeholder feedback from the community, especially from the residents, businesses, and property owners that have a desire to see downtown continue to thrive,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe said the plan will be a cross-departmental project consisting of the public works department, engineering, parks, tourism, arts and culture, utilities, city manager’s office, library, planning, finance, communications and real estate departments.

The different departments will provide technical input, review the feasibility of project options, and ensure tasks are completed.

“I want our downtown to go from good to great, and this next evolution of the Downtown Master Plan will inform how downtown evolves and grows to accommodate both the current and next generations of business owners, citizens and visitors to the most beautiful town Square in Texas,” Council Member Amanda Parr said.