New Lakeway City Center proposal could expand size

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Editor’s note: An original post about the City Center project appeared online March 1. This new post updates and expands on that information and reflects the fuller version with infographics published in the March, 2018 print edition of Community Impact Newspaper in mailboxes from March 14. -Rob Maxwell

Creating “something special” is the vision behind a new version of the Lakeway City Center project, according to Bill Hayes, Legend Communities’ chief operations officer. The development could expand its 56-acre footprint with acquisition of adjacent land parcels owned by the Lake Travis Church of Christ and Lake Travis ISD.

“We would love to combine this last remaining undeveloped area of Lakeway into one, contiguous, cohesive plan and gladly work with the city to put all this together,” Hayes said.

Legend Communities presented to Lakeway’s Zoning and Planning Commission March 7, an expanded planned unit development, or PUD,  proposal that could move forward a plan to create a mixed-use community. No decision was made. A second ZAPCO meeting is scheduled for Mar. 15 at 6 p.m. at Lakeway city hall to further discuss the plan.

  The proposed community would be made up of arts and entertainment venues, small offices and a retail village complete with a large grassy area for public and planned community events. All of it would be made walkable from groupings of new single-family homes and townhomes.

At the hub of the community would be a traffic roundabout linking two four-lane roadways, one of which, Main street, would run from the Oaks at Lakeway shopping center through undeveloped land owned by Stratus Properties, through the City Center site, to the Village of The Hills’ entrance on the west side of Lohmans Crossing Road. The cut-though would bring a long-awaited option for residents who now have to use RM 620 to access area businesses.

An earlier version of the City Center project was presented to ZAPCO in August 2017 for commissioners to review.

The latest City Center vision

Legend Communities plans to create an open, 2.5-acre village green including installation of permanent, roofed structures to accommodate farmers market vendors or other public and planned lifestyle events for the city.

“This space makes it all feel more comfortable, vibrant and exciting. It’s not just another throwaway piece of land,” Hayes said.

And similar with an earlier version of the development, there remains a prime space for a performing arts center or dine-in theater, which are part of a larger theme of promoting art.

“This [concept]is a nod to the city’s vision–put out a few years ago–of an arts district. The idea is to create some sort of gallery or arts space, and potentially we subsidize those rents to make that attractive and usable,” Hayes said.

“Retail is a tough area right now. That’s why we have to create something special with our area that is arts-and- entertainment-focused,” said Hayes, who has lived in Lakeway for 14 years. “What we don’t want here are yogurt shops and nail salons, all the stuff you see up and down [RM] 620. Maybe there is some kind of anchor that can draw people in.”

Office and retail structures of up to four stories would also be incorporated depending on what the market will bear, Hayes said, adding a live-work component could be introduced as well if there is commercial interest.

New homes

On the eastern portion, Legend plans to build 150 single-family homes, many on smaller 35-foot to 45-foot lots with alleyway garages and sharing common green spaces similar to Austin’s Mueller development. Hayes expects these homes would start in the $300,000 price range, far below the median new family home price in Lakeway which is about $500,000.

Sixty townhomes would make up the southern corner and blend with the original Tuscan Village PUD, a 13-acre parcel on the east side of Lohmans Crossing where the second of three age-restricted apartment buildings is going up this year.

The City Center parcel is not thematically connected to Tuscan Village; another all-but-built-out Legend community of 206 age-restricted residences on the immediate opposite side of Lohmans Crossing, Hayes said.

Potential land acquisitions

Hayes said Legend Communities has also secured a letter of intent to acquire 6 acres from the Lake Travis Church of Christ at 1801 Lohmans Crossing Road. Church leaders said they are considering options.

“All of the Legend Communities’ representatives we have interacted with over the last year have been very professional, flexible, helpful, patient and civic-minded in working with our church,” Church of Christ elder Will Ed Winters wrote in an email.

“We are hopeful the Lakeway City Center project will be approved by the city because it will facilitate our ability to construct our church building and create a unique combination of land uses in which we all can enjoy and thrive.”

Legend Communities also submitted a bid for a rectangular 1.74-acre parcel of land behind Lakeway Elementary School.  The purchase from Lake Travis ISD would neatly fill in a remaining gap in the City Center land area. Hayes said if its bid is accepted, Legend would offer the district access through the City Center to the remaining nearly 33 acres of school property for its future use.

“One day, whatever they decide to do, [their remaining parcel]won’t be landlocked,” he said.

The school district received one bid Feb. 13, a spokesman said. Board trustees considered the bid at the Feb. 20 meeting and action was postponed pending clarification.

Finishing Main Street

Hayes said he is hopeful set speed limits through City Center would not exceed 30 mph.

“We’re trying to balance giving that feeling of intimacy and walkability and accommodating a decent amount of traffic because everybody is going to want to come through here to get to H-E-B and [RM] 620,” Hayes said.

Developer Stratus Properties controls the immediate east. As part of its own PUD, Stratus has an obligation to finish its portion of the roadway to connect with the first phase of its original development, the H-E-B and Oaks at Lakeway shopping center.

In September Stratus presented to Lakeway City Council a proposal to develop a 350-unit apartment complex on a portion of the property and offered the city the remaining 25 acres north of the future Main street. In February the city sent its appraisal of the entire 36-acre parcel. Mayor Joe Bain estimated at a public meeting in November that buying the land would cost taxpayers about $5 million and put the onus of building that section of Main street on the city.

There is no timeline for Stratus to respond, city staff said.

Local opposition

At a Feb. 9 town hall meeting at the Lakeway Activity Center, residents’ group Heart of Lakeway voted to call on the city to put on hold any development plans for the greenbelt area behind the H-E-B, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Concerns ranged from being in a 10-to-15-year construction zone to substantial traffic, development of high-density housing and the overall environmental impact.

Lakeway resident Greg Holloway moderated the event and told Community Impact Newspaper Hayes has been helpful in sharing versions of the City Center plan but said residents are asking: “Do we have to do that [planned development], or is there something that makes more sense for the rest of the city? Has anybody polled the neighborhoods around there to find out what makes sense for them?”

“Why don’t [elected officials]all stop for a little while and rather than rush into a decision based on incomplete information and based on not fully communicating with your citizenry, why don’t we have that discussion?” Holloway said.

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Rob Maxwell
Rob Maxwell joined the world of print journalism and Community Impact in Sept. 2017 as editor of the Lake Travis - Westlake edition. He previously enjoyed a successful and rewarding career in radio and television news. In his spare time, Rob can be found scoping out area climbing walls and hiking trails. He lives in Cedar Park with his wife and daughters and looks forward to receiving his LCP edition of Community Impact Newspaper every month.
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