New Braunfels hosts final public visioning meeting for South Castell Avenue development

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The city of New Braunfels hosted its sixth and final visioning meeting Jan. 24 to generate more feedback on how a 10-acre, city-owned tract of land on South Castell Avenue will be developed.

A participatory survey collected at the fifth public meeting in mid-November asked for input on three different proposals for the property. Findings showed Option A, the most dense and highest revenue-generating choice, to have the most support.

Tara Kohlenberg, executive director of Sophienburg Museum and Archives in New Braunfels, is among those who support Option A. Kohlenberg, who has been involved throughout the project’s visioning process, feels the public-private partnership proposed by the city is the best solution for the use of the land.

“It’s the uncontrolled growth that is the most frightening,” she said.

Kohlenberg said she likes that the plan includes a civic/convention center with an attached hotel and that Option A is the most likely plan to attract a nice hotel “with all the amenities,” as well as a quality developer to execute the project.

Other residents lean toward a lower-density solution that would lend itself to less traffic.

“We have a lot of intrusion already,” downtown resident Lynn Norvell said. “I would much rather have something tasteful and planned and smaller.”

The Jan. 24 meeting gave 19 breakout groups 45 minutes to discuss the project’s density, economic impact and design. Each group was then given three minutes to present their comments to the audience.

“If we see a trend, we may have to do some further analysis on that trend,” New Braunfels City Manager Robert Camareno said.

Parking was among the most popular themes addressed. Options A and B each include a parking garage, and several of the groups mentioned they would like to see that feature added to Option C. However, Camareno said because parking garages are expensive, it would not be feasible to incorporate one into Option C because the development would produce far less revenue.

Other guests pointed out that parking trends are likely to change in the next 20 years with the incorporation of autonomous vehicles, making the need for a large parking garage less likely.

Other comments and concerns mentioned at the meeting include:
  • Importance of maintaining the character of the city and downtown
  • Affordability of hosting events at new civic/convention center
  • Considering quality of life over dollars
  • A desire to see an option that blends options B and C
  • Complete a traffic study complete before a project is selected
  • Concern for how construction will affect surrounding businesses
  • Would like incorporation of a destination boutique/hotel
  • Would like citizens to be able to vote on the project

Camareno said that although the Jan. 24 meeting concluded the idea gathering phase for the project, it would not be the end of the public input process.

“Douglas Architects will report the findings of this meeting at a future City Council meeting,” Camareno said.

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Rachel Nelson
Rachel Nelson is editor of the New Braunfels edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She covers local business, new development, city and county government, health care, education and transportation. Rachel relocated to Central Texas from Amarillo in 2009 and is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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