City Council OKs Bell Boulevard redevelopment plan

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After eight months of public outreach and meetings, Cedar Park City Council approved a redevelopment plan (download PDF) for Bell Boulevard between Park Street and Cypress Creek Road on Aug. 27 .

The plan aims to move the four-lane lane highway west to replace Old Highway 183. The move would open space for what city leaders say they hope can become a new “destination district” with privately developed apartments, offices, restaurants, shops and access to nearby parks.

After Bell is redeveloped, visitors could park in new lots or structures, then walk to offices or shops as well as other attractions such as parks or festival venues, according to the redevelopment plan.

A redevelopment timetable is uncertain. However, city-hired consultants suggested the project could last 10 years and cost a total of about $50 million. On Election Day, Nov. 3, Cedar Park residents can vote on whether to approve a city release of $20 million worth of bonds for Bell redevelopment. The $20 million is part of a proposed city bond package of $96.7 million.

Mayor Matt Powell said the city wants to attract private investment for Bell that could financially benefit both the city and developers.

“I think this will over time, maybe with some leadership courage, become the biggest project in the city, maybe in the city’s history,” Powell said. “Ultimately this is an environment project. This is about creating an environment for private investment to come in.”

Rebecca Leonard, a consultant with design firm Design Workshop, said a Bell district could fill a gap between mixed-use areas like The Domain in Austin and La Frontera Square in Round Rock.

Other city studies focused on Bell itself but the most recent study included a broader scope, Powell said.

“The big difference here was, we challenged our consultants to come at this with the idea of what the [return on investment]could be,” Powell said.

In public meetings, residents said they supported changes to Bell such as easing transportation congestion and opening access to Buttercup Creek Natural Area, located east of Bell. Some Bell business owners said they also prefer improved parking beside the four-lane highway.

The development plan also calls for a new north-to-south road east of Bell to relieve traffic.

Powell said crowded businesses and traffic congestion on Bell may not give newcomers the best impression of Cedar Park.

“[Bell Boulevard] is our front door,” he said. “We need to decide what we want our front door to look like.”

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COMMENT
  1. This is a horrible idea. The biggest issue is traffic congestion and this will do nothing to help that problem. Commuters don’t want to use 183A out of principle or because it is too expensive. The city and state should finish out the feeder/frontage road that parallels 183A or work on getting the tolls lowered to a more reasonable rate.

    Right now it is just under $6.00 a day round trip for someone to go the entire length of 183A from Liberty Hill to Austin. The cheapest toll is $0.53. 40,000 x .53 or $21,200 per day. There are about 260 work days in a year. 21,000 x 260 is $5,512,000 per year. I would gladly pay my 53 cents a day to get this project going. I understand that it would be much more than 5 million, but the payoff would be huge and come much earlier than the projected 20 years that this project’s projected payback.

    For camparison, this project is projected to cost about $45,000,000 and again, does absolutely nothing to alleviate the traffic issue.

    I love Cedar Park. I am a strong proponent for government’s responsibility to serve the public. I understand the need for taxes and bonds and have no problem paying my fair share for not only my own benefit, and even when it doesn’t serve me directly. But this is a colossal waste of money and I hope we vote this down.

    We already got ripped off when 183A was built as a toll instead of a free highway. Let’t address that issue and then Bell Blvd will become a place that people won’t dread travelling through and just might take the time to explore an shop on.

Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.
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