Leander officials said they are looking forward to Old Town blossoming into a lively, walkable downtown district over the next several years under the recently approved Old Town Master Plan.

The Sept. 22 opening of Night Owl Bar—with more to follow—aligns with the notion that bars and entertainment venues will keep moving into the area.

“I think we were on the very forefront of this master plan,” Night Owl Bar owner Danny Parrott said. “We did that in hopes that the city would continue to invest in this district.”

Before this can happen, city officials said they need to tackle parking and other infrastructure issues.

The overview

Leander City Council approved the Old Town Master Plan Sept. 21, which is intended to create a more enjoyable environment for those who visit the area, officials said. It paves the way for the redevelopment and revitalization of the district.

The plan aims to build upon Old Town’s current mix of businesses, creating a walkable, urban district through the addition of parks; gathering space; trails; gateway features; more bars, restaurants, retail space and food trucks; and an increase of pedestrian activity, city leaders said.

City officials and community members said they envision Old Town as a destination with increasing nightlife, weekend activities, festivals and events.

However, city officials said the area’s small-town feel and historic nature will be preserved.

“When you create those districts where people come, and it has that special, small-town feel, even if you’re in a big town—that feeling is what people crave in their community,” said Bridget Brandt, the president of the Leander Chamber of Commerce.

Through this plan, city staff said they hope to accomplish a series of projects such as pedestrian bridges, trails, murals and the construction of Old Town Park, which will be in the heart of the district.

The plan features 10 priority projects, including wayfinding, a pedestrian trail and sidewalk infrastructure, which are all estimated to take place over the next five to 10 years. Those projects will cost an estimated $15 million and could be funded through a variety of sources.

“The Old Town Master Plan is a plan that the city has needed to have for a long time,” Executive Director of Development Services Robin Griffin said. “Adopting this plan is going to help us come up with a framework and improvements to help economic development and generally improve the area.”

Coming to Old Town
  • On-street parking and pedestrian bridges
  • Revamp Old Town Park with landscaping, a shade structure over the stage and a seating area
  • A playground and additional play areas
  • Trains and shared-use paths
  • Banners, gateways and streetscapes
  • Murals and sculptures
  • Cultural arts programming and events
Put in perspective

The first projects underway are related to increasing the parking supply in Old Town.

Leander Beer Market co-owner Luke Krasniqi said the existing parking spaces are nearly full early in the mornings before most businesses are open.

“With more businesses opening, parking will continue to be an issue,” Krasniqi said.

Old Town has about 300 on-street parking spaces, but a street redesign—outlined in the master plan—could offer at least 110 additional on-street spots.

The following projects are either planned or underway to address ongoing parking issues:
  • Broade Street restriping to increase the number of parking spaces; scheduled to begin in a year
  • South Street improvements to add on-street parking; in design and will take two years to complete
  • On-street parking along Bagdad Road; done concurrent with South Street improvements
  • One-story parking garage near Pat Bryson Municipal Hall; projected timeline of five to 10 years
Kimley-Horn, the city’s consulting company for the Old Town Master Plan, also recommended the following projects:
  • A surface parking lot on vacant land
  • Redesigned alleys to incorporate head-in parking along the back of business lots
  • Coordination with nearby schools and churches for shared parking agreements, which could increase the parking supply by roughly 435 spaces
Also of note

Although businesses were already moving to Old Town, with the master plan in full swing, officials said they expect more establishments, particularly bars and entertainment venues, to flock to the area.

While the Old Town area had several types of businesses before the plan was approved, more are continuing to lay down roots, such as Night Owl Bar and 5th Element Brewing, which opened in late June.

Brandt said the approval of the plan will be a big benefit to businesses.

“As this district grows into a vibrant, engaging experience, more people are going to come, too,” she said. “While the competition increases, so do the patrons. In order for this to be a successful district, we need all of those businesses to be open because that is what will attract all of the people to it.”

Furthermore, the city budgeted $50,000 in fiscal year 2023-24 for an Old Town incentives fund, which aims to promote investments in the area, Director of Economic Development Randall Malik said.

The fund offers economic development incentives and supports infrastructure enhancements, ultimately benefiting and attracting businesses to the area.

Old Town's current standing

Though numerous businesses were already existing or recently opened in Old Town, there are more in the pipeline, including another bar and restaurant. This information is noncomprehensive.

What's in Old Town?
  • 24 businesses and restaurants
  • 1 food truck park
What's coming soon?
  • Shady Brew Garden
  • Wahoo's Fish Taco
  • A King and Queen Bar Thing
  • Mixed-used building with potential office space
In other news

Leander’s neighboring city Liberty Hill is also planning to revitalize its downtown. The city hopes to approve its Downtown Strategic Master Plan by May.

The following elements are outlined in the plan:
  • Signage and wayfinding
  • Murals and sculptures
  • Landmarks and places for photo opportunities
  • New infrastructure
  • Additional parking
While the plan is not yet approved, the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp. purchased 1.51 acres of land downtown in September for $1.2 million that will be developed as part of the area’s revitalization, said Mary Poche', Liberty Hill’s director of economic development.

Looking ahead

Griffin said projects outlined in the Old Town Master Plan will take place over the course of the next several decades.

Several contractors and developers will work with the city to execute the plan and individual projects will come before City Council for approval before they start, she said.

Key dates to remember
  • Sept. 2021: Rezoning in Old Town is approved to allow more restaurants and entertainment venues
  • April 2022: Council selects Kimley-Horn to develop the Old Town Master Plan
  • Sept. 2023: City Council approved the Old Town Master Plan
  • Dec. 2023: Schedule for implementing projects to be presented to Council
  • Early 2024: Old Town fire improvements—which involve expanding the water system—will be the first project to be completed
  • Jan. 2050: All projects estimated to reach completion