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.”